The $3.2-billion deal by Lowe's to buy Rona is partly motivated to pursue a strategic opportunity to become the largest home renovation retailer in Canada, said Jean Rickli, a retail analyst with the JC Williams Group. But when the price tag translates to roughly