Feb 3, 2020 - Economy & Business

Global mergers are off to a slow start in 2020

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There was only $164 billion of announced global mergers and acquisitions in January, the slowest start to a year since 2013, per Refinitiv.

Why it matters: This comes off a 2019 in which volume was down slightly from 2018, but still the fourth-largest dollar volume in history and sixth-straight year above $3 trillion.

  • At first blush, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. CEO confidence is through the roof, companies are flush with stock thanks to buybacks, and private equity is sitting on Everest-like piles of dry powder.

Three theories for the early 2020 lethargy:

1. Regulatory pressures. All sorts of deals are being blocked, or at least put under very tough scrutiny, by a variety of governments in a variety of industries. It's not just about U.S. regulators and big tech (which, truth be told, has largely skated so far).

  • The FTC this morning announced it will sue to block Edgewell, the maker of Schick razors, from buying Harry's for $1.3 billion in cash and stock.
  • Harry's says it is "disappointed" and is "evaluating the best path forward."

2. Coronavirus. This won't permanently stop mergers that make strategic and financial sense, but it could slow announcements until both parties can get a better handle on what the spreading illnesses mean for their businesses (including for their supply chains).

3. Political uncertainty: It's mostly a CEO excuse for not pulling the trigger, but it's still being discussed. Particularly in a presidential election year in which two of the leading Democratic candidates are pledging to fundamentally restructure a healthcare industry that played host to many of last year's largest deals (including BMS buying Celgene for $74 billion).

The bottom line: January may prove to have been an anomaly, and 2020 M&A volume could end up more closely resembling 2019 than 2013. But so far it's been all systems stop.

Go deeper: Guitar-maker Fender gets new majority owner

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,929,312 — Total deaths: 357,781 — Total recoveries — 2,385,926Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,709,996 — Total deaths: 101,002 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  4. Public health: Louisiana Sen. Cassidy wants more frequent testing of nursing home workers.
  5. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  6. Business: Louisiana senator says young people are key to reopening the economy —U.S. GDP drop revised lower to 5% in the first quarter.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.

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President Trump is escalating his response to Twitter’s fact check of his recent tweets about mail-in voting, issuing an executive order that's designed to begin limiting social media's liability protections. Dan digs in with Axios' Margaret Harding McGill.

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