Our thinking

Navigating change: US M&A H1 2018

What's inside

Clouds are forming on the horizon, however appetites for big-ticket deals have not yet diminished

US M&A defies market uncertainty

An impressive first half of the year for US dealmaking reflects M&A's enduring value in an uncertain market

After a very strong 2017—when M&A in the US reached its third-highest overall deal value since the financial crisis—deal value grew again in the first half of 2018. Compared to H1 2017, value rose 30.5 percent to US$794.8 billion when compared to the same period in 2017, while deal volumes held steady.

Activity has been brisk despite increasing macro-economic headwinds. The Federal Reserve recently raised interest rates and signaled its intention to do so again twice more before the year is out. Threats of a bourgeoning global trade war are intensifying after the imposition of tariffs by the US and other large economies. And the US stock market has experienced significantly higher volatility this year than it did last.

One could reasonably expect that M&A would cool against this backdrop, but the fact that it has not suggests that deals are going ahead for essential strategic reasons rather than opportunistic ones.

Technology and its disruptive impact across all sectors is one of the main factors that has made M&A a necessity. The impact has been most apparent in sectors such as retail and healthcare, where digital platforms are ideally placed to disrupt established service and distribution channels. No sector has been untouched, however. Unless non-tech companies have the resources in-house to write their own software and algorithms—and most do not—M&A may be the best option to keep pace with dynamic change.

We expect the second half of the year to be busy, but no one can afford to ignore the threats posed by rising interest rates, increasing protectionism, an incipient trade war that could increase tariffs, a potentially inverting yield curve, unsustainable pricing demands and a volatile stock market. Companies will need to navigate these dynamics if M&A's bull run is to continue.


John Reiss
Global Head of M&A
White & Case

Gregory Pryor
Head of Americas M&A
White & Case


Navigating change: H1 in review

First-half activity remains on par with 2016, as strong fundamentals continue to drive M&A

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PE hits new post-crisis high

Despite intensifying competition within the market, US private equity activity is yet to show signs of a downturn

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Sector watch

Energy, mining & utilities leads the field

Bulky oil & gas deals pushed energy, mining & utilities close to the top spot in H1, while digital disruption ensured a steady flow of tech deals

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Technology M&A gets white hot in 2018

Dealmakers across all industries are looking to secure US tech assets in order to keep up with the technological changes disrupting their industries

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Consumer firms adapt to survive

Despite a drop in headline figures, M&A within the US consumer sector remains an important method to secure long-term growth

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Oil & gas M&A gains cautious ground

A steadying oil price signals a brighter future for oil & gas M&A, yet market caution remains

oil pipelines

Big-ticket deals drive pharma M&A

Activity in the sector is fueled by the need to refill product pipelines and navigate convergence between health and tech firms


Industrials & chemicals M&A gathers pace

Corporate repositioning and tax reform are two key trends driving M&A in the sector


Is blockchain M&A poised to accelerate?

US dealmakers are learning to navigate the complex world of blockchain M&A, but they will have to proceed with care in heavily regulated sectors

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In focus: Financial services regulation

An overview of the financial regulatory landscape and key trends to watch

US dollar

Decision time for M&A in Delaware

Noteworthy rulings out of the Delaware Supreme Court and the Court of Chancery in the past six months are already having consequences for M&A activity

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Spotlight on public companies: Cybersecurity and governance

The number and severity of cybersecurity incidents at major companies has increased, causing regulators to take a tougher approach. We look at five practical steps companies can take to manage these risks

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Key trends to watch in the months ahead

Acquirers shrugged off macro-economic uncertainty in the first half of the year to secure deals of strategic necessity

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Meet our partners

Global M&A leaders

John Reiss


John Reiss
Partner, New York


Gregory Pryor


Gregory Pryor
Partner, New York


 Dr. Jörg Kraffel

Dr. Jörg Kraffel
Partner, Berlin


Christopher Kelly


Christopher Kelly
Partner, Hong Kong


Allan Taylor


Allan Taylor
Partner, London


 Barrye Wall


Barrye Wall
Partner, Singapore


John Cunningham

John Cunningham
Partner, London


Alexandre Ippolito

Alexandre Ippolito
Partner, Paris


Consumer firms adapt to survive

Despite a drop in headline figures, M&A within the US consumer sector remains an important method to secure long-term growth

2 min read

Deal activity targeting the US consumer sector totaled 196 deals worth US$76.8 billion in the first half of the year. This marks a sharp drop in value from H1 2017, when a host of megadeals pushed deal value to a record US$142.8 billion. Nevertheless, M&A within the sector remains an indispensable tool for business growth.

Dealmaking strategies during the first half of the year often focused on building scale or expanding geographical reach, or were responses to online disruption.


Top consumer deals
H1 2018

1: Keurig Green Mountain Inc. agreed to buy Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. for US$23.1 billion

2: ConAgra Brands Inc. agreed to buy Pinnacle Foods Inc. for US$10.8 billion

3: General Mills Inc. bought Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc. for US$7.9 billion



Percentage decrease in consumer M&A value compared to H1 2017

Keeping up with tech

In retail, M&A remains a necessity for expanding ecommerce capabilities to diversify beyond traditional bricks and mortar business models and create additional ways to reach consumers.

The threat posed by tech giants moving into the retail space has become a catalyst for deals.

These were some of the motivations behind Albertson's decision to purchase the remaining 2,500 of pharmacy chain Rite Aid's stores that were not being bought by Walgreens Boots, in a deal valued at US$5.5 billion. Amazon's ground-breaking acquisition of Whole Foods last year has forced grocery stores such as Albertson to re-focus their strategy on gaining scale in new markets and offering more diversified products and services.


US$76.8 billion

The value of 196 deals targeting the US consumer sector in H1 2018

Cross-border interest

For international consumer brands, M&A has formed part of a strategy to get bigger, spread-out costs over a large organization, move into new geographies and consolidate their positions in core markets. US firms have become key targets for cross-border interest.

Ferrero, the Italian chocolate maker, acquired Nestlé's US confectionary brands in a US$2.8 billion deal to become the third-largest chocolate manufacturer in the US, a key market for Ferrero. Meanwhile, coffee group Keurig Green Mountain, which is backed by the international investment company JAB Holdings, paid US$23.1 billion for soft drinks company Dr Pepper Snapple Group to consolidate its position in the coffee and drinks space.

Expect similar deals in the coming months, as consumer firms turn to M&A to increase geographical reach and catch up with tech-savvy rivals.



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