Jun 7, 2019

Axios Markets

By Dion Rabouin
Dion Rabouin

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Situational awareness:

  • Shares of Barnes & Noble rose 30% after a report that the company is near a deal to be acquired by Elliott Management. (WSJ)
  • Beyond Meat shares rose as much as 23% after it beat analysts' expectations in its first ever quarterly report and predicted that its revenue will more than double in 2019. (CNBC)
  • The U.S. Treasury Department tightened oil sanctions on Venezuela and indicated it could take further action. (Reuters)
  • The most anticipated U.S. jobs report of the year will be released at 8:30am, with economists predicting 185,000 jobs were added in May. (MarketWatch)
1 big thing: The global M&A slowdown

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The collapse of the mega-merger between Fiat-Chrysler and Renault was the latest piece of bad news for lawyers, advisers and other middlemen who make their living brokering corporate tie-ups.

  • The M&A market has cooled significantly in 2019, both in the number of deals closed and in overall dollar volume.
  • Economic uncertainty, trade wars, rising nationalism and blowback against globalization are helping drive the pullback, experts say.

Why it matters: M&A's slowdown this year has been particularly bad for deals involving companies based in different countries, and shows another way globalization's retreat is draining revenue, even from fast-growing segments of the economy.

What's happening: The size of the M&A market rose to a record $4.1 trillion in 2018, but the numbers have fallen significantly this year. The number of global M&A deals at this point in the year is the lowest since 2005 and the value of cross-border deals is the lowest since 2010, data provided to Axios by Dealogic shows.

What they're saying: The souring environment and increasing government intervention is not making it easy for businesses to close deals, particularly in the U.S., Joele Frank, founder and managing partner of investor relations firm Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher, said this week at the Bloomberg Invest conference.

  • "Everything is incredibly complicated. Everything's got hair," Frank said of deals she's worked on so far this year. "There are a lot more bigger deals, but even the smaller deals we've got have hair all over them."

Yes, but: Despite the lugubrious pace so far, dealmakers remain optimistic. Panelists at Bloomberg Invest's M&A summit largely agreed the second half of the year would bring more deals, as private equity firms still have substantial dry powder available.

  • Further, EY's April survey of more than 2,900 senior executives in 47 countries found the appetite for global M&A at its highest in 10 years, with 59% of global companies planning to make an acquisition in 2019 and 92% of respondents predicting the global market would improve.

The last word: "I'm not ready to write it off as yet," said Anu Aiyengar, head of North American M&A at JPMorgan. "But I do see the difference in regional trends, sectors and the size of deals."

Bonus: Falling numbers and value
Expand chart
Data: Dealogic; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

There have only been 9 mega deals this year that reached $10 billion or more in value, notes Mergemarket in its 2019 global M&A report. In 2018, there were 14 at this point, and the year finished with a total of 30.

  • Furthermore, all but 2 of 2019's mega deals were the result of U.S. companies removing competitors from their home market.
2. The IMF and World Bank weigh in on trade tensions

In an analysis this week, the World Bank lowered its global growth projection to 2.6% for 2019, down 0.3 percentage points from January's estimate. It also lowered the U.S. growth forecast to 2.5% and 1.7% in 2020.

  • The IMF, in contrast, upgraded its economic growth forecast for the U.S. this year, but also warned of further escalation in trade tensions and rising risks to its financial stability.

Watch this space:

  • "We're not done with the downgrades until we can really fix the trade issues," said Victoria Kwakwa, World Bank regional vice president for East Asia and the Pacific.
  • IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said the "self-inflicted wounds" of the U.S.-China trade war would cost $455 billion in lost output next year.
3. The spoils of gold and oil
Expand chart
Data: Investing.com; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Gold prices rose to their highest since Feb. 1 this week, thanks to global growth fears and more trade war uncertainty. Those fears sent crude oil prices in the opposite direction. After rising more than 30% for the year in April, oil has now entered a bear market, down 20% from its highs.

  • Oil has fallen nearly 9% this week. Gold has soared more than 5% in the same week.
  • This has only happened in 3 previous instances, and all 3 were during bear markets and recessions, according to data from Crescat Capital.
4. What the dollar's reversal is telling us

The dollar has been one of the strongest currencies in the world this year, but over the past 2 weeks it has reversed course. The greenback has slumped to near its lowest level since mid-April against a basket of currencies that measure its strength, and its weakest against the Japanese yen in 6 months.

While some consolidation is to be expected after such a strong performance to start the year, Kathryn Kaminski, chief research strategist at alternative investment manager AlphaSimplex, says the dollar's recent weakness may be telling a bigger story about the market's view of the U.S. economy.

"The strong dollar has been thematic since last April and this last week we’ve seen some of the first weakness of the dollar against the euro, which was pretty aggressive. Why that's interesting is because it could be first indicator that what's going on with China and trade actually will affect the dollar and that growth expectations might be lower going forward, even though they were good up to now.
"I'm watching that because we've really seen such a strong dollar, and if you think about the dollar relative to other economies all over the world, the U.S. has been so much stronger. What this indicates to some extent is that there is an impact of trade and tariffs."
5. Mallinckrodt's important correction
Screenshot from Gizmodo's Twitter feed

In a story Wednesday about Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Gizmodo incorrectly reported that the company's Questcor offshoot had raised prices on a medication that reduces seizures in infants by more than 100,000%, when it had actually increased prices by just under 100,000%.

  • The company makes about $1 billion per year from the drug, according to CNN.

Background: Mallinckrodt agreed to pay $15.4 million as part of a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department as a result of an investigation that found Questcor representatives had bribed doctors to prescribe its drugs.

Mallinckrodt's other correction: The company's stock has fallen below $9 a share, dropping 43% year to date, as investors worry about increasing interest from DOJ and greater potential fallout from the Questcor suit.

  • The stock also has been pressured by the aggressive actions of the Trump administration against pharmaceutical companies that raise prices on vital drugs at extreme rates.
Dion Rabouin