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Implications Of Elevated Inflation On M&A

Garry Stephensen

Article Author: Garry Stephensen
Position: Managing Director
Read time: 5 mins

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In recent times, the landscape of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in Australia has been significantly influenced by inflationary pressures, both domestically and globally. This phenomenon, attributed to a confluence of factors ranging from geopolitical tensions, such as the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict, to persistent disruptions in global supply chains exacerbated by the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has prompted a nuanced examination of its impact on business strategies, particularly in the realm of M&A.

What is M&A?

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) refer to the consolidation of companies or assets through various financial transactions, such as mergers, acquisitions, consolidations, or takeovers. In simpler terms, it involves the combining of two or more entities to create a single entity or the purchase of one company by another, often with the aim of achieving strategic objectives such as expanding market share, increasing efficiency, accessing new markets, or achieving synergies.

For example, let's consider a hypothetical scenario involving two Australian companies:

Company A is a leading provider of renewable energy solutions with a robust portfolio of wind and solar projects across the country. However, the company faces challenges in accessing capital markets for further expansion due to limited financial resources.

On the other hand, Company B is a diversified energy conglomerate with substantial financial resources but lacks a significant presence in the renewable energy sector.

Recognizing the synergies and strategic opportunities inherent in combining their respective strengths, Company B initiates discussions with Company A regarding a potential acquisition. After thorough due diligence and negotiations, Company B acquires Company A, integrating its renewable energy assets and expertise into its existing operations.

Through this merger and acquisition transaction, Company B not only expands its market presence in the rapidly growing renewable energy sector but also leverages Company A's specialized capabilities to drive innovation and sustainable growth across its portfolio. Meanwhile, Company A benefits from access to the financial resources and operational scale of Company B, enabling accelerated expansion and market penetration.

This hypothetical example illustrates how M&A transactions can facilitate strategic objectives, such as market expansion, diversification, and synergistic value creation, for companies operating in diverse industries and sectors. 

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Implications of Elevated Inflation On Mergers and Acquisitions


Australian Economic Outlook

Australian businesses have found themselves grappling with the repercussions of an inflation surge, with the trimmed mean inflation gauge surging to 4.9% in April-June 2022, surpassing the Reserve Bank of Australia's target range of 2-3%. In response, central banks, including the Reserve Bank of Australia, have initiated measures to curb inflationary pressures by raising interest rates. For instance, in August 2023, the RBA implemented a 50 basis points increase, elevating the cash rate to 1.85%, mirroring similar actions taken by other major central banks such as the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank.

The prevailing uncertainty stemming from these inflationary dynamics begs the question: How will this environment impact the landscape of corporate Mergers & Acquisitions in Australia?

One plausible scenario entails a temporary surge in inflation followed by a subsequent stabilization - a prospect optimistically viewed by some as a "soft landing". Perhaps even recession is on the table, suggests some economists.  Conversely, a more pessimistic outlook posits a prolonged period of inflation coupled with escalating interest rates, potentially precipitating a more challenging environment for businesses - this is the scenario described as a "hard landing".

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Market Resilience

However, amidst this uncertainty, it is noteworthy that M&A activity still persists across economic cycles, driven by a myriad of factors including strategic imperatives, capital-raising initiatives, and growth aspirations. The interplay between buyers seeking expansion opportunities and sellers aiming to capitalize on market conditions imbues the M&A landscape with resilience, albeit amid fluctuating economic conditions. SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies) continue to be a popular channel for acquisitions. 

Central to the discourse surrounding M&A in the context of inflationary pressures is the nuanced evaluation of valuations. Elevated inflation and rising interest rates wield a dual-edged influence on valuation dynamics. On one hand, the escalation of borrowing costs could exert downward pressure on valuations, constraining the financial feasibility of transactions. Conversely, in a climate characterized by subdued growth prospects, buyers may exhibit a propensity to pay premiums for entities offering avenues for expansion and resilience against inflationary headwinds.  Buyers may also be driven to expand their profit making enterprises to increase profits in a market that otherwise is providing lower than average profits.

Undoubtedly, the trajectory of M&A valuations has exhibited variability across industries and enterprises. While aggregate valuations have experienced a modest decline of approximately 10% from peak levels observed in early 2022, discernible disparities exist among sectors, with certain industries demonstrating resilience amidst turbulent market conditions such as mergers and acquisitions in the tech industry.

 

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For Australian businesses contemplating when to sell their business, navigating the current landscape necessitates a blend of vigilance and adaptability. Vigilance entails a comprehensive assessment of market dynamics, including inflationary pressures and interest rate trajectories, to inform strategic decision-making. Simultaneously, adaptability entails a readiness to recalibrate approaches in response to evolving market conditions, thereby capitalizing on emergent opportunities amidst uncertainty.

While elevated inflation introduces inherent complexities into the domain of M&A, it also engenders opportunities for astute businesses to capitalize on strategic imperatives and market differentiators. By remaining attuned to prevailing market dynamics and embracing agility in response to evolving conditions, Australian businesses can navigate the terrain of M&A with resilience and acumen, thereby charting a course towards sustainable growth and value creation.

Business Broker - Garry Stephensen

Garry
Managing Director
Business Broker - Karen Dado

Karen
Director NSW
Business Broker - Geoffrey Tulett

Geoffrey
Lloyds Corporate Partner - Mergers & Acquisition Specialist
Business Broker - Edward Alder

Edward
Director Victoria
Business Broker - Kevin L Sutherland

Kevin
Director International Business Sales
Business Broker - Dianne Reynolds

Dianne
Research Director and Corporate Broker

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