Seller's Market in Full Swing - Modern Distribution Management

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Seller’s Market in Full Swing

Financial, strategic buyers eager to add assets but will it last?

The window is wide open for distributors looking to sell, as a growing number of private equity firms and strategic buyers actively seek assets for their portfolios, according to analysts in 2017 State of M&A in Distribution: 'Never Been a Better Time to Sell'.

"Private equity groups have incredibly strong interest in distribution today," says Reed Anderson, managing director at Houlihan Lokey and head of the firm's industrial distribution practice. But while PE firms are aggressively looking for platforms, "there is a lack of quality assets for them to acquire, particularly assets of scale. There is a substantial imbalance right now in the amount of private equity capital that wants to invest in distribution versus the available options for them to deploy that capital."

Not only are financial buyers on the lookout for valuable assets to acquire, but strategic buyers "want to be increasingly active," says T.J. Monico, head of distribution, investment banking, KeyBanc Capital Markets. "In the last couple of years they've been more active on the smaller deal front. Time will tell if they get more aggressive with the larger deals. You'll see a pretty good balance between financial and strategic deals."

But while the M&A landscape is flourishing thanks to high interest in distribution, strong valuations across the industry and an improving economy, the market has a tendency to drop off a cliff at any time, Anderson says.

That doesn't appear to be on the horizon anytime soon, Anderson says, "but we do know from past experience that when that catalyst hits, it's not something where you have a three- or six-month window to adjust to it. The market tends to adjust immediately."

Read more about why the M&A market is strong and how to tap into it in 2017 State of M&A in Distribution: 'Never Been a Better Time to Sell'.

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