Even the Taxation Commissioner is getting worried about the private equiteers raiding corporate Australia, telling the Senate Estimates Committee it could result in a significant loss of tax revenue.
And well might he worry — the pace of takeovers is picking up with May going down as the biggest month ever for M&A. Thomson Financial, which tries to keep tabs on these things, counted US$496 billion in deals announced globally this month, bringing the year-to total to US$2.2 trillion.
But that was only up to Friday. It doesn’t include last night’s US$95.7 billion bid by Royal Bank of Scotland for ABN Amro and whatever else might emerge over the next 48 hours. US companies look like accounting for only about a third of the month’s final number.
It is very serious money and there’s no sign of an end to despite the occasional local funds manager showing spine and the ability to think of more than the very short term.
There have been another couple of serious numbers thrown around overnight though. The US yield curve has turned positive — 10-year bonds pay higher interest than 90-day bills — for the first time since last July. The most obvious interpretation of that is an indication of rising inflationary pressures, but Macquarie Bank’s Mark Tierney says it more as a vote of confidence in the strength of the US economy and massive liquidity at the short end.
The other big number that’s largely overlooked is the record turnover on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets yesterday — $62 billion worth as they set yet more record highs. Yes, it is ridiculous.
Beijing overnight made a token gesture towards reining the bubble in by increasing stamp duty on share trades from 0.1% to 0.3%. When stocks are routinely closing up their 10% limit in a single day, who will even notice 0.3%?
China is just the extreme example of money chasing deals. The whole world is caught up in the same game. It’s a great deal of fun — while it lasts.