Looking ahead to his first 100 days in office, president-elect Trump has announced he will withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with him calling it a potential disaster for the US. This has sent shockwaves throughout the world and prompts the question what President Trump will mean for cross border business relationships and more specifically M&A transactions? Recent press headlines have focussed on the fact that Mr Trump is a deal maker, but this begs the question whether he will be good for deal making.
Before the election result the prevailing sentiment within the M&A community seemed to be that a win for Democrat candidate Mrs Clinton would be the preferred outcome. Mr Trump was seen as supporting US protectionism with some strong rhetoric around protecting US manufacturing jobs, tearing up trade deals and taxing the import of foreign goods. A Trump victory was also seen as a vote for uncertainty and further volatility in the already choppy waters of the world's economies and from an M&A perspective he openly opposed a number of high profile mergers.
The markets have, however, reacted positively to Mr Trump's election victory and there are a number of reasons for M&A deal makers to be encouraged.
Would the real Donald Trump please stand up: In his victory speech, given in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Mr Trump struck an unfamiliar, yet welcomed, tone urging both sides to work together for a common goal and to "bind the wounds of division". Many have suggested that this could be the first indication of a significant difference between Donald Trump the Presidential Candidate and Donald Trump the President. Mr Trump is a deal maker and many believe that it seems logical that such a man will carry his business philosophy into the White House and will fall back on this "deal making" during his administration. In the context of international M&A for example, it seems possible that Mr Trump will support the acquisition of US assets by foreign companies if he perceives that they will safeguard US jobs or further the US economy in some way and it seems unlikely that he will not champion trade where to do so would be damaging.
Republican control: For the first time since 2005 there will be a Republican President, Congress and Senate. Republican parties have traditionally been seen as pro-business and lighter on regulation and Mr Trump has stated a desire to do more to stimulate the US economy, including lowering the rates of tax on US companies and championing large infrastructure projects. With this level of political control it seems possible that such economic stimuli and loosening of regulation could be implemented and this should be seen as a positive for a world economy which still takes its lead from the US. Large infrastructure projects could lead to cross-border consolidation of some market participants and be good news for deal makers. Further, a number of traditionally deal friendly Republicans will likely be appointed to the Federal Trade Commission and US Department of Justice possibly leading to a more relaxed antitrust approach.
Market reaction: M&A activity is often about market confidence and there has been a significant amount of uncertainty over the past 12 months with the Brexit vote and the US elections. Now that these decisions have been made, although not the outcomes that many expected and with many implications still to be understood, there is a growing opinion that, if the markets remain buoyant, some stability and confidence can return and with the significant amounts of cash available in the world's financial systems this should provide a sound foundation for positive M&A activity in 2017.
So despite many commentators initial concerns around a Trump election victory there are a number of reasons to remain positive in the outcome for M&A activity over the next 12-18 months. We will have to wait and see whether this surprise election result could yet be a Trump card for cross-border M&A.