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Building blocks in place for strong Australian mergers and acquisitions
June, 25th 2015

Foreign acquirers, activist funds, and opportunistic suitors in sectors that are facing cyclical pressure are among the factors that will drive merger and acquisition activity in the 2016 financial year.

That is the view of Minter Ellison partner Alberto Colla and his colleagues, following their analysis of public mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the current financial year.

Their analysis showed 24 transactions with a value of $100 million or more were announced on the Australian Securities Exchange over the period, with an aggregate value of $28.1 billion.

The median premium paid by suitors in that sample was 34 per cent, underscoring why there were just two instances where competing bidders emerged for a local target. They were in the takeover tussles for Roc Oil and iiNet.

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Even so, Mr Colla said there was "increased pragmatism" among local target boards and shareholders as they assessed offers against the company's outlook.

"My sense is lessons have been learned from the past ... they are more prepared to exit at a price that may not be stellar but is reasonable," he said.

Several parties have gone back to the drawing board to renegotiate a deal over the period, including US document storage giant Iron Mountain sweetening its offer for Recall Holdings and more recently the agreed marriage of Programmed Maintenance and Skilled Group.

Upbeat on prospects
Mr Colla is upbeat on prospects for M&A in fiscal 2016 and thinks foreign bidders will increasingly consider using scrip as a means for payment in Australian takeovers.

"The landscape we think may be slowly changing," he noted, citing recent examples of inbound bids from Iron Mountain, Uranium Resources and IGas Energy.

Minter Ellison predicts that demergers, shareholder activists, activists funds and opportunistic bidders in sectors such as resources and mining and retail will also play a role in deal activity in the 12 months ahead.

"No company is immune to this activism and it will be an increasingly relevant driver of M&A activity," Mr Colla said, noting that financing conditions were favourable for M&A and that suitors would probably look through any global macroeconomic headwinds to pursue strategic deals.

Earlier in June, bankers canvassed by The Australian Financial Review said cheap financing and a quest by Australian companies to sustain or top up earnings growth would lead to continued robust deal activity. That is despite a dip in announced Australian M&A volumes for the year-to-date compared to the same period in 2014.

Globally, deal making has been rife in the first half of the calendar year, with the value of announced transactions climbing 31 per cent to $US2.1 trillion ($2.7 trillion) at June 24 compared to the same period in 2014, Dealogic data showed. That marks the second-strongest year on record behind 2007.

The 2015 numbers are buoyed by 30 mega-deals of more than $US10 billion, such as Royal Dutch Shell's tilt for BG Group, which helped the data to a record half-year for those large transactions but left a void at the smaller end of the scale. Deals valued at $US1 billion or less accounted for just 28 per cent of the total volume, a record low.

Australia is the eighth-busiest country for deals so far in 2015, trailing the likes of the United States, China, Britain, Hong Kong and France.

 
 
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