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Press Release

Global survey shows Canadian businesses among the most likely to pursue M&A growth

Canada NewsWire

TORONTO, May 14, 2012 /CNW/ - Canada stands out amongst mature economies in anticipated merger and acquisitions (M&A) activity over the next three years according to research from the latest Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR). The results from the 2012 report show that 42% of Canadian businesses surveyed said they plan to grow through acquisition.

These numbers are consistent with historically high figures over the past five years in Canada. However, around the world, the IBR results show that business appetite for M&A has markedly increased over the past 24 months, despite on-going global economic challenges. The survey reveals that the overall proportion of businesses seeking to grow through M&A has risen significantly from 26% in 2010 to 34% in 2012.

"Naturally, domestic M&A remains high on the agendas of business leaders, but the upswing in interest in overseas expansion is encouraging and no doubt reflects the particular market conditions within individual regions globally," says UK-based Mike Hughes, global service line leader for Grant Thornton International's M&A practice.

Canadian companies pursuing M&A growth strategies say they are doing so primarily to access new geographic markets (69%), but also to build scale (48%), access lower cost operations (39%) and acquire new technology or an established brand (34%). These kinds of key drivers are consistent around the world, indicating that Canadian companies believe M&A remains the simplest and most effective way for businesses to grow their footprint and build scale in new geographies.

Of those Canadian companies looking to grow through M&A, IBR survey results reveal 70% are looking domestically, while 23% are looking outside Canada's borders. This stands in contrast to the global results, which show an overall increase in the number of companies seeking to expand through a cross-border transaction - from 28% last year to 33% in the 2012 survey.

"Acquisitions are well-established tools of corporate strategy in Canada, so it's not surprising that we are comfortably above the global average in planning to use this as a tool for growth. Canadian merger and acquisitions activity is being driven by growth-hungry companies in a tepid economic environment, the ageing population of the Western world and strong access to funding," says Troy MacDonald, Corporate Finance partner in Grant Thornton LLP's Toronto office.

Most Canadian companies plan to finance their growth through retained earnings (68%), bank finance (55%) and private equity (31%). "Despite the global slowdown, many companies are holding significant cash and have excess debt capacity on their balance sheets, positioning them well to make acquisitions," adds Greg Wright, Director of Mergers and Acquisitions at Grant Thornton Corporate Finance Inc. in Vancouver. "We believe the time is right for Canadian businesses to take full advantage of business optimism and the M&A opportunities that exist across Canada and well beyond our borders."

Despite the appetite for M&A, only 12% of Canadian companies foresee a change in their own ownership over the next three years, and of these, 31% said they expect an acquisition by a competitor. According to Greg Wright, many of these businesses may command a premium price. "High quality businesses are attracting premium prices across the globe, and particularly in Canada. Slow economic growth over the last few years has definitely increased competition for attractive assets."

The IBR survey results reveal some interesting regional variations. The regions most interested in making an acquisition in the next three years are North America (37%) and the BRIC economies (35%). This compares to only 28% in mainland Europe, 25% in Asia Pacific and in particular companies in the troubled economies of Greece, Ireland and Spain where only 16%  indicated an interest in M&A activity in the coming three years.

The full International Business Report 2012: M&A is available for download at:

Grant Thornton's Greg Wright (Vancouver) and Troy MacDonald (Toronto) are available for interviews.

About Grant Thornton LLP
Grant Thornton LLP is a leading Canadian accounting and advisory firm providing audit, tax and advisory services to private and public organizations. Together with the Quebec firm Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton LLP, Grant Thornton in Canada has approximately 4,000 people in offices across Canada. Grant Thornton LLP is a Canadian member of Grant Thornton International Ltd, whose member firms operate in close to 100 countries worldwide.

Notes to editors
The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) provides insight into the views and expectations of 12,000 businesses per year across 40 economies. This unique survey draws upon 20 years of trend data for most European participants and nine years for many non-European economies. For more information, please visit:

Data collection
The research is carried out primarily by telephone interview lasting approximately 15 minutes with the exception of Japan (postal), Philippines and Armenia (face to face), mainland China and India (mixture of face-to-face and telephone) where cultural differences dictate a tailored approach. Data collection is managed by Grant Thornton International's core research partner - Experian. Questionnaires are translated into local languages with each participating country having the option to ask a small number of country specific questions in addition to the core questionnaire. Fieldwork is undertaken on a quarterly basis.

IBR is a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. The data for this release are drawn from interviews with 12,000 businesses across the globe conducted between January and December 2011. The target respondents are chief executive officers, managing directors, chairmen or other senior executives (title dependent on what is most appropriate for the individual country) from 40 economies primarily across five sectors: manufacturing (25 per cent), services (25 per cent), retail (15 per cent) and construction (10 per cent) with the remaining 25 per cent spread across all sectors.

Any and all references to Grant Thornton International are to Grant Thornton International Ltd.

Grant Thornton International is one of the world's leading organisations of independently owned and managed accounting and consulting firms. These firms provide assurance, tax and specialist business advice to privately held businesses and public interest entities. Services are delivered independently by the member and correspondent firms within Grant Thornton International, a non-practicing, international umbrella entity organised as a private company limited by guarantee incorporated in England and Wales. Grant Thornton International does not deliver services in its own name or otherwise. Grant Thornton International and the member firms are not a worldwide partnership.