M&A Activity Nears Record In 2015

A new round of October mergers and acquisitions has 2015 poised to be a record-shattering year of deal-making activity. Dell’s $67 billion agreement this month for EMC brings the value of M&A deals in the U.S. to $1.68 trillion in 2015, just a notch below the single-year record of $1.73 trillion set 15 years ago during a rash of dot-com-driven maneuvering.  

While the numbers themselves are staggering, analysts disagree over the implications of the increased M&A activity. Some believe it means that sales-stagnated companies are trying to spur growth through deals engineered with low-rate Federal Reserve financing – a sign the bull market is near an end. Others, however, say the deal-making is far-reaching across an array of industries and not telling of an overinflated bubble in one sector about to burst, which in the past caused descents into bear markets.

Whatever the meaning, 2015 M&A activity has abounded in the promotional products industry, too. In April, two Top 40 distributors came together when Staples Inc., parent company of Staples Promotional Products (asi/120601), acquired Canada-based Accolade Promotion Group (asi/102905).

The activity continued in the summer. In July, Top 40 supplier Hit Promotional Products (asi/61125) acquired Admints & Zagabor (asi/31516). During the same month, Top 40 distributor HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000) purchased nearly all of the assets of Newton Manufacturing Company (asi/283300). Most recently, Taylor Corporation, already the parent company of Top 40 supplier Taylor Promotional Products and Top 40 distributor Amsterdam Printing (asi/121500), spent $307 million to acquire Standard Register (asi/333647) in August.

“There has been a great deal of consolidation over the past 25 years and it will continue,” David Woods, president of Top 40 distributor AIA Corporation (asi/109480), told Counselor earlier this year. “The overwhelming trend will be towards larger and very well capitalized companies.” Talbot Promo’s (asi/341500) Steve Levschuk agreed the trend will likely continue. “Companies that don’t have the resources for infrastructure upgrades will find great advantages in aligning with companies that do,” he said.