2005 Looks Better For M&A, IPOs

Despite the current round of job cuts, there is a little optimism creeping into the market. All of a sudden, 2005 might not look too bad.

Falling oil prices and the uncertainty of the US election behind them, companies can now get on with a bit of M&A. City bankers say that deals are in the pipeline and the M&A action should start soon after the return from the seasonal break.

Over in the US, the party, it seems, has already begun. Sprint and Nextel are currently sorting out the finer details for their $70bn mobile phone group merger and Johnson & Johnson is putting a $24bn cash and stock offer on the table for medical devices company Guidant.

Although this year was a disappointing one for M&A, particularly in Europe, European deal value was actually up. According to Thomson Finanacial, deal value as at the beginning of December was up almost 30% on the first 11 months of 2003, coming in at $735bn. And that upward trend looks likely to continue into 2005.

The US IPO market also remains strong. Although not a return to the heady days of the dot.com boom, up to 21 IPOs are likely to come to market in the next few days - the next week or so could see the most activity for years. Again, IPO pipeline is strong and bankers are confident that dealflow will continue well into next year.

And finally, there's even a bit of good news on the equities front. The Dow Jones industrial average is already up 1.1% in December and the S&P 500 up 1.2%. Wall Street is also expecting to benefit from the traditional 'Santa rally', which should push stocks even higher.

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