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Merger-and-acquisition activity falls despite fears of pandemic feeding frenzy

In April, several prominent Democrats proposed a moratorium on large mergers and acquisitions. Their argument was that the pandemic would embolden the strong to pounce on the weak, thus reducing competition.

Fast forward: The moratorium never materialized. Nor did the M&A feeding frenzy.


By the numbers: Announced deal value for U.S.-based companies through July 9 were down 64% from the same period in 2019, according to Refinitiv. Aggregate deal value between Q1 and Q2 2020 fell by more than 40%.

  • The number of announced deals did increase slightly between year-to-date 2019 and 2020, but relatively few of those were large transactions that would rearrange the competitive landscape.
  • There also was a sizable decrease for private equity-backed deals, in terms of both value and number of deals.

Between the lines: One reason for acquirer hesitance is that it's taking much longer to get deals over the finish line.

  • Take the example of Visa, which in January agreed to pay $5.3 billion for fintech upstart Plaid.
  • At the time, Visa said the deal would close in three to six months. Now Visa says it hopes to finish by year-end.
  • Plaid CEO Zach Perret told me yesterday that the delay was largely driven by a slowdown in the regulatory process, as the federal bureaucracy adjusts to remote work.

Then there's the still-surging public equities market. Yes, buyers have more firepower — but many target prices are just too high for comfort, and there have been fewer-than-expected distressed situations.

  • Robust federal lending programs have also kept a number of bankruptcies and near-bankruptcies at bay.

The bottom line: The pandemic continues to rage in America, and the M&A mitigation may ultimately look like a first wave phenomenon. But, at least for now, Monopoly needn't release a special 2020 edition.

Opposition leader Leopoldo López flees Venezuela despite tight security

Leopoldo López, a former political prisoner and prominent Venezuelan opposition leader, has left the country, his Popular Will party confirmed in a statement Saturday.

Why it matters: He's been an influential force in the push to oust President Nicolás Maduro's regime and a mentor to opposition leader Juan Guaidó. He'd been in the Spanish ambassador's Caracas residence since escaping house arrest in April 2019 following a failed military uprising.

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Obama: The rest of us have to live with the consequences of what Trump's done

Campaigning for Joe Biden at a car rally in Miami on Saturday, Barack Obama railed against President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying "the rest of us have to live with the consequences of what he's done."

Driving the news: With less than two weeks before the election, the Biden campaign is drawing on the former president's popularity with Democrats to drive turnout and motivate voters.

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Murkowski says she'll vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Saturday that she'll vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Monday, despite her opposition to the process that's recently transpired.

The big picture: Murkowski's decision leaves Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) as the only Republican expected to vote against Barrett.

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Post-debate poll finds Biden strong on every major issue

This is one of the bigger signs of trouble for President Trump that we've seen in a poll: Of the final debate's seven topics, Joe Biden won or tied on all seven when viewers in a massive Axios-SurveyMonkey sample were asked who they trusted more to handle the issue.

Why it matters: In a time of unprecedented colliding crises for the nation, the polling considered Biden to be vastly more competent.

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The murder hornets are here

Entomologists in Washington state on Thursday discovered the first Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S.

Why it matters: You may know this insect species by its nom de guerre: "the murder hornet." While the threat they pose to humans has been overstated, the invading hornets could decimate local honeybee populations if they establish themselves.

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Biden is highest-spending political candidate on TV ads

After spending an additional $45.2 million on political ads this week, former Vice President Joe Biden has become the highest-spending political candidate on TV ads ever, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

By the numbers: In total, the Biden campaign has spent $582.7 million on TV ads between 2019 and 2020, officially surpassing Michael Bloomberg's record spend of roughly $582 million. Biden's spend includes his primary and general election advertising.

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SurveyMonkey poll: Trump improves, but not enough

President Trump's final debate performance exceeded Americans' expectations, but it wasn't enough to shift the dynamics that left him trailing Joe Biden across most measures, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

What they're saying: "Liar" was the word used most by debate watchers to describe Trump's performance, followed by "lies," "strong," "presidential" and "childish." "Presidential" was the word used most to describe Biden's performance, followed by "liar," "weak," "expected" and "honest."

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Hunter Biden saga dominates online debate

Data: NewsWhip; Table: Axios Visuals

The mainstream media turned away. But online, President Trump's charges about Hunter Biden were by far the dominant storyline about the final presidential debate, according to exclusive NewsWhip data provided to Axios.

  • Coverage of business dealings by Joe Biden's son — and pre-debate allegations by one of his former business associates, Tony Bobulinski — garnered more than twice as much online activity (likes, comments, shares) as the runner-up.
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