Mergers and acquisitions, the effect of the global pandemic on M&A in North America and in Europe

The coronavirus crisis permeated every aspect of society, from politics to economics, from culture to personal relationships. In the financial sector, one of the most important consequences has been the collapse of M&A activities in Europe and the United States.

The world of mergers and acquisitions has always survived and recovered from previous economic crises, and as happened in the past, uncertainties in the markets have already contributed to delaying or interrupting acquisition plans.

This time, however, the situation is more complicated: the impact of the pandemic has not only been on the financial system in general, on the judgement of sellers and the willingness of buyers to close short-term deals. Other factors have influenced mergers and acquisitions. These include contractual terms, new due diligence issues that have arisen, the availability, pricing and time needed to obtain the necessary regulatory and other third-party authorisations for transactions.

The American crisis in the merger market

Global mergers and acquisitions have already plummeted following the coronavirus crisis and by the end of March 2020 had almost stopped completely. Mergers and acquisitions levels in the U.S. declined by more than 50% in the first quarter dropping to $ 253 billion compared to 2019, but most of those transactions were concluded or closed early in the quarter before the crisis spread all over the world.

Furthermore, the strategies of companies that are typically on the acquisition side have been redirected towards protecting their assets by abandoning longer-term objectives such as investments in growth through acquisitions. Similarly, private equity institutions have focused their efforts on strengthening or saving the companies in their portfolio, at the expense of newly traded assets.

An American law against Mergers & Acquisitions?

A proposed act was introduced in the United States Congress known as the Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act, a law aimed at freezing the takeover of companies with over $ 100 million in revenue and financial institutions with over $ 100 million in market capitalisation for the duration of the crisis.

The proposed act is similar to the one introduced by the Republican Congressman David Cicilline, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. The aim of the two measures is to block speculative transactions at a time when the ratings of many companies are dropping due to the economic repercussions of the health crisis.

The European market is also slowing down

The effects of the pandemic have also been felt in M&A in Europe where the sector appeared to be in a good state until the emergence of the crisis. In the first quarter of the year, 2,677 transactions were closed for a value of € 281.3 billion. This is progress, respectively 15.6% and 11% compared to the same period last year.

The spread of coronavirus in Europe has called prospects into question, bringing M&A transactions to practically zero. According to the statements of some advisors in the sector, about 90% of payment instructions have been put on hold.

European companies and the risk of foreign influences

To protect each country’s industrial heritage, EU countries are considering necessary countermeasures, including controls on foreign investment, strategic strengthening of holdings and nationalisation. The European Commission also urged member states to “use all options to protect critical European companies from foreign takeovers or influence that could undermine our security and public order”.

“As in any crisis, our industrial and corporate assets are under stress. The resilience of our industries, their ability to continue to meet the needs of EU citizens and to preserve strategic resources and technologies is fundamental”, stated a spokesperson for the European Commission.

The EU is concerned that foreign investors may attempt to acquire European companies “with the goal of taking control of key technologies, infrastructures or knowledge”. The EU is also concerned about strategic and delicate issues like security.

Healthcare remains stable and IT is growing

Healthcare has seen an increase in activity compared to the first quarter of last year, in line with what has been happening in recent years. Furthermore, the global pandemic is demonstrating how the sector can be a strategic asset against the recession so it is possible that M&A transactions in this context will continue to grow.

On the other hand, one sector that is experiencing a growth phase right now is Information Technology. IT companies specialising in service delivery and cybersecurity seem to be better able to defend themselves against the risks of a recession. On the one hand, citizens have reached a level of using IT infrastructures that has never been seen before, on the other, companies have an ever growing need to protect themselves from new technological risks and to be able to manage their business safely.

Evidence in the professional translation services market

During the entire time we were in lockdown, Intrawelt continued to work non-stop. In compliance with the measures in place to safeguard everyone’s health, the translation agency continued to manage a significant number of translation projects thanks to remote working.

During these difficult months we translated several financial statements and financial reports, we have worked on remote interpreting projects for business negotiations but we have seen, especially in recent weeks, a drop in the demand for the translation of financial documentation related to the closing of merger and acquisition agreements, in line with our analysis so far. We understand and share the concerns regarding the risk of weakening national industrial systems for the benefit of external speculation, our hope is that effective protection measures will be taken as soon as possible, for the good of the whole system and of the many companies involved, some of which we have the privilege of working with constantly.

