Raise and fall of business indicators green and red arrows

Merger and acquisition activity increased in Canada in 2017 in terms of deal volume but deal value was down, according to a report published Thursday by Toronto-based investment bank Crosbie & Co.

There was an 11% increase year over year in the number of M&A transactions involving Canadian companies in 2017. However, the aggregate value of those deals dropped 24% to to $252 billion.

This trend was mirrored in the fourth quarter (Q4), when the number of deal announcements rose to 780 from 716 in Q3, but the combined value of those deals fell to $45 billion in Q4 from $63 billion in Q3.

“The year ended the way it started with another strong quarter in terms of number of deals announced as solid economic growth domestically and south of the border provided further support to already positive market conditions for M&A,” says Ian Macdonell, managing director at Crosbie & Co, in a statement. “However, we continued to see fewer blockbuster megadeals, particularly in the resource sectors.”

There were 11 so-called megadeals (transactions worth at least $1 billion) in Q4, worth a total value of $26 billion. That compares with 15 mega-deals valued at $31 billion in Q4 2016.

The mining sector led the way in deal activity in Q4 2017, with 104 transactions valued at $933 million. The tech sector came a close second with 100 deals, worth $7.4 billion. “Hot” areas, such as the emerging cannabis production sector, are also generating a healthy amount of deal activity, the report says.

“The rapidly expanding medical cannabis sector has emerged as a new hotbed of M&A with 16 transactions announced in the fourth quarter and nine more announced in January,” says Macdonell. “Many people are looking to the blockchain technology companies that are currently out aggressively raising capital to lead the next wave of M&A.”

Looking ahead, factors that will impact Canadian M&A activity in 2018 include U.S. tax reform, uncertainty over NAFTA and tech-driven disruption, suggests a report from PricewaterhouseCooopers LLP (PwC) published Thursday.

“Overall, we expect that Canadian M&A activity will remain robust as the favourable economic outlook for Canada provides dealmakers with the confidence to transact. Business transformation through the use of M&A will be a common theme and we expect to see increased M&A activity in tech and disruptive tech sectors as companies continue to position themselves to compete in the digital economy,” the PwC report says.

PwC’s recently released CEO survey found that 44% of Canadian CEOs are planning deal activity in the coming year “to drive corporate growth and profitability”.

That percentage is even higher in the U.S. (69%); which adds, “fuel to the belief that the North American M&A market will remain strong throughout 2018,” the PwC report says.