February 19, 2009
After years of easy money and soaring takeover volumes, 2008 ushered in a grim era of regret. Deal volumes dropped significantly. Once-powerful buyers, such as private equity funds and sovereign wealth investors, have retreated. The number of acquirors with deal remorse is growing as a deepening global recession threatens their ability to pay takeover debts from deals struck in headier times.
With so few acquirers and such steeply discounted stock prices, the current environment is shaping up as the buying opportunity of a lifetime. But few have the financial capacity or fortitude to wager money on takeovers in such uncertain times.
"Yes, it's a buyer's market," said Sharon Geraghty. "But it's a buyer's market with no money."
Those companies left with no option but to put themselves up for sale are facing a much more aggressive breed of buyers. Acquirors are only willing to pay bargain prices—and they are winning unusual protections. Many suitors are demanding the right to negotiate exclusively with targets. Others insist on the right to walk away from takeover agreements if the company cannot maintain its credit rating or other indicators of financial health.
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