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Broker M&As set to continue apace in 2020

Broker M&As set to continue apace in 2020

The record pace of mergers and acquisitions among insurance brokers over the past two years is unlikely to slow down in 2020, according to recently published reports.

Private-equity owned brokerage firms remain aggressive buyers of rival smaller brokers, said a report issued last week by Chicago-based Optis Partners LLC.

And uncertainty over future capital gains tax rates could trigger more brokerage M&As this year among brokers in general, according to a report released Tuesday by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

M&As among insurance brokers reached another record high in 2019 with 649 transactions, according to Optis. That compared with 643 deals in 2018, the previous record.

The totals include U.S. and Canadian property/casualty and employee benefits brokers, third-party administrators and related managing general agents.

The total number of transactions in the fourth quarter of 2019 slipped to 149, compared with 160 during the same period in 2018. In the second half of 2019 there were 320 transactions reported, compared with 343 in the year-earlier period.

Despite the slowdown in the second half of last year, 2020 will likely be another active year for brokerage M&As, Optis said in its report.

Brokers owned by private-equity firms or with significant outside support of acquisitions remained the most active acquirers in 2019, accounting for about two-thirds of all transactions and eight of the top 10 acquirers last year.

Caledonia, Michigan-based Acrisure LLC was the most active acquirer, closing 98 deals in 2019, down slightly from the 101 deals it completed in 2018, and Chicago-based Hub International Ltd. was the second most active acquirer, with 51 deals in 2019, compared with 59 in 2018.

The most active publicly owned brokerage was Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., which purchased 33 firms in 2019, compared with 36 deals in 2018.

Concerns over possible future tax changes could prompt more M&A activity in 2020, New York-based S&P Global Intelligence said in its report.

Several leading Democratic presidential candidates have proposed changes to capital gains tax rates that could reduce the amount sellers of brokerages or agencies receive after a sale is completed, the report said.

“Concerns about rising long-term capital gains tax rates have driven increases in U.S. broker/agency consolidation in the past,” the report said.

A five-percentage-point increase in taxation for some individuals that went into effect in 2013 led to a 22.1% increase in transaction volume in 2012, preceding a significant decline in deals after the tax change became effective, the report said.