Usually, August is one of the worst months to get a deal done, and this year saw no exception. August M&A activity was the lowest it has been all year, with 14 deals. Given the momentum toward mid-summer, this stat is somewhat surprising, but keep in mind the ever-important and required ritual of the summer vacation.
The market barometer topped out at 145 transactions—26 more deals than a year ago (a 22% increase). Not too shabby considering most everyone in 2009 was crying in their milk. Or was that beer? Quarterly activity from June through August tallied 55 transactions, a robust increase of 28% over the same time last year.
Year to date, insurance brokerages have accounted for 84% of all agency acquisitions followed by carriers and others (9%) and banks (7%)—an all-time, 11-year low percentage of overall deal volume. Full-service agencies accounted for roughly 38%; p-c commercial had 28%, and benefit firms accounted for nearly 26%. The other agency categories of p-c, personal, life, title and TPA are all less than 3%.
To put the rebound in benefit acquisitions into perspective, reflect on the following: During the height of the healthcare reform chaos in 2009, only 20 employee benefit agencies were acquired through August. Through August this year, 33 employee benefit agencies were acquired, a 65% increase! This truly is a rebound when you take into account 2009 employee benefit agency activity was down 63% from the good ol’ days of 2008. The number of employee benefit acquisitions will only increase as we approach year’s end, and it is quite possible that employee benefit deals will account for a quarter of all deal activity, if not more.
Insurance brokerage Brown & Brown (B&B) maintained its number one position on the scoreboard, adding two acquisitions in August for a total of 13 deals this year. B&B did eight deals in all of 2009. Arthur J. Gallagher (AJG) is one slot behind B&B through August, already surpassing its total of 11 deals in 2009. Hub International may be a distant third with five deals, but all five were announced in the past three months. Expect all three of these leading acquirers to add considerably to their deal count by the end of the year.
Aon Corp., Bollinger and Marsh & McLennan Agency (MMA) are all tied with three deals each. Aon could be a sleeper the rest of the year, having just swallowed Hewitt Associates, but look for Bollinger to continue to be opportunistic in its region. In less than one year, MMA has acquired nearly $200 million in revenue. With a goal of reaching $1 billion in revenue from start to finish in five years, MMA will be the acquirer to watch.
Although bank acquisitions are at an all-time low, some banks are just beginning or are re-engaging their efforts to build a larger bank-owned insurance brokerage. One such bank is First Niagara Financial Group, which marked its entrance into Pennsylvania’s personal and business insurance market with an acquisition in August.
August M&A might have been light, but this is merely the calm before the storm. Buyers’ pipelines are overflowing with deal opportunities, and most sellers want to close a transaction before Jan. 1. M&A activity in these upcoming months will keep everyone buzzing.