After an M&A downturn in 2016, industry watchers have been hoping for a resurgence this year. So far, though, deal activity has slowed down even more. A new report tallies a further decline during this year’s first quarter, with companies signing off on 314 transactions worth $76 billion.
And a big chunk of that tally came from one deal: Johnson & Johnson’s January purchase of Switzerland’s Actelion, worth nearly $30 billion. That tie-up alone accounted for 39% of pharma, medical and biotech deal value in the first quarter, Mergermarket’s analysts conclude in their report.
Together, biopharma and medical deal values were 14.8% lower in the first quarter than during the same period in 2016. Companies announced 65 fewer deals this year.
That's a decline even from a slow year by recent standards. By the end of November 2016, pharma’s M&A value reached just half of 2015’s total, according to a recent report from life sciences commercial intelligence firm Evaluate. The group chalked up that decline to a “watch-and-wait” period as business leaders stood by to parse election results in the U.S.
After Republican Donald Trump pulled off the upset win, some industry watchers figured his victory would fuel more M&A in 2017. He’s pledged tax reform—said to be in the works now after a failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare—and proposed a tax repatriation holiday, which would allow companies to bring home cash to sock into deals. Both moves could help companies pull the trigger on M&A.
Instead, three months into the year, none of those changes has materialized, and companies continue to hold off.
For the pharma industry in the first quarter, following J&J’s Actelion pickup in deal size were Advent International’s $5 billion offer for German generics maker Stada, according to Mergermarket, and Takeda’s $4.9 billion deal for Ariad.
Stada on Monday announced it had accepted a $5.6 billion bid from two investment firms, Bain Capital and Cinven. Takeda last week announced 180 layoffs to slim down after its Ariad deal.
Last year’s headlining deal was announced early on, when Shire said it would pick up Baxalta for $32 billion. Following that was Pfizer’s $14 billion Medivation buyout, announced in the third quarter.