by Roy Harris

‘Acquire or Be Acquired’: CFO M&A Expectations Strong for Mid-Market Tech

Feb 02, 20123 mins
IT LeadershipMergers and Acquisitions

Three of four expect an increase in dealmaking for 2012, a BDO survey of tech finance executives shows, but revenue projections are tempered

Chief financial officers of technology companies are looking for last year’s active merger-and-acquisition scene to continue, with 75% expecting an increase in dealmaking, according to survey results from BDO USA.

“Based on recent economic and marketplace volatility, technology executives are cautious in their revenue projections,” Aftab Jamil, partner and director of BDO USA’s technology and life sciences practice, said in a statement. He added, however, that “M&A remains an attractive opportunity. The fiercely competitive environment is pushing companies to aggressively target the best and brightest technologies. Among middle-market tech companies, there’s an ‘acquire or be acquired’ mentality.”

Asking the same M&A question in the last two years of the five-year-old survey, the financial advisory and consulting firm recorded a 78% percent response last year, dipping from an 81% response in 2010. This year’s survey — taken among 100 U.S. CFOs at a range of tech companies over the last two months — showed that the software industry should see the most M&A activity, in the view of 39% of those questioned. Acquisitions in the media/telecom business were said by 33% to be the likely leader among M&A categories.

In the technology CFO survey, executives asked about revenue growth for 2012 indicated that the average gain expected was 2.6%. For the prior year, the amount of the increase forecast had been 10.4%, and BDO says this represents the first time since 2009 that revenue projections don’t exceed the forecast for the previous year.

Noting the health of initial public offerings lately, along with some monstrous ones, like Facebook’s, that were anticipated at the time, 63% of the CFOs said that they expected an increase in IPO activity this year. And BDO said that this was consistent with its own recent IPO Outlook survey. That found that 73% of capital markets executives expected an increase in IPO activity in the technology sector.

Despite the lackluster revenue expectations, however, 76% of CFOs still said they felt better about their access to capital in the coming year. (Last year 83% said they were encouraged about it.) Their high confidence level, though, didn’t flow through to actual capital-raising plans. Only 38% — down from 43% last year — said they planned to seek additional capital in 2012.

Among those CFOs planning to seek more capital, 55% said they would use debt to do so — marking a sharp increase from the 31% who answered that way last year. Of those CFOs, 91% said they would focus on private debt, and the other 9% indicated that public debt would be preferable.

Only 35% of the CFOs, down from 43% last year, said that private equity would be their main capital-raising tool. The survey showed use of equity falling, as well, with 9% identifying that as their primary way to raise capital, down from 19%.