A whopping US$600-billion (R9.3-trillion) of cash stashed at Wall Street’s mega-cap technology companies could drive a wave of deal-making in the sector after the valuations of once high-flying names such as Peloton Interactive and Netflix slumped.
Amazon.com has been speaking to advisers about a potential deal for Peloton, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. The e-commerce giant had $96-billion in cash and marketable securities as of 31 December — 12 times Peloton’s market value.
While the risk of of regulatory scrutiny may deter some buyers, plenty of other companies are loaded with cash, too. Apple tops the list with $202.6-billion, more than the capitalisations of Netflix, Qualcomm or Intel.
“Having a lot of cash on hand creates flexibility for these companies in challenging economic environments; they can put cash to work, make acquisitions,” said Carlos Garcia-Tunon, senior MD and head of fundamental equity at MacKay Shields. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a pick-up in deal activity in this environment.”
Would-be buyers may be more comfortable doing deals now that valuations have pulled back, he said. Netflix, for example, trades at the lowest valuation in almost 10 years at 34 times forward earnings and PayPal Holdings has slumped to March 2020 levels.
Tech stocks have declined as investors price in more aggressive interest rate increases from the US Federal Reserve.
Dealmaking in technology is already off to a flying start this year: Microsoft’s planned $69-billion takeover of Activision Blizzard and Citrix Systems’ $13-billion sale to a private equity consortium marked January as one of the busiest-ever months for mergers and acquisitions in the industry.
‘Hard to forecast’
“M&A waves are hard to forecast, but the conditions do seem in place for acquisitions,” said Matt Peron, director of research at Janus Henderson. “You have companies that need to grow, and M&A is a big part of their strategy.”
But billions of dollars at hand alone doesn’t help in dealmaking. US antitrust enforcers are looking to toughen merger reviews, saying a new framework is needed to combat a surge in deals that threatens to worsen already high concentration across industries, especially tech.
Speculation that mega-caps should buy Peloton or other beaten-down stocks after their shares crash sounds “silly”, given how strict antitrust regulators are shaping up to be, said David Barse, CEO at XOUT Capital. “Doing buybacks or issuing dividends are the only option as there’s only so much they can spend on research and development.” — Thyagaraju Adinarayan and Jeran Wittenstein, (c) 2022 Bloomberg LP