MMI's numbers show that M&A, inclusive of consolidations, were down by roughly 80% YoY! Yes, that is indeed a historic number. To simplify, general analysts' consensus is that during economic downturns consolidations tend to rise as a result of cash-strapped corporations looking to increase margins, move capabilities back in-house, and/or simply find alternative ways to stave off insolvency or to make a market move for future expansion and market share increases by acquiring capabilities during a fire-sale. This just didn't happen, despite what we all thought!
Interestingly, cash savings and murky outlooks seem to have been so much at the fore that even the opportunity to buy while the buying was good proved to be too risky for most. Moreover, the historic downturn in 1H09 breaks a long-standing EMS/ODM market trend of regular M&A activity in order to increase or expand capabilities.
As MMI notes, the lack of M&A activity in light of the EMS/ODM trend "[...] indicates that in the business climate of the first half some providers either elected to put off acquiring a new capability or decided to develop it in-house instead." (MMI, Vol.19 No.7, p. 2)
So, what was up? Joint ventures (JV). Why? Well, JVs tend to cost a lot less but come with limited risk exposure for a comparable gain in access to the desired assets or market (ibid., pp. 2-3). Of note: MMI does not include EMS divestitures that are not retained in the EMS sector which could skew the data (ibid., p.3).