Today's M&A environment is much different than it was just two years ago.
"Choppy is probably the best way to describe it," says Gavin Slader, head of the investment bank for JMP, a Citizens company. "We're still seeing deals get done. We're still seeing big deals get done in the current M&A environment. But certainly, rising interest rates have created a universe of buyers that are taking a much harder look when thinking about potential acquisitions. And layer on top of that some of the broader macroeconomic uncertainty, both domestic and abroad, and we're in an environment where folks are just a little bit more cautious about the deals that they get done and are certainly taking more time to do diligence and ultimately execute those transactions."
Two years ago, it was an environment of pretty easy money. Interest rates weren't yet on the rise and though COVID created uncertainty, the economy, he says, was actually humming along pretty well.
"You had business leaders that I think felt very front-footed about going out, executing transactions, growing their businesses inorganically. And with the end of 2021, we started to see that environment, change," he says. "We started to see the first signs of inflation creep in and then followed shortly thereafter by the Fed's response to that. As acquirers generally looked at their ability to execute transactions, and importantly, execute transactions that penciled out economically at a higher cost of interest, it started to be more difficult. We started to see growth slowing. And ultimately we saw a lot of firms start to become more inwardly focused as they thought about operating their own business and maximizing their own operation as opposed to going out and actively pursuing acquisition opportunities to either grow their business or grow their footprint."
Slader spoke on the Smart Business Dealmakers Podcast, offering his state of M&A — an overview of the conditions dealmakers are facing and predictions for how the 2023 deal year finishes up.