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

large metal pipes

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

root vegetables

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


Oil & gas M&A gains cautious ground

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

2 min read

Following an uncertain period for dealmaking, a recovering oil price has helped revive oil & gas M&A activity in the first half of 2018. With the Brent crude oil price climbing from less than US$50 a barrel a year ago to close to US$70 a barrel today, US oil & gas assets have seen three consecutive quarterly rises in deal value, climbing 34 percent from H2 2017 to US$115.5 billion in the first half of the year.


Top oil & gas deals
H1 2018

1: Marathon Petroleum Corporation agreed to buy Andeavor Corporation for US$30.2 billion

2: Dominion Energy Inc. agreed to buy SCANA Corporation for US$14.3 billion

3: Williams Companies Inc. agreed to buy a 26.71% stake in Williams Partners L.P for US$10.5 billion


US$115.5 billion

The value of 139 deals targeting the US oil & gas sector in H1 2018

Road to recovery

A higher, less-volatile oil price has put oil majors in a better position to take a five- to ten-year view on their portfolios, rationalize where necessary and make decisions on which basins to commit more resources to and which basins to exit in order to release capital for investment. Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP, for example, are all reportedly in the running to acquire BHP Billiton's shale assets, which could be valued at up to US$9 billion.

Oil price stability supports M&A activity as buyers and capital providers gain confidence in the possibility of an upward trend in prices. With continued backwardation, sellers may also perceive limited upside in retaining non-core assets. If these favourable conditions persist, deal activity should continue to rise.



Percentage increase in deal value compared to H2 2017

Caution remains

Despite the brighter outlook, however, much deal activity in the oil & gas sector is still driven by restructuring, and the industry remains cautious when betting too heavily on growth. Master limited partnership transactions, which involve structures designed to give investors in the sector a blend of yield and capital gain, have dried up. Other yield-related assets are still bundled up in restructured entities controlled by hedge funds, and distressed debt investors are finding it challenging to find buyers who can make the numbers work against a low-growth backdrop.

While declaring a rebound in oil & gas M&A would be premature, the stabilization of oil prices is bringing confidence back to a market finding its feet following a prolonged downturn.



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