The past year has seen a boom in dealmaking, with many markets reaching post-crisis peaks and some recording all-time highs. Mega-deals have been at the heart of the expanding market, with companies tapping into cash piles and cheap debt to fund transformational deals. Looking behind the headline figures, however, a number of factors suggest dealmaking may not continue to grow as rapidly as it has done recently.
In Europe, the European Central Bank was forced to start a programme of quantitative easing in the wake of consistently low growth, a full seven years after the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve undertook their programmes. US interest rates have also tightened for the first time since the financial crisis, contributing, according to some commentators, to the wobbly US markets that marked the start of 2016. Yet this uncertainty has now seemingly passed, and the Federal Reserve is contemplating raising rates further. Meanwhile, eurozone and UK interest rates look likely to remain low for some time to come due to continued slow growth and low inflation in the region. How the markets react to this bifurcation of monetary policy across the Atlantic will shape dealmaking in the year to come.
Elsewhere, there have been some concerns that falling commodities prices (particularly that of oil) have been driven by a fall in market confidence. However, it seems that this view is somewhat simplistic. It is more likely that prices have fallen due to excess capacity that built up to service Chinese industrialisation and somewhat weak growth figures. The recent uptick in prices should be seen as an indicator that perhaps the market overreacted and fundamentals remain strong.
Perhaps one of the biggest factors that poses a threat to dealmaking in 2016 is the political uncertainty affecting much of the world. In the UK, the first half of the year was clouded by the referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the EU, and in the US, the presidential election result is likely to have a considerable impact on markets. It is hoped that the resolution of this uncertainty in the second half of the year will foster an environment in which markets can thrive.
I would like to thank the contributors for their support in producing the 10th edition of The Mergers & Acquisitions Review. I hope that the commentary in the following chapters will provide a richer understanding of the shape of the global markets, together with the challenges and opportunities facing market participants.
Slaughter and May