Survey shows Asian companies eager for M&A

A survey of leading Asian companies by JP Morgan reveals a strong desire for international acquisitions, as companies seek to adapt and grow. Intra-regional M&A remains a priority.
Almost 90% of leading Asian companies want to expand internationally through mergers and acquisitions, according to a regional corporate survey by JP Morgan.
The US bank surveyed C-suite executives at 55 unnamed companies across a range of industries in nine Asian markets. Some 40% of the companies questioned have a market value of $10 billion or more. Another 20% are privately owned. 
The results of the survey show that Asia's companies are “optimistic and eager to grow through acquisitions,” JP Morgan said, underlining just how important the region is becoming in global deal-making terms.
“If you look at M&A volumes this year, 50% was from North America, while Asia made up over 25%,” Chris Ventresca, co-head of global M&A at JP Morgan, told FinanceAsia. “Asia has become a big participant in global M&A.”
Eighty-eight percent of respondents identified themselves as net buyers versus just 10% stating they would be net sellers.
The Asian companies surveyed also named changing consumption patterns, international expansion, and corporate consolidation as the biggest catalysts for M&A.  
Hernan Cristerna, the US bank’s other co-head of global M&A, noted that once-vibrant growth was slowing in Asia, impacting the performance of companies and their share valuations.
“Financial engineering such as share buybacks don’t get to the heart of the issue [of slowing growth],” he told FinanceAsia. “Companies realise they need something more industrialised to grow.”
Changing dynamic
Ventresca noted that M&A volumes in 2007, the busiest year on record for global M&A, had concentrated a great deal on commodities as China's state-owned enterprises in particular sought to buy up international resources to support the country’s booming economy.
However, with global M&A in 2015 on course to beat the previous annual record, the dynamic in Asia at least is changing. 
“In 2015 we are seeing more strategic transactions in Asia, with companies seeking to acquire in order to better round out their businesses, gain technology or acquire capabilities higher up the skill chain,” he said.  
"One of the main drivers for the outbound activity is Asia companies’ increased ability to create synergies by integrating global technology and brands into their home market," added John Hall, co-head of Asia-Pacific M&A for JP Morgan.
“The need to move up the value-chain and possess more [intellectual property] will result in more cross-border acquisitions, specifically by the Chinese. The activity in the semiconductor sector is a great example.”

Earlier in the year a consortium led by Jiangsu Changjiang Electronics Technology acquired Singapore semiconductor company STATS Chippac, while China's Tsinghua has attempted to acquire US-listed Micron -- unsuccessfully so far.

“Asian companies are seeking value-added products, services, technologies and management skills in their acquisitions,” the survey said.

Announced M&A volumes in Asia Pacific have risen a great deal during 2015, hitting $1.05 trillion as of November 18. According to Dealogic, announced deal volumes are 60% higher than in the corresponding period of 2014.

However, the rise in volume is in large part down to a few rather chunky deals: a set of government-initiated China SOE restructurings; a $53 billion merger of Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa, the two corporations of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing; and a $24.9 billion internal merger of two divisions of Korean chaebol SK Group.

The number of announced M&A deals in Asia-Pacific this year is 11,363, just 3% more than in the same period in 2014.

All of the survey respondents named Asia as the region with the most potential for growth over the coming five years, followed by North America. As a result, intra-regional M&A remains a priority.

The survey's respondents said they were keenest on making acquisitions in mainland China, Indonesia, India, and Vietnam.

Outside of Asia the United States was seen as the key market for inorganic growth. Financial institutions and Chinese corporates in particular most favoured the country for outbound M&A. Meanwhile, businesses in Singapore and Taiwan were eager to acquire in China.

Greater patience, low hurdle rates

Asian companies seem to possess a lot of patience when it comes to assessing the success of consolidations, with 38% of respondents stating M&As required an investment time horizon of five years to be considered successful. Over 40% of participants said acquisitions required an investment time horizon of 10 years or more.

The companies also have relatively low expectations when it comes to the hurdle rate, or minimum rate of return expected on M&As. The respondents’ average hurdle rate was below 14.3%. Perhaps surprisingly, 23% of respondents said they didn’t consider a hurdle rate at all.

This finding appears to fit well with the willingness of Asian corporates to pay higher premiums for M&A acquisitions than their US or European peers. 

JP Morgan said it conducted the survey "to separate myth from reality and provide fact-based insight into the Asian M&A market."

Geographically, 36% of the companies surveyed by the US bank were Japanese. Another third were from Southeast Asia, with the remainder coming from China, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. 

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