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High-Dollar Acquisitions, Tech Sector Helped Utah’s Economy Thrive in 2016

Salt Lake City—If the laundry list of accolades and awards lauding Utah’s red-hot economy and business-friendly environment weren’t convincing enough, a new report has the data to back it up.

MountainWest Capital Network released its 22nd annual Deal Flow Report Friday, showing in black and white what a year companies in Utah really had. And it was a good one: funding for deals made in 2016 totaled $19 billion, nearly twice 2015’s $10 billion. The total number accounts for mergers and acquisitions, private placements and public offerings.

“Utah continues to receive national recognition for its success in being a well-run state that’s conducive to business,” said Quinton Stephens, MCWN Deal Flow Chair, who presented the report.

The lion’s share of the $19 billion—$16.8 billion—came from mergers and acquisitions, and nearly tripled 2015’s number. In fact, the report states, just one deal from 2016 matched 2015’s merger and acquisition total of $6.1 billion: the acquisition of Questar Corporation to Dominion Resources in August. Dominion also acquired Questar Pipeline for another $1.7 billion. Also adding to the total was Headwaters’ merger/acquisition by Boral Industries for $2.6 billion in November; Headwaters also acquired four other companies in March and August for a total of $285 million.

However, even besides these unusually large deals, the year was good for Utah, Stephens said.

“Even if you were to take those out, I think the total number is still ahead of last year, even if the total number of deals is lower,” Stephens said.

And the number of deals that make up that $19 billion is almost 20 percent lower than the year before—in 2015, there were 524 total deals made, but there were only 423 in 2016.

“In this case, there were a few really large deals that drove the amount really high,” said Stephens.

Large acquisitions deals aside, one of the continued drivers of Utah’s success was in the tech sector. Technology and software deals made up the largest share in terms of the number of deals made—196 deals in 2016, up from 151 in 2015.

Katie Chandler, MWCN Deal Flow Vice Chair, said the booming tech sector is a strong economic driver for many reasons, but one of them is because, in that industry, industry tends to grow exponentially.

“[The tech sector] is going to continue to grow, because it just breeds itself,” she said. “We see a lot of people leave one tech company and found another one—serial entrepreneurs.”

The full report, which contains an accounting of each of the 423 deals made in 2016, is available for download at https://www.mwcn.org/deal-flow/. While the report is strictly a review of deals already made and doesn’t attempt to make any guesses about what 2017 holds, Stephens says from what he can tell, the outlook is good.

“I think all of those things are indications the trend is going upward, and I can’t find a single one that that indicates it will go the other way,” he said.