By Cory Kaisersatt
As many may know, the merger and acquisition market was K.O.’d in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the economic uncertainty of the year that followed. In 2021, however, M&A made a Robert Downey Jr. circa mid 2000’s level comeback. Last year’s M&A activity hit record setting numbers in the Q4 home stretch of October, November, and December – eventually eclipsing 2020’s volume by over $2B. This can largely be attributed to two leading factors: the subsiding of the pandemic and simultaneous success of public markets.
Stability and growth returned to the markets as companies and the general public better understood how to coexist with the pandemic. This increased certainty provided companies the confidence to resume growth acquisition strategy regionally and internationally as borders began to reopen over the summer months. The success of public companies only enhanced these effects. With revenue postings healthy across the board in 2021 and public companies comprising the majority of M&A deals, companies were given the confidence and the means to “pull the trigger” on growth-driven M&A strategies.
The activity was equally as fruitful for Private Equity. An increasing amount of capital is being allocated to funds that are more specialized in their approach and address a niche, allowing for general PE coverage of a broader range of industries. The longevity of PE is also becoming more promising as funds are diversifying their portfolios into a variety of deals including leveraged buyout, growth or continuation, and pure venture.
The leading sector for M&A activity remains Tech with ESG at a distant second. Due to the supply chain and labor complications, companies are being forced to adopt new technologies faster to streamline processes, connect with customers and improve productivity. ESG topics around workforce, sustainability and underrepresented people groups are being increasinbly prioritized by the public and, subsequently, corporations. There is also speculation that the SEC will require reporting on ESG matters in coming years.
The biggest concern in the M&A market reared its head late in the year as inflation rates in the U.S. skyrocketed to 7%. Inflation at this level hasn’t occurred since the early 80’s and has many economists and market participants uncertain on economic outlooks. In an attempt to combat the inflation problem, the Fed recently announced the first of what are expected to be several rate hikes in FY 2022. This is expected to lead to increased saving rates, discount rates and borrowing costs – all of which are typically indicators of a deceleration in M&A activity.
That is a wrap for 2021 M&A. We are excited to see what is in store in the space for 2022.