Merger boom 'coming to an end'

16-07-2007

Merger boom 'coming to an end'
The boom in merger and acquisition activity seen in recent months is reaching its peak, an economist has said.

Stephen Barrett, international chairman of corporate finance at KPMG, told BBC Radio Five Live that research recently carried out by his firm found that while takeover deals are getting bigger, the number of deals taking place is falling.

Comparing current conditions to those found just before "the bubble burst" in 2001, Mr Barrett said price earnings ratio – what a company can afford to pay when it buys another company – has come to a standstill, restricting debt capacity.

"I think we're going to see the [takeover boom] peak in the next few months," he said.

"I guess the obvious question is will that be a plateau or will it be some sort of fall… I think we're fairly confident that it's going to be a plateau in light of the amount of cash that's swilling around at the moment, particularly among the private equity funds."

Mr Barrett added that the current availability of cash was inherently limited as each deal done increases debt in the system, putting extra pressure on debt capacity.

"Now if the debt market becomes more difficult then the fact that you've got cash sitting there doesn't necessarily mean you can pursue a takeover, particularly if you're a private equity fund.

"It's becoming tighter without any question," he concluded.


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