With the massive decline in equities, it would seem that M&A would be robust – as solid buyers find compelling deals. But, if you look at the history of M&A, recessionary environments tend to result in lower activity.
And yes, according to analysis from Bernstein Research, it looks like 2009 will remain a slow time for M&A. If anything, there won't be a comeback until 2010.
No doubt, this is bad news for deal shops like Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) and Greenhill (NYSE: GHL). Then again, the investment banking industry is undergoing lots of change right now (as top-tier firms becoming bank holding companies).
Essentially, Bernstein forecasts that M&A activity will be off by a quarter next year. If this happens, then the fall-off will be 45% from 2007 to 2010.
Sounds bad, huh? Well, this is actually normal stuff in the feast-or-famine M&A game.
Why? For the most part, companies do not want to take major risks during slow economic times. After all, how long will the recession last? If it continues for several more years, then making a commitment on a major deal could be harmful.
However, Bernstein still sees some positives. For example, counter-cyclical industries, such as healthcare, should still see strength in M&A. Oh, and expect distressed deals (where sellers have no choice but to sell out) as well as activity in the financial sector (as the federal government pumps up the sector with fresh cash).
Tom Taulli is the author of various books, including The Complete M&A Handbook and The Streetsmart Guide to Short Selling: Techniques the Pros Use to Profit in Any Market. He is also the founder of BizEquity, a valuation website.