For the past five years, market experts have been predicting a huge surge in M&A activity as business owners from the Baby Boomer generation got ready to retire. Turns out the surge has been more of a trickle, as noted in this recent Wall Street Journal article ("The Missing Boom in Small-Business Sales" Oct. 14, 2015). The article notes that there have been many reasons for the holdouts, from younger family members not interested in taking the reins to owners who haven't fully recovered from the recession.
Another factor: "Baby Boomers are so not dead yet," the 61-year-old CEO of a Boston-based marketing firm told the WSJ. Many of the retirement-age Boomers we know in West Michigan are healthy and sharp and still wanting to be active in their businesses or as angel investors in other companies.
Still, the boom in M&A activity related to Baby Boomers may be edging closer to the horizon. Over one-third of middle-market sellers feel that M&A activity will increase in 2015 and the coming years due to retirement, according to a recent report by Citizens Commercial Banking. And nearly a third of owners with up to $10 million in annual revenues anticipate a change in company ownership in the next half-decade, according to Minneapolis-based Barlow Research Associates, Inc.
And even as M&A activity in the middle-market seems to be trending downward in 2015, a report by Mergers & Acquisition magazine notes: "M&A activity in the lower middle market, in which family-held businesses are motivated to sell while the economy is still relatively stable, appeared to be thriving."
When you factor in historically low interest rates, business growth and the piles of money that companies, PE firms and investors are sitting on, it might finally be the right time for owners to start thinking seriously about selling or recapitalizing their companies.