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Wall Street has big M&A expectations
August, 24th 2016

Bankers big and small concede that 2016 won't top 2015's record highs for mergers and acquisitions, in part thanks to a slow start to the year attributable to choppy markets.

But that doesn't mean 2016 won't go out with a bang.

"It's going to be chunky," one health care M&A banker said, asking to not be attributed. But make no mistake, he said, "no way [deal] volume will match 2015."

As evidenced by Monday's megadeal between Pfizer and Medivation, "chunky" M&A deals are popular with shareholders and bankers alike. In fact, last year, deals worth $5 billion and greater hit an all-time high.

Wall Street bankers are not expecting M&A tallies to top 2015's numbers, when dealmaking eclipsed the $5 trillion mark. It could mean more difficulties for big banks, which already cut compensation amid a disappointing deal scene. And boutique banks have been rising up to take more M&A from Wall Street's institutional firms, leaving an even smaller piece of the revenue pie to go around for big banks.

A number of factors are going into the potential for an amped-up end to 2016's M&A scene. For one, both M&A and IPOs that had been long planned by companies in numerous industries were put on hold to begin the year, in light of market turbulence that hampered deals well into the first quarter.
While IPOs are expected to rise in the back half of the year, bankers also think private equity deals could get a boost to close out 2016.

"A lot of investment firms have to put money to use soon," a banker who works on PE deals said. "You could see a lot of sponsor-to-sponsor deals."

Technology M&A is expected to take off in the back half of the year, one banker said, in part because private market valuations were stalling for start-ups, helping them become better targets toward strategic buyers.

Even sectors that have been ignored lately are expected to see M&A pick up to finish 2016.

An energy banker who spoke with said deals in the oil and gas sectors are expected to get a boost to finish the year, although energy services firms will probably not keep pace. The banker said untapped drilling projects in the Permian Basin — a large swath of land in Texas and New Mexico viewed as attractive to extraction companies prior to oil's 2014 pricing plummet — will likely be targeted.

"The dialogue and seriousness of executives in the space has picked up these last few months," the banker said. "People feel more positive. It's been two years since we've seen real M&A."

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