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Merger deals hit 4-year low

| Saturday, June 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Merger and acquisition activity involving companies in the Pittsburgh region hit a nearly four-year low in the first quarter, according to a report from Strategic Advisors, a Cecil investment banking firm.

There were 46 deals in the January-March quarter, down from 72 in the same quarter last year, as companies scrambled to complete deals at the end of 2012 before tax changes this year made them less profitable, said Matt Steve, senior associate at Strategic Advisors.

“The deal level last year may have been artificially inflated,” said Steve, who noted he was not surprised to see a dip in deal activity in the first part of this year.

There were 42 deals in the third quarter of 2009 — during the financial and economic crisis — the last time so few deals were completed, Steve said.

It's likely just a short-term dip, he said.

“Activity for the remainder of 2013 will most likely settle at a more normalized level,” he said.

The firm's quarterly report compiles data on what it calls the greater Pittsburgh area, which includes Western Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.

The median value of deals in the first quarter fell to $27 million, down from $70.8 million last year. There were only six transactions in which values were publicly disclosed, compared with 14 last year.

The largest transaction was PPG Industries Inc.'s $2.1 billion sale of its commodity chemical business to an Atlanta-based company in January. PPG's commodity chemicals unit, which produces chlorine, caustic soda and other chemicals, was merged with Georgia Gulf Corp., and the combined company was renamed Axiall Corp.

Activity by investment firms also hit its lowest level since the end of 2009, Steve said. The lone purchase was completed by local investment firm PNC RiverArch Capital, which acquired a controlling interest in LawLogix Group, Inc., an Arizona company that makes immigration compliance software.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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