Citizens Bank Survey Shows 2021 M&A Activity Will Likely Increase

An improved public health environment and the possibility of higher capital gains taxes will likely drive increased merger and acquisition activity in 2021, according to a new Citizens Bank survey of 700 leaders at U.S. middle-market companies and private equity firms.
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Improved public health and the possibility of higher capital gains taxes are expected to improve mergers and acquisitions in 2021, according to Citizens Bank. // Stock photo

An improved public health environment and the possibility of higher capital gains taxes will likely drive increased merger and acquisition activity in 2021, according to a new Citizens Bank survey of 700 leaders at U.S. middle-market companies and private equity firms.

Citizens Bank, which has its Michigan headquarters in Southfield and operates more than 60 branches across the state, reports companies will rely on M&A for growth in 2021 and more sellers will be open to making deals, particularly in the second half of the year, based on the survey results.

Typically, the economic outlook is the most significant factor in a company’s consideration of an M&A transaction. Findings show that in 2021, however, COVID-19 and tax policies of the incoming Biden Administration are top drivers, with increased expectations for a M&A spike if the administration can get capital gains tax hikes passed.

Upbeat expectations for corporate valuations and deal flow in the year ahead are also fueling a decidedly optimistic M&A forecast.

“Many business leaders expect the continued rollout of vaccines and the prospect of increased taxes to spur a robust year in terms of deal flow, especially in the second half,” says Ralph M. Della Ratta, chairman of Citizens M&A Advisory.

Last year “left a backlog of pent-up demand for M&A. With strong valuations, we think a lot of private equity firms and liquidity-seeking owners will be eager to get to the market,’’ adds Jim Childs, CEO of Citizens M&A Advisory. “The pandemic may have been the last straw for many business owners who are looking to step back or retire.”

Key findings of Citizens’ 10th annual Middle Market M&A Outlook include:

  • The pandemic seems to have reduced overall economic optimism, with only 47 percent of middle-market companies anticipating broad improvement in 2021, but business leaders are more confident in their own corporate outlooks, with 55 percent feeling bullish about the coming year.
  • The majority of business leaders (60 percent) expect corporate growth to continue to come from M&A activity, as strategic growth remains a top priority in 2021.
  • Top reasons to sell were to increase focus on strategic growth opportunities (67 percent) and to take advantage of current valuations (44 percent). The top reasons to buy were to increase revenue and growth (61 percent) and to improve operational efficiency (41 percent).
  • Respondents gave the current M&A environment a muted grade, with nearly half of corporate (49 percent) and PE respondents (41 percent) characterizing it as weak. However, they agree that a turnaround is ahead. Thirty-six percent of companies and 45 percent of PE firms expect marked improvement in 2021, with a particular focus on the second half of the year.
  • Interest in finding an international deal partner is down among both buyers and sellers, a trend for the past three years.
  • Confidence in deal completion is down starkly and is an area where teaming with an M&A advisor could help to overcome deal roadblocks. Sellers are looking for a strong partnership to help them find potential offers – a need that didn’t make the list of top priorities last year.

The Middle Market M&A Outlook was conducted among U.S.-based middle-market businesses ($50 million to $1 billion in revenue) that are currently engaged in or open to mergers and acquisitions activity, as well as private equity firms with clients in the same revenue range. Core business sectors included health care, technology, industrial, consumer services, B2B services, and other industries.

Business executives at 470 middle-market firms and 230 private equity firms who are directly involved in decision-making related to mergers and acquisitions (owners/partners, CEOs, presidents and other C-level and directors) completed a 15-minute phone or web-based survey during November and December 2020.

For more information on this year’s M&A Outlook, visit Middle Market M&A Outlook 2021.

Citizens M&A Advisory specializes in middle-market mergers and acquisitions as well as later-stage financing transactions. For more information, visit Citizens.

Citizens Bank, part of Citizens Financial Group Inc., is one of the nation’s oldest and largest financial institutions, with $183.3 billion in assets as of December 31, 2020. Headquartered in Providence, R.I., Citizens offers a broad range of retail and commercial banking products and services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies, large corporations, and institutions.

In consumer banking, Citizens offers approximately 2,700 ATMs and approximately 1,000 branches in 11 states in the New England, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest regions.

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