Waiting for the M&A dam to break — Key takeaways from the Goldman Sachs Leveraged Finance Conference


Market Wrap

Waiting for the M&A dam to break — Key takeaways from the Goldman Sachs Leveraged Finance Conference

William Hoffman's avatar
David Bell's avatar
  1. William Hoffman
  2. +David Bell
6 min read

Investors and bankers alike were asking the same question at this year’s Goldman Sachs Leveraged Finance Conference: “When will sponsors find exits for their portfolio companies?”

The message was clear from the swanky hillsides and golf courses of Rancho Palos Verdes, California: the market wants more M&A deals and the estimated $3trn-worth of enterprise value controlled by private equity is key to unlocking that supply.

"M&A volumes are up and there is a tremendous amount of firepower sitting with private equity," said Christina Minnis, global head of acquisition finance at Goldman Sachs, during her opening remarks at the conference. "All in all, I'm pretty bullish on credit.”

The mantra from multiple panelists and attendees was it’s a matter of when, not if, transaction volumes rebound.

“You've got both anxious buyers, as well as anxious sellers,” said Chris Bonner, head of US leveraged capital markets for the bank. “That should be a catalyst for more volume. We're not seeing it full steam right now, but it's certainly starting to fill in.”

Lower rates and private credit might help unclog this build-up of deals. The question is, what factors can help free up supply and what form will exits take? Private equity firms could look to IPO assets as equity markets rally, they could find new strategic buyers as rates improve or use creative structures to encourage more sponsor-to-sponsor sales.

Regardless, most feel it’s just a matter of time.

“Sponsors are holding some of their best-in-class assets,” said Dominic Ashcroft, head of EMEA leveraged finance at Goldman Sachs. “But as another quarter goes by, six months, 12 months further down the line, I think the pressure for the sponsor to monetize increases.”

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