References and further reading:

COVID-19’s Impact on Global M&A (Boston Consulting Group)

Coronavirus effects on private markets (Pitchbook)

The Impact Of The Coronavirus Crisis On Mergers And Acquisitions (Forbes)

Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez want mergers halted due to COVID-19 (Pitchbook)

EU helps protect weak firms from foreign takeovers (BBC News)

Vestager urges stakebuilding to block Chinese takeovers (FT)

Coronavirus: EU fears a rise in hostile takeovers (Deutsche Welle)

alibaba marketing translations

Singles’ Day 2019, behind Alibaba’s success

China 1, United States 0, and it’s kick-off time. The rivalry between E-commerce giants Alibaba and Amazon will in all probability be won by China again this year.

Cina ecommerce

Just a few short hours after the end of the eleventh edition of Singles’ Day, China’s equivalent of Black Friday in the US, Alibaba closed at 268.44 billion yuan, which is equal to 38.37 billion dollars, in 24 hours. The first billion was earned just one minute and eight seconds into the event. These mind-boggling figures are certainly the result of a mix of demographic, media and economic factors.

Here, we are going to look into the dynamics that influenced the purchasing choices of Chinese consumers during the day rather than sales and profit figures.

In one study conducted by AlixPartners a month before the event, 2,000 Chinese consumers were interviewed. The goal was to get a better idea of how consumers were feeling during a period of economic uncertainty and to identify new trends in purchasing decisions during Singles’ Day.

The results of the study reveal an average expenditure forecast of RMB 6,265 this year ($893.99), an increase of 54% compared to the previous year.

Of the consumers interviewed, 57% estimated that they would spend over RMB 5,000 ($713.48) this year and 18% predicted that they would spend more than RMB 10,000 ($1,426.96). This expected increase shows that the slowdown in Chinese economic growth and the current trade war has not affected the general propensity to shop on Singles’ Day.

Marketing trends for Singles’ Day 2019

Electronic coupons and targeted banners still work, but the launch of new products and live streaming have strongly influenced traffic and sales. Conversely, engagement channels through text messaging, offline announcements and e-mail seem to have lost their appeal. Even social media channels have strongly impacted online sales, with only 16% of those interviewed stating that they do not pay attention to social commerce channels.

Generally speaking, Chinese consumers are rather open to marketing innovations, even if the data show that methods such as live streaming work only for impulse purchases or for products that consumers are very familiar with. However, new products require more research and careful price comparisons.

Companies that performed best were probably those that were able to understand the nuances of promoting different products. Blindly investing in new trends without understanding the needs of consumers can result in low returns and weak sales, especially on such an important media occasion like Singles’ Day, which represents a showcase with a strong impact for global brands.

The effects of American trade tariffs on Singles’ Day

Speaking of large showcases, over the next few days, we will most certainly have more in-depth data on the results of the eleventh edition of Singles’ Day, but it is not difficult to forecast a decrease in sales for American companies.

One of the main trends in consumer purchasing decisions was probably the ongoing trade war between the US and China. The survey shows that 78% of respondents believe that buying American brands will be affected by tensions between China and the United States, and 70% said that the trade war will have an impact on their overall purchases.

More than half of respondents (51%) indicated national loyalty as the main reason for not buying American brands, followed by quality (27%), the price (16%) and speed of delivery or customs (6%). As a general rule, the majority of Chinese consumers seem to prefer local brands (61%).

Alibaba and Amazon, better sales thanks to professional translations

It sounds like a cliché, but the title of this last paragraph does nothing more than illustrate the success stories of brands that have been able to conquer foreign markets.

Remember the controversy that arose after the Dolce and Gabbana advertising campaign? That was probably the most glaring case due to the fame of the brand involved, but it is certainly not the only case of sloppy localisation.

A country like China, with extreme internal inconsistencies and a cultural identity as strong as it is heterogeneous, looks at foreign products with two perspectives. On the one hand, for many Chinese people, foreign products are synonymous with high quality and, for that reason, they are in high demand. The events of the last few years, however, have begun to create a feeling of disinterest towards international brands due to the poor ability of the latter to adapt their communication to the cultural identity of the local population.

In this context, a professional translation agency like ours is able to provide more than just quality translations into Chinese. Our job, in these cases, is to work alongside our customers as language consultants, with the support of Chinese mother tongue linguists, to study the communication formulas suitable to provide a terminology register that fits the reference market.

Specifically, Intrawelt is available to step in and help:

  • Identify the cultural characteristics of the target audience;
  • Pinpoint the specific language of the target audience;
  • Avoid using language that is too complex or, on the contrary, too simple;
  • Identify the right target by meeting the needs of the real audience.

For further details or to send us a request for information on our services, feel free to contact us at any time.


World Bank


With 2019 fast approaching, the business community is looking to the future to find out what 2019 might bring.
The World Bank has published its 16th edition of the annual Doing Business Report, which presents a ranking of Countries based on their “ease of doing business”.

The numerous variables to be assessed when planning investments in foreign countries are of a legal, legislative, fiscal, economic and social nature. The World Bank’s annual report individually examines the parameters in order to identify the best national systems in which to invest in order to open new business channels and those which are therefore more interesting from a business perspective.

2019 is fast approaching and for companies and start-ups it’s time for financial statements and investment projects.


The criteria

Ease of Doing Business 2019 considers some of the legislative, administrative and economic variables which make various Countries more or less “hospitable” for future investments.

The assessment criteria used by the World Bank for the rankings are as follows:

Starting a business: the procedures, time, cost and minimum capital required to start a business. The general regulatory framework of the relevant country, combined with a range of economic results such as productivity, growth and employment.

Construction permits: this parameter evaluates the time it takes to obtain a construction permit and the quality and safety control measures of the building itself.

Electricity infrastructure: Procedures, time and costs involved in connecting to the electricity grid, as well as the reliability of the electricity supply and transparency of rates.

Registering property: set of required procedures for purchasing a property and for the transfer of a property from the seller to the buyer: this criteria measures the time and costs involved in completing each of these processes.

It is in this area that we are regularly selected by Italian and foreign companies for the translation, asseveration and certification of legal documents, contracts and permits relating to business management.


World Bank

Source: World Bank; Graphic elaboration: Intrawelt

Accessing finance: combination of procedures and legislation which facilitate or complicate the possibility of accessing finance for businesses.
Protecting minority investors: regulation of minority shareholders’ rights in Corporate Governance activities.
Taxes: payment terms and tax wedge to be maintained so the company is considered compliant with all fiscal regulations of the country.
Trading across borders: time and costs involved in exporting products abroad.

The commercial and financial documentation represent, as with legal documentation, an import resource for the regular start-up of a business. Therefore, translation projects for documentation in the destination countries’ languages are also handled by Intrawelt, using expert linguists from the commercial and financial sectors.

Enforcing contracts: The ability to enforce contracts and resolve disputes is crucial for markets to function effectively.
Resolving insolvency: efficiencies or shortcomings in the existing legislation on the subject and the main procedural and administrative restrictions in the insolvency process.
Labour Market Regulation: level of work flexibility, regulatory aspects on quality of work, protection and rigidity in regards dismissal.


The results

The data analyses provided by the report have examined two criteria in particular: the ranking on ease of starting a business and the general ranking of the top 10 countries for investment in 2019.

Ease of starting a business

The first ranking presented by the World Bank is surprising. First of all, none of the great global powers are ranked among the top 10. The best positioned European country is Georgia, which, in second place, precedes Canada and Singapore.

New Zealand however, is positioned at the top of the table with the highest score for ease of starting a new business (the first of the criteria described above).

The 10 best countries to do business with (Fig. 2)

Keeping in mind all of the criteria identified in creating the ranking, the final classification changes slightly. Among the top 10 countries to invest in for 2019 on a global scale, we find some of the great economic powers, albeit in lower positions.

The United States and the United Kingdom are in eighth and ninth place of the ranking, which is topped by New Zealand for the third year running. Followed by Singapore and Denmark.

World Bank Doing Business

Source: World Bank; Graphic elaboration: Intrawelt


Linguistic barriers

Investments in foreign countries do not only require economic and strategic efforts. During each phase of the process it is in fact imperative to know the language of the destination country and the technical vocabulary. Whether it is legal documentation, contracts, company or fiscal documents, it is important to adopt an impeccable communication register free from any translation errors which could compromise the entire business.

For precisely this reason, over the years we have had managed legal, financial and pharmaceutical translation projects in some of the target languages spoken in the countries included in the ranking. To name a few examples, we regularly manage legal and certified translations for Korea, Singapore and New Zealand. Our office in London makes us a strategic partner for incoming and outgoing investments, to and from the United Kingdom.

The work carried out annually by the World Bank represents a precious resource for companies that are committed to internationalisation, and this ranking can represent an important starting point when looking for new business channels. At the same time, the advice is to rely on qualified and certified translation agencies, capable of acting as a linguistic bridge and breaking down all communication barriers which may occur throughout the entire process.