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M&A: Are corporate buyers back?

Strategic buyers are getting increasingly bullish about M&A opportunities. So far this year, though, they haven't stolen any of the thunder of financial sponsors

Anecdotal evidence suggests that strategic buyers are gaining ascendancy over their financial sponsor rivals in the M&A market. Take Maytag. After a long-running battle, it finally agreed to an acquisition by rival US appliance maker Whirlpool at the end of August for $1.7 billion, rejecting a competing bid from Triton Acquisition Holding, a group of investment companies led by New York-based Ripplewood Holdings.

It is clear, though, that strategic buyers are not taking market share away from the financial buyers that have been so active in so many high-profile deals this year.

Cash to burn

It's certainly true that more corporates have cash to burn, are looking to create growth and are much more focused on how they can achieve this through a transaction. Corporate chief executives and chief financial officers are offering more detailed information than ever before on the exact cost synergies a merger or acquisition will deliver for its shareholders and when. "Executives are so used to justifying every element of their own balance sheets now, they are more astute at looking at the balance sheets of target companies as well," says a US head of M&A.

Shareholder sentiment, while mixed, is also coming around to the idea of large M&A transactions.

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