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Canada M&A seen picking up after hitting 9-year low in 2020

TORONTO Jan 7 (Reuters) - Canadian mergers and acquisitions (M&A) fell to a nine-year low in 2020 as the pandemic put brakes on companies’ growth strategies, but bankers expect the pickup in deal-making in the fourth quarter to revive activity this year.

The arrival of multiple COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 are expected to improve public confidence in an economic recovery and revive deal-making, say bankers. Market stability and continued access to capital that led to a resurgence in transactions in the second half of the year is expected to continue.

Over $158.7 billion worth of M&A deals were announced in 2020, making it the slowest year since 2011, compared with $234 billion in the previous year, data from Refinitiv showed.

David Savard, head of M&A at National Bank Financial, said after COVID-19 put everything on pause, the focus shifted to restructuring transactions.

“There were a few others that were in the pipeline that ended up going through a bit of a difficult period with some renegotiations due to COVID,” Savard added.

Of the deals announced in 2020, almost $80 billion came in the fourth quarter, the most active fourth quarter in at least five years, according to the data.

CIBC World Markets Inc, Goldman Sachs & Co and RBC Capital Markets took the top three spots in the advisory rankings.

Financials-focused deals led the recovery in 2020, with Intact Financial’s joint agreement to buy British insurance group RSA.

“You’ve certainly seen the asset management sector much more active in the second half of last year and that should continue into this year,” said David Rawlings, chief executive officer for Canada at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Emmanuel Pressman, partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, said businesses are prepared to “reset the M&A button” and re-evaluate growth strategy.

“We’ve seen this glut of M&A activity in the fourth quarter as a result of this reset,” Pressman said, adding there is also a meaningful pipeline of activity across a range of sectors.

$1 = 0.7343 pounds Reporting by Maiya Keidan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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