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LONDON/NEW YORK: Global dealmaking is entering an arid season as raging inflation and a stock market rout curb the thirst of many corporate boards to expand through acquisitions.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February and fears that an economic recession is looming dealt a blow to merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the second quarter.
The value of announced deals dropped 25.5% year-on-year to $1 trillion, according to Dealogic data.
"Companies are standing back from M&A in the short-term as they are more focused on the impact of a recession on their business. The timing for dealmaking will come but I don't think it's quite there yet," said Alison Harding-Jones, Citigroup Inc's EMEA M&A head.
M&A activity in the United States plunged 40% to $456 billion in the second quarter, while Asia Pacific was down 10%, Dealogic data showed.
Europe was the only region where dealmaking didn't crash. Activity was up 6.5% in the quarter, largely driven by a frenzy of private equity deals, including a 58 billion euro takeover bid for Italian infrastructure group Atlantia.
"We are nervous about the back half of the year but transactions are still happening," said Mark Shafir, global co-head of M&A at Citigroup.
With stock market facing persistent turmoil, boardrooms are wary of making expensive bets.
"We are unlikely to see a large number of megadeals and buyouts getting done over the next couple of quarters. M&A is hard to do when companies are trading at a 52-week low," said Marc Cooper, chief executive of U.S. advisory firm Solomon Partners.
Cross-border transaction volume dropped 25.5% in the first six months of the year. A traditional flurry of U.S. investments in Europe did not occur in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
"When you think about the psychology of executives and their level of confidence to make a leap across borders, you need to take into account the level of uncertainty in the world and how that impacts timing," said Andre Kelleners, head of EMEA M&A at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Acquisition financing has become more expensive for companies as central banks have hiked interest rates to fight inflation.
Even those that have the cash to undertake a deal or are using their shares as currency find it hard to agree on price in choppy markets.
"Stock market volatility is a big headwind to strategic M&A. When you have stock market volatility, it's tough to have value conversations and makes it hard to use stock as currency," said Damien Zoubek, co-head of U.S. corporate practice and M&A at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
In Europe, sharp falls in the value of the euro and the pound made companies vulnerable to opportunistic overtures by private equity investors.
"Market dislocation offers a window of opportunity to private equity funds as valuations are coming down," said Umberto Giacometti, co-head of Nomura's EMEA financial sponsors group.