The Coming Impact of ESG on M&A.

Author:Brownstein, Andrew R.
 
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Recent months have seen institutional investors and other stakeholders, notably BlackRock and State Street, stressing the importance of comparable and decision-useful ESG disclosures by their portfolio companies. Such calls follow in the wake of growing interest among investors and other stakeholders in understanding and assessing the performance of companies based on ESG metrics. While the exact system by which companies will report on ESG issues remains to be determined by the market, it is clear that beginning in 2020, and in the years to follow, companies will be disclosing significant amounts of quantifiable information on a basis that will permit comparisons within and across industries. This information will be used by companies, investors, asset managers and other stakeholders in making real-world business decisions, including decisions relating to M&A.

The impact of the growth in ESG disclosures on M&A cannot be underestimated. In the near-term, ESG performance will be incorporated into company valuations and risk assessments, and acquirers and targets will be expected to factor in ESG performance when evaluating the impact of potential transactions. All aspects of M&A will be affected; a few are highlighted below:

Selection of Targets and Business Partners. ESG factors can be expected to increasingly influence how companies select potential targets and business partners. There is growing recognition of new business opportunities across industries and that partnering with companies with strong ESG profiles, such as businesses focused on renewables or which have a strong record of innovation, can enhance a company's ability to deliver long-term sustainable value to its stakeholders. It is expected that Fiat Chrysler s pending merger with Peugeot will help the company avoid a potential $2 billion in European carbon emissions fines. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi and Japanese utility provider Chubu Electric Power Co., Inc. beat out Royal Dutch Shell to acquire sustainable energy utility company Eneco last year. Similarly, and perhaps as a harbinger for other industries, several mainstream asset managers have acquired ESG funds in recent years in order to expand their scope, capacity and expertise in the field.

As ESG disclosure practices become more ingrained in public company practice, those companies able to showcase their capabilities in this regard stand to gain a competitive advantage and potentially demonstrate attractiveness to...

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