MinterEllison recently released the Directions in Public M&A Report 2017, analysing key trends in Australian public M&A over the last financial year.
The firm said the report showed several positive trends despite global volatility, including strategic acquirers looking to “buy growth” in mature industries with low prospects for organic growth, an increase in opportunistic bids and a “renaissance” in private equity activity continuing from last year.
“Overall, FY2017 was a dynamic year shaped by heightened volatility on the global stage and an increasingly complex regulatory landscape domestically,” said MinterEllison partner and public M&A specialist Alberto Colla.
“Pleasingly, this didn't deter strategically driven acquirers who were prepared to look past external market shocks and execute transformational deals.
“There was strong appetite to offer healthy premiums to acquire targets that can deliver immediate access to new geographic regions, complementary products or know-how.
“Heightened market volatility and uncertainty also emboldened many acquirers to accelerate their growth plans by making opportunistically timed ‘hostile’ offers that bypassed the target board and were made directly to target shareholders at an attractive premium.”
The report found strong middle market activity over the financial year, with 28 deals in the $50 million to $400 million range. The overall average deal value was $635.8 million.
MinterEllison also noted that while increased regulation led to reduced activity from Chinese bidders, other jurisdictions such as Japan and the US drove an overall increase in foreign bidder activity. Fifty-one per cent of bidders in FY2017 were foreign, 44 per cent were local and 5 per cent were consortiums, according to the report.
Looking to the future, MinterEllison predicted that the “hot” M&A sectors in FY2018 will be health and aged care, IT and software services, food and agribusiness, financial services and infrastructure.
M&A partner Ron Forster said the popularity of strategic acquisitions is set to continue.
“Opportunism will remain a key driver and private equity players will continue to bid for ASX-listed companies,” he said.
“In the resources sector, players will be looking for acquisitions or consolidation plays. Given the sector is at the bottom of the investment boom, and not every exploration strategy has been successful, we believe there will be companies looking to play catch-up by buying resources in the ground, and/or assets near to production.”
“Demergers may also become more common in the resources space, due to the current downturn in investment activity. Listed resources companies may offload operations that have different capital spending requirements and operating cash flows to those of their core businesses. We may see more debt-for-equity restructures for companies with stressed balance sheets potentially.”