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M&A market set to pick up in 2010
January, 20th 2010

Analysts are predicting a revival in the market for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) during 2010, with corporates leading the way as private equity firms continue to be dogged by tough credit market conditions.

According to business advisory firm KPMG, the M&A market is set for growth after revisions of over-optimistic earnings expectations in 2009, which it blames for skewing market activity last year.

KPMG pores over key market metrics and analyst statements in order to figure out how much appetite there will be for corporate deal-making activity. It reckons that crunching the numbers has shown just how much analysts overestimated corporate earnings in 2009 - by some 20% - which made it very difficult to predict M&A activity this time last year.

David Simpson, the global head of M&A at KPMG, believes the latest company earnings forecasts look far more sensible, suggesting reality has finally caught up with the market.

With feet firmly planted back on terra firma and earnings forecasts reset to sensible levels, the M&A market is set to make a modest return in 2010 both in the UK and globally, he said.

KPMGs M&A Predictor shows that forward price to earnings ratios are now 7 percent higher compared with last year's adjusted figure, suggesting a gentle increase in corporate appetite for deals. In addition, corporate net debt compared to EBITDA is expected to fall in 2010 suggesting that corporates have more capacity to do deals even though debt is still tight.

Simpson said that the modest increase in corporate capacity and appetite to do deals seems far more realistic than predictions made this time last year.

He said: It is important to highlight, however, that this data is very much about the corporate market. The private equity market is much more dependent upon high levels of debt, putting it at a disadvantage until bank lending picks up. This time around, the M&A recovery will be led by corporates and through IPOs, with the equity and bond markets open to quality credits and growth stories.

Earlier in January another corporate finance advisory firm, Grant Thornton, predicted that M&A activity would improve in 2010 after the volumes and values of deal fell significantly last year.

David Brooks, the firms head of M&A, said that while activity in 2009 turned out to be worse than the corporate finance fraternity had anticipated, in the UK there were grounds to be cautiously optimistic about mid-market M&A for 2010.

Aside from distressed M&A, there are a growing number of private company sales driven by a rising level of interest from acquisitive corporates and a somewhat improved funding environment, he said.

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