Do traders have a hair-trigger reaction to any sort of rumbling out there?
On Tuesday morning, shares of Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. rose as high as $47.85, or up 2.8 percent from Monday’s close of $46.55, on takeover rumors. In late morning trading, shares were in the $47.39 range, or nearly up 1.8 percent on volume of slightly more than one million shares changing hands shortly after 11:30 a.m. That volume compares with the three-month average of 2.6 million shares.
On Monday, shares of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. rose as high as $16.15, or up nearly 2.7 percent from Friday’s close of $15.73, also on takeover rumors. The shares closed at the end of Monday’s trading session at $15.60, down 0.8 percent from Friday’s close.
Both companies are trading much lower on their enterprise values than a decade ago, when earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization multiples were closer to 10-times EBITDA. Abercrombie is trading at an average of 4.3-times EBITDA and Michael Kors is at 6.1-times, according to Capital IQ.
And those valuations could stay in a holding pattern for some time. Where low or rock-bottom valuations once meant those firms would likely be the targets of acquirers such as bargain-hunting private equity firms, now it seems that these financial sponsors are playing the waiting game.
So what would anyone be waiting for?
Given that it’s nearly the start of the holiday season, most would likely wait until early next year to get a read on the selling season, and see if projections pre-holiday match post-holiday results. Also, the changing dynamics of consumer shopping patterns has many scratching their heads trying to figure out if there’s a new normal in town other than everyone already knows — that consumers are changing how and where they shop.
Also, for U.S. firms, some potential buyers might want to wait out until after the U.S. presidential election to see who will be residing in the White House to get a read on what economic policies might be put in place.
And it isn’t just the mergers and acquisitions market that is slowing down. Alex Castelli, partner and co-leader of CohnReznick’s national liquidity and capital formation advisory group, said that initial public offerings this year slowed down from the highs of 2014, even though the markets saw E.l.f. Cosmetics recently complete its IPO.
“I anticipate that the third quarter would pick up prior to the election, and then see general uncertainty,” Castelli said, noting that firms doing IPOs now are “trying to get one last run in the IPO window prior to the election.” He added that the election isn’t the only concern among investors, and that the last two years of global events — China, Greece, Brexit — have all had some impact on the psyche of investors.
Stephen Wyss, a Cohn partner who leads the retail and consumer products industry practice in the New York office, said, “My sense in the [retail and apparel sectors] and finance is that the market has factored in a [Hillary] Clinton victory….A [Donald] Trump victory could really show some disruption in the market.”
Castelli said that no matter which candidate wins, he doesn’t expect a pickup in the IPO market until after a couple of months into the new year. “People will want to get a sense of where the dust settles, what the economic policies are.” That could be true of the mergers and acquisitions market as well.