During the pandemic, many of us have come up with lists of things we'd do when things go back to normal.
For some people, items on this list were as simple as eating in a restaurant again or taking a trip. Judging by recent market activity, a lot of companies and private equity firms had "buy a plastics company" on their own back-to-normal lists.
Since early April, Plastics News has reported on 26 M&A deals. That's a fairly large number of stories for that topic in less than two months.
One recent example is private equity firm The Jordan Co. LP of New York buying a majority stake in plastics processor Spartech LLC from another PE firm, Nautic Partners of Providence, R.I. Spartech ranks as one of North America's 25 largest film and sheet makers and one of the region's 50 largest thermoformers, according to Plastics News data.
Active buyers have remained active. PPC Flexible Packaging LLC acquired Target Labels & Packaging LLC, a maker of packaging labels, rollstock and pouches in North Salt Lake, Utah. It's the second deal in six months and seventh in less than four years for Buffalo Grove, Ill.-based PPC, a supplier of custom flexible packaging.
Recreational vehicle giant Patrick Industries Inc. of Elkhart, Ind., has made three deals in 2021, including two in the last six weeks. In that time, it's bought Alpha Systems LLC, an Elkhart-based maker of thermoplastic polyolefin membrane roofs for RVs, and Hyperform Inc., a Florida-based manufacturer of nonslip foam flooring sold under the SeaDek brand name.
Proof that PN wasn't imagining plastics M&A's recovery from the uncertainties of 2020 came from P&M Corporate Finance of Southfield, Mich. In a May 5 report, PMCF officials said that March's transaction volume and the industry's first-quarter results "confirmed for us that M&A activity in both plastics and packaging sectors has recovered from the impact of COVID-19."
The M&A volume for global plastics recorded 36 transactions in March, according to PMCF. That's a 50 percent increase over last year and not far off from the monthly peak for the sector, officials said. Strategic and PE add-on buyers accounted for all the growth in transaction activity for the month, while PE platform transactions were equal to last year.
PMCF added that, on a year-to-date basis, global plastics transactions are up 38 percent over last year and on track to exceed pre-COVID activity levels for the year. The volume of 101 transactions for the first three months represents the highest level of quarterly activity recorded in the past six years, according to PMCF data.
"We are not sure how the full year will end up, but the current momentum in the M&A markets would signal the continuation of high levels of activity," officials said.
Overall plastics M&A deal volume was down 15 percent for full-year 2020, according to PMCF, but improved as the year went on and many companies realized they would survive the pandemic. Second-half deal volume in 2020 essentially was flat vs. the same period in 2019.
In PN's January M&A outlook, many financial pros expressed optimism for 2021. PMCF Managing Director John Hart said in that report that his firm "is encouraged by how resilient the plastics industry and M&A have been."
Based on what we've seen so far in 2021, it looks like that bright outlook for plastics M&A is coming true.
Frank Esposito is a Plastics News senior reporter. Follow him on Twitter @fesposito22.