Tech M&A Rises to 2000 Levels

As reported in the NYTimes DealBook, merger mania that gripped the world during the dot com bubble seems to be making a comeback. Fueled by Facebook's two big acquisitions, the dollar volume of tech deals is up 90 percent worldwide, to $65.2 billion, year over year, according to Thomson Reuters data. This is the highest it has been since the year 2000.  The ten biggest tech deals of the year all involve acquisitions of American companies, the biggest of which has been the purchase of WhatsApp for $19 billion. The WhatsApp acquisition is the fifth largest tech deal ever, according to Thomson Reuters. Technology is hot right now, and looks to be picking up steam. We've received more inquiries from technology companies this year than we typically do. Not everyone is excited about the tech boom, however. Castlight recently went public in an offering that defied traditional valuation metrics; the company's valuation soared to more than $3 billion on 2013 revenues of only $13 million. Yahoo! finance called it the worst IPO of the century. So, where does this leave the rest of the market? As with any bubble, everything is rosey until something pops. With the momentum tech has built so far this year, it wouldn't surprise us to see more large deals over the next 9 months of the year. However, if valuations continue to defy historical measurements and reality checks, watch out - the last time companies without profits were going public at incredible multiples (dot com bubble), the market correction was harsh and swift. Read the original article from NY Times DealBook here.

KC Based Compass Minerals Makes $85 Million Acquisition

As reported in the Kansas City Business Journal, and as a way to boost its fertilizer business, Compass purchased Wolf Trax, Inc. of Winnepeg, MB, in an all cash deal for $85 million. Wolf Trax is a producer of micronutrients that are crucial in the coating process for dry fertilizer. The coating creates an efficient way to deliver nutrients such as boron and zinc. The purchase price would represent a 4.8x multiple on 2013 revenues. “Wolf Trax brand products are well recognized by fertilizer customers for the differentiated technology they bring to the application of micronutrients. This acquisition will position us for future growth with new products that serve a greater diversity of crops and geographies in a fast growing segment of the plant nutrition market," Compass CEO Fran Malecha said in a release. Read the entire article from the KCBJ here.

E-commerce Competition Intensifies: Megadeal between Google and eBay on the Horizon?

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, Carl Icahn is at it again. One of the world's most active investors, Icahn is pressuring eBay to spin off its PayPal segment in a move that is intended to unlock value for current eBay shareholders. However, one analyst from Baird Equity Research seems to have a different idea, which he revealed in an investment note released on Monday. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian recently wrote that a merger could be "a possible 'best of both worlds' opportunity" that would accomplish Icahn's goals while allowing Google to shore up a struggling division. He continued to explain that, "we believe acquiring eBay/PayPal would be one way for Google to secure quickly a strong leadership position in commerce and payments, and likewise, could represent a better strategic option than alternatives proposed for eBay," The deal would certainly create a giant in the e-commerce space, with eBay potentially adding $75 billion to Google's already mammoth $400+ billion capitalization. Read the entire article here.

Facebook to Acquire WhatsApp for $19 Billion

February 20, 2014 11:58 by Clayton Reeves in M&A, Technology  //  Tags: , , , , , , ,   //   Comments (0)
In the biggest internet deal since Time Warner / AOL deal in 2001, Facebook has agreed to acquire WhatsApp for $19 billion. The first thing to notice about this deal is the price.  When Facebook paid $1 billion for Instagram, many thought it was too large of a price tag for the mobile photo app. However, WhatsApp is a much larger fish with a striking growth profile. WhatsApp is a messaging service that eschews typical ad-based revenue business models for a simple, fast, easy to use messaging interface. The app has been successful because it is best in class and does not track user data or spy on users. According to Jim Goetz of Sequoia Capital, WhatsApp's only venture sponsor, “It’s a decidedly contrarian approach shaped by Jan’s experience growing up in a communist country with a secret police. Jan’s childhood made him appreciate communication that was not bugged or taped.” As reported by CNN, WhatsApp has more than 450 million users (more than Twitter) and is adding a million users a day. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said, "No one in the history of the world has done anything like that." WhatsApp is also the most popular messaging app for smartphones, according to OnDevice Research. Unique to this deal is the fact that WhatsApp will still refuse to use advertisements, so Facebook's typical monetization strategy will not apply. It will be interesting to see how the business combination plays out, and whether WhatsApp will truly be able to resist monetizing their hundreds of millions of users with advertisements or data collection. 

Merge or Die: Are Mergers the New Growth Catalyst in a Sluggish Economy?

As 2014 begins to take shape, many in the M&A industry are worried about a repeat of 2013, when conditions seemed ripe for deal making but those deals failed to execute.  Other than several mega deals, 2013 was largely disappointing. For context, world wide M&A was $4.27 trillion in 2007 on more than 40,000 transactions. Only a year later, 2008, we saw that amount fall to $1.9 trillion. Reuters estimates that private equity firms ended 2013 with $1.074 trillion in dry powder. Bain Capital has postulated that there is $300 trillion in capital laying dormant around the world that could be used for M&A. Capital is also still cheap, as interest rates remain relatively low. So, with all of these things pointing towards more deals being executed, when will it begin? In a recent article from Institutional Investor, Robert Teitelman postulates that there could be a "new normal" in terms of how companies grow. In a low growth global environment, he says, acquisitions are one of the only ways to increase the size of your business. US GDP was a healthy 3.2% in Q4 2013 after being 4.1% in Q3, but other parts of the world are not showing that same growth. Most expected M&A activity to be back to pre-crisis levels by now, considering the health of the overall stock market and US economy. However, it has only rebounded to mid 2000s levels. Chris Ruggeri is a principal in Deloitte’s financial advisory unit and leading manager of the firm’s M&A practice. She summed up the lack of deals by saying, “We’ve been sort of stuck. Confidence fuels growth. And growth fuels M&A. To get growth, you need confidence. It’s not there.”  Let's hope the confidence returns and deal makers start pulling the trigger, or 2014 could be a repeat of 2013.

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