Breaking the mergers and acquisitions wave

Corporate activity relied on cheap financing for several years but rate increases ended the momentum
Breaking the mergers and acquisitions wave

Last year began with waves and ended after they broke. The year started as COVID’s Omicron wave was still causing chaos, but its disruption dissipated in the fall.

A longer-term wave was also hitting the shore: low interest rates. M&A and corporate activity had relied on cheap financing for several years, and rate increases ended much of the momentum.

“It was no longer the frenzy of ‘grow at all costs’ that was driving M&A,” J.R. Laffin with Stikeman Elliott LLP says. In addition to increasing rates, inflation, the possibility of a recession, and the war in Ukraine fuelled uncertainty.

Despite 2022’s choppy waters, there were many significant deals. Our Excellence Awardees reflect the importance and ingenuity behind M&A in Canada. Lexpert has named 20 deals in five categories (capital markets, infrastructure and project financing, insolvency and restructuring, mid-market deals, and overall M&A deal of the year), picked from dozens of submissions sent by legal departments across Canada.

Excellence Awardees’ details are then sent to our esteemed judges to choose winners for the Canadian Law Awards, announced at an in-person gala set for May 11 at the Liberty Grand in Toronto.

While we celebrate 2022’s accomplishments, M&A still faces much uncertainty and risk in 2023 and beyond.

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) concerns drive corporate activity, with funders, regulators, and rating agencies demanding action. “We’re seeing big pension funds spending a lot of time and effort on ESG,” says Kathryn Bush at Blake Cassels & Graydon. “It’s really becoming increasingly important. Some of them are walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”

Canada’s critical minerals strategy has also required a significant shift for companies in the mining sector, says Marshall Eidinger, at Bennett Jones LLP.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty, Laffin also tells us it’s not all gloom and doom for M&A in 2023. “Are there going to be massive blockbuster deals where we see huge premiums paid?” he says. “Probably not. But there are going to be smart deals, and people will figure out a way to get them done.”

In other words, while the wave may have broken, the journey continues.