Where’s the Deal Flow? (Last of a Series)

The question surrounding the leverage loan pipeline involves many factors. We’ve discussed some of them, including regulatory bank hurdles, uncertainty surrounding the economy, and hesitation by private equity sponsors to pay high multiples.

Several readers weighed in with their own perspectives on the slowdown. “First quarter always has some degree of seasonality,” the CEO of one middle market finance shop told us. “Particularly with so much worry about energy and interest rates, there’s just nothing compelling buyers right now.”

Another senior banker agreed. “In previous years there’s always been some external factor driving M&A activity, whether it’s tax-motivated or political. Today there’s such a cloud over everything, it’s hard to feel a sense of urgency about deal-making.”

High purchase price multiples, of course, haven’t stopped sponsors from unloading (as one mega fund founder memorably put it) “everything that isn’t nailed down.” (See our Chart of the Week). An anecdotal survey of top middle market PE firms points to the ratio of selling to buying has skewed towards selling for the past couple years.