For negotiators, 2024 is a year to look forward to, if only because 2023 was not necessarily a year to celebrate.
Despite some notable transactions, the year presented challenges for bankers and lawyers who advise corporate clients on large acquisitions and initial public offerings.
Global mergers and acquisitions. fell to a 10-year low. Some 53,529 deals worth a combined $2.9 trillion were announced, down 17 percent annually in volume, according to LSEG data.
The most active sectors included energy (led by Exxon Mobil’s acquisition of Pioneer Natural Resources and Chevron’s acquisition of Hess) and healthcare, led by Pfizer’s purchase of the anti-exposure drug maker. Seagen cancer.
The story was worse for IPOs, which fell 25 percent year-on-year to a combined $109.8 billion in revenue, a 14-year low. This despite notable market debuts, including those from semiconductor designer Arm, grocery delivery app Instacart, and sandal maker Birkenstock.
This reflects the constant concern in corporate boardrooms about a variety of factors, from the global economy to geopolitical tensions, according to Viswas Raghavan, co-head of global investment banking and managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at JPMorgan Chase.
With his firm topping the investment banking rankings for 2023, he spoke to DealBook about the year in deals and what will shape dealmaking in 2024.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
How would you describe the feeling in the boardrooms these days? He was thinking about JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s recent comment that “this may be the most dangerous moment the world has seen in decades.”
The biggest thing plaguing boardrooms right now is geopolitical uncertainty. Looking ahead, countries representing about half of the world’s GDP will elect a leader at some point in the next 12 months. You have two wars around the corner. And then there’s China: China and trade, China’s domestic economy in relation to non-performing loans, corporate health and the like.
Antitrust and oversight agreements also exist through various competition authorities. A deal that is comprehensive will take much longer, from something like 12 months historically, to probably 18, 24 months or maybe longer.
If we look at where we are, deal volume is at its lowest level in a decade. Did you expect this low level of activity?
No. The investment banking fee pool was $135 billion in 2021, and the state-administered stable rate is around $80 billion a year. This year, it will be somewhere in the $65 billion zip code. And this is probably the lowest level in almost two decades.
But remember, we come from a world that thought the end was upon us in 2020 with Covid. You saw this mountain of quantitative easing. There was excess liquidity in the system and asset prices were seen to reflect that excess liquidity. You knew that would be a gradual reduction.
Arm, Instacart and marketing software company Klaviyo went public in September. There was a feeling that the IPO window might reopen. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Were you surprised by how dead the market is?
Not precisely. I don’t think anyone thought the floodgates had opened. That market has always been incredibly selective and will continue to be so.
Is the market closed? No. Are our teams working on many transactions? Absolutely. But is this a “go ahead, any name flies” sort of place? Absolutely not.
Someone told me that if someone organizes some kind of auction, naturally there will be some interest from Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.
That’s a fair comment. It is a natural part of their strategy to diversify and make them more global.
They are great players. They have a lot of firepower. They are also projecting their own influence and the fact that they have arrived, that they want to be popular.
What are the big things you’re looking for next year: the big tailwinds and headwinds?
I think the headwinds are geopolitics, geopolitics, geopolitics. The tailwinds are the calm of inflation, the return of growth and the downward trend in rates.