Tech M&A Slump Continues In April

Includes: FB, VOD
by: 451 Research: Inorganic Growth

by Brenon Daly

The deal drought continued into April, with spending on tech transactions around the globe during the just-completed month coming in at only $12bn. That's less than half the level of spending on tech M&A that we recorded in April during the same month last year.

Spending on deals this year has now dropped in three of the four months, compared with 2011. (The $12bn of spending in April essentially matched the monthly average of the previous three months so far this year.) Additionally, the number of acquisitions in April slumped to its lowest level this year.

The low spending and light volume goes against what most observers projected for 2012. Many buyers - flush with cash and enjoying their highest stock price in a decade or so - indicated that they would be active in the M&A market after many deals got knocked off the table due to the European debt crisis in the back half of 2011.

But now, it seems like pricing is the problem. In the recent M&A Leaders' Survey from 451 Research / Morrison & Foerster, two-thirds of respondents said rich valuation expectations at target companies were keeping deals from getting closed. Only 10% of the survey respondents said pricing wasn't a hindrance in closing deals. (See the full report.)

In terms of the acquisitions that did get announced last month, we couldn't help but notice the stark contrast between the two targets of the largest (non-patent) deals in April.

On the one hand, we saw Vodafone Group's (NASDAQ:VOD) $1.7bn purchase of Cable & Wireless Worldwide, a company that traces its roots back to the 1850s, generates nearly $3.5bn of sales and has 6,000 employees. And on the other hand, there was Instagram - a company with no revenue, only a dozen employees and a 2010 vintage that nonetheless fetched $1bn in its sale to Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).

2012 activity, month by month

Month Deal volume Deal value % change in spending vs. same month, 2011
January 340 $4.1bn Down 65%
February 272 $11.1bn Up 16%
March 289 $19.9bn Down 30%
April 267 $12.3bn Down 55%
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Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase