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 Mergers & Acquisitions 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)

World Bank

WORLD BANK RANKING: TEN COUNTRIES TO DO BUSINESS WITH IN 2019

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.

Georgina Arcienegas with sign

Financial services and Hispanic Americans: an untapped market

What is the first thing that comes to mind when we think about Hispanic Americans? Illegal immigration, a wall along the Mexican border and images of poverty and repression are often at the forefront. Is this really an accurate picture? In reality, the situation is far, far more complex.

In the collective imagination, Hispanic Americans are viewed from an economic perspective as relatively poor with low life expectations and this is partly why they have never been a significant target for the financial-services market.

Financial opportunity in the Hispanic American market

Hispanic Americans currently represent 17% of the US population, many voted for Trump and the group shows greatly reduced unemployment rates. Whilst these facts alone may appear surprising, more detailed analysis reveals an even more interesting picture.

According to a 2017 study by Univision Communications and Harris Poll, entitled Banking on Hispanics for Growth, out of 59 million Hispanic Americans living in the US, 16 million are between the age of 18 and 34 years, with an average age of just 29. Considering a life expectancy of 82 years, the Hispanic American community boasts an average 53-year window of active eligibility for the purchase of financial products, against 43 years for non-Hispanic citizens.

This figure assumes even greater relevance considering that today there are still relatively few Hispanic Americans using financial goods and products, despite the fact that 80% of them (source: Simmons 2017) declare that they are interested in making purchases, with a peak of 84% among those who speak mainly or exclusively Spanish.

Hispanic speakers

Source Univision and Harris Poll

The differing conceptions regarding prosperity amongst Hispanic Americans and other citizens is a clear sign of the times and of the transformations which US society is undergoing. For Hispanic Americans, prosperity is a synonym of growth and improved living conditions compared to previous generations, and achievement of objectives. For non-Hispanic Americans, on the other hand, prosperity is understood as comfort, economic stability and the possibility to live a stress-free daily life.

In American society, certain populations, such as the Hispanic population, are showing themselves to be more active than others in pursuit of personal and professional goals aimed at improving their quality of life. It is this generational force which makes Hispanic Americans a target market with potential to be explored, particularly with regard to financial services.

Finance, identity and effective communication

Like Mediterranean populations, Hispanic Americans place great importance on their identity and social institutions: language, family and relationships. The study conducted by Univision and Harris Poll revealed that according to the perception of the Hispanic population, 51% of them felt poorly valued by the financial-services market, while 69% maintained that the products on offer did not meet their needs and 22% felt extremely unsatisfied.

Source: Univision and Harris Poll

 

One finding was particularly surprising: only 29% of Hispanic Americans stated that taxes and interest rates on services were a primary obstacle (against 44% of non-Hispanics). Finding the key to gaining their trust as clients could offer huge rewards.

Engagement with their identity: the role of translation services

To win over a population, you must win over their hearts and their identity. Communication is the best way to do this, and words and language are the most effective tools.
88% of Hispanic Americans give complete loyalty to those companies which demonstrate themselves as an active partner and invest in supporting the community.

The winning solution is to trust in a translation and interpreting services company such as Intrawelt that has been working in the sector of financial translations for over thirty years offering multilingual communication services, and translation of financial statements and marketing campaigns in over 30 different languages.
Not only translation but also interpreting. The key strategy is to have an interpreter specialised in financial services supporting business liaisons and dialogue with local communities; a kind of right-hand man with detailed knowledge of customs and cultural norms who also possesses financial-services know-how.

Establishing itself as a trusted top player in an identity-focused market such as that of Hispanic Americans requires a high degree of knowledge and sharing of customs, social norms and language. It is fundamental to know how to speak to stakeholders, communities, banks and local companies.
This is why Intrawelt exclusively uses native-speaker professionals specialised in a variety of different sectors including financial, medical/scientific, legal, technical and marketing.

There is an untapped market in the land of the stars and stripes. The race to win over the hearts of Hispanic Americans has begun and today our services can make the difference in the financial marketplace.

For further information, write to us at info@intrawelt.com .