CCCA Economic Dashboard: March 14th, 2014

Below is the CCCA economic dashboard as of March 14th, 2014. Click here to view a larger image.

Middle Market M&A: Ready to Increase?

Fox business reports that mid-sized businesses are poised to grow this year according to data compiled by the National Center for the Middle Market.  The middle market M&A conditions index climbed to 57.9. Any reading over 50 indicates an expansion in M&A business. As reported in CCCA's February Middle Market M&A Report, deal makers reported a spike in early stage deal flow, which also bodes well for mid-market M&A activity. Read the entire article here.

Buffett Hints at More Mega Deals, Admits Failures

Warren Buffett's annual letters to Berkshire shareholders are somewhat legendary in the investing world. He leverages quaint anecdotes to simplify an amazing wealth of knowledge about fundamental investing in a way that is easy to consume for the average investor. This year, Buffett covered a variety of topics, but two key points included hinting at additional mega deals and admitting a misstep in the energy sector. As reported in DealBook and stated by Buffett in the letter, in order to keep growing at a consistent pace, Berkshire will need to consistently make large, successful investments. Last year, Berkshire did just that with Heinz and NV Energy. Buffett said in the letter that, “with the Heinz purchase... we created a partnership template that may be used by Berkshire in future acquisitions of size.” This most likely referred to a structure where Mr. Buffett partnered on the massive acquisition with 3G Capital, an investment firm led by Mr. Buffett’s good friend Jorge Paulo Lemann.  Additionally, Berkshire’s energy subsidiary, MidAmerican Energy, bought NV Energy for $5.6 billion last year and most expect acquisitions for MidAmerican to continue. A strong stock market and improving earnings combined to help Berkshire reach record profits of $19.5 billion in 2013, which represents a 32% increase on 2012.  However, all was not rosy for the Omaha Oracle, as he admitted in the letter that Berkshire had taken an $873 million loss on the $2 billion in debt that had been provided to Texas energy company Energy Future Holdings. Mr. Buffett said in the letter that he anticipated the company would go bankrupt this year unless natural gas prices rose contrary to energy market expectations.  In typical Buffett fashion, he acknowledged that he had not consulted his longtime investment partner, Charles T. Munger, before taking on the debt and said in the letter, “Next time I’ll call Charlie." Read the Annual Letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders here.

CCCA Economic Dashboard: February 21st, 2014

Below is the CCCA economic dashboard as of February 21st, 2014. Click here to view a larger image.

Blackrock: Political Polarization Creating Lack of Consumer Confidence

Pretty regularly here at the CC Capital Advisors blog, we ask the question: "Why have the markets failed to rebound as fundamentals improve, equity markets rally and an abundance of capital sits idle in a low income environment?" As we wrote previously, healthcare had a tough time in 2013 due to the Affordable Care Act casting a shadow of uncertainty over the market. Russ Koesterich, Chief Investment Strategist at Blackrock recently released a paper that postulates that political uncertainty extends beyond healthcare to tax code, regulatory issues and more. Russ explains that the budget deal has removed the risk of another government shutdown, but continued uncertainty about the ACA and partisan gridlock are making consumers and businesses alike uneasy. According to the figure below, party polarization is at its worst point in fifty years. This graph measures the difference in voting patterns between the Democrat and Republican members of Congress. As you can see, the gap is widening, not narrowing.   So, what does this mean for the wider deal market? First, the uncertainty of the political situation is most likely impacting more than just the health care industry. When a government is unable to govern properly, there is a resulting lack of confidence in that market. This is generally seen in emerging markets, where a sovereign government may make investment difficult or risky, but can also take place in developed countries. Secondly, it will be interesting to see just how good the fundamentals and market opportunities need to be to overcome this lack of faith in the political system. At some point, one would expect deal makers to take advantage of opportunities even if they lack faith in the broader political situation; this will only happen when the reward outweighs the associated risk. Finally, Russ concludes that if there are any sort of "surprises" of the positive sort from Washington, we could see pent up deal demand released into the market place. Of course, that would require a miracle in the form of Congress getting their act together. Read the entire report from Blackrock here.

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.

CCCA Economic Dashboard: February 7th, 2014

Below is the CCCA economic dashboard as of February 7th, 2014. Click here to view a larger image.

CCCA Economic Dashboard: January 31st, 2014

Below is the CCCA economic dashboard as of January 31st, 2014. Click here to view a larger image.

CCCA Economic Dashboard: January 10th, 2014

Below is the CCCA economic dashboard as of January 10th, 2014. Click here to view a larger image.

CCCA Economic Dashboard: January 3rd, 2014

Below is the CCCA economic dashboard as of January 3rd, 2014. Click here to view a larger image.

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