Why an M&A Surge Could Hurt the Dow Jones Industrials

Mergers and acquisitions are usually seen as positive for stocks, but the Dow might not be so lucky.

Apr 29, 2014 at 12:30PM

The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) was up 95 points at 12:30 p.m. EDT, approaching its best level of the day. The Dow largely ignored a slight drop in consumer confidence and some signs of weakness in the housing market, as a relatively solid earnings season continued to bolster investors' beliefs about the sustainability of the bull market. Yet Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) missed out on the gain, falling 1.1%; its decline points to some of the potential downsides of a rise in merger and acquisition activity that has spread across the market recently.

The pros and cons of M&A
Most of the time, M&A activity is a positive for stocks, as the prospects of a company becoming a takeover target leads to optimistic speculation among investors. Moreover, an actual takeover bid can be positive not just for the target company but for other companies in the same industry, as investors infer that what makes one particular player in a sector enticing could well be attractive to other players in that sector as well.

But as lucrative as M&A can be for shareholders of target companies, the impact on the acquirer is often less certain. For instance, Pfizer shares initially rose when it announced its pursuit of AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN), which had begun in January and which Pfizer sought to restart over the weekend. Yet today, Pfizer shares are down as investors realize that the pharma giant likely will have to increase its bid in order to persuade AstraZeneca to accept a merger.

In this case, the benefits for Pfizer are relatively clear. Not only does it get access to AstraZeneca's drug pipeline, but it also gets a tailor-made opportunity to move its tax domicile out of the U.S. and thereby potentially reduce its tax expense dramatically. In order to reap the tax benefits of a move, there's a limit to how much cash Pfizer can offer in a transaction, but Pfizer can issue more shares and still comply with current laws on domicile.

Yet typically, shares of the companies that seek to buy out acquisition targets end up falling. That happens for a variety of reasons, including shareholder dilution when the acquirer uses stock for the acquisition. But most often, the perception that the acquirer is overpaying for the target company drives shares of the acquirer lower. It takes a deal like Pfizer's, which the drugmaker argues will be accretive to earnings within the first year after a merger, to send shares of both the acquirer and the target higher simultaneously.

Because of their size, the 30 companies in the Dow Jones Industrials will almost always be acquirers rather than targets. As such, Dow members will have to be careful in their M&A planning to make sure they don't pay too much in the race to make the right strategic match. Otherwise, paying billions for a target company could turn out to be a wasted opportunity.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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