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Where cash is not yet king

In deal-making, the appeal of cash is obvious. Cash offers a cleaner exit for investors, particularly foreign ones. It has a value that will not fluctuate the way that stock prices can between when a deal is announced and when it closes.

For companies sitting on large piles of cash, using some of the money for deals makes sense given the low-yielding alternatives.

And a number of American acquirers are stumping up and putting cash on the barrel. Abbott Laboratories said today that it would spend 4.5 billion euros in cash ($6.6 billion) in cash for the drug unit of Solvay of Belgium. Last week, Dell announced that it would spend $3.9 billion in cash for Perot Systems. (Abbott will be left with more than $2 billion in cash on its balance sheet, while Dell will have $9 billion.)

Yet cash accounts for a smaller slice of the M&A universe than it did pre-financial crisis. Cash-only deals by American acquirers account for only 20.3 percent of total merger volume so far this year, according to Thomson Reuters data. That’s 803 transactions representing $93 billion worth of deals. Compared that all of 2007, when 1,919 all-cash transactions accounted for 54.5 percent of total dollar deal volume in the United States – or $796 billion worth of deals.

The guessing game ahead of Dell-Perot deal


Dell Perot puzzle pieceIn retrospect, it’s easy to say we could have guessed it:

Why didn’t some investors put 2+2 together and figure out that Perot Systems might be a target for Dell — before that is, Dell announced its $3.9 billion cash deal to buy Perot.

Looking back at Perot’s share performance, the stock has been building up momentum since July, despite warning of weak earnings in its August 4 quarterly report. The stock, which traded under $15 throughout the first half of the year, had built to $18 by last week. Perhaps this was early optimism about 2010 prospects. But the other explanation is some timely speculation that Perot was a logical target for fellow Texan company Dell.

Dell shows discipline in opting for Perot


– Eric Auchard is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –
By Eric Auchard

Eric AuchardLONDON, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Dell Inc has made a solid move into computer services by buying Perot Systems, even if the hefty price Dell is paying is hard to justify on Perot’s standalone prospects alone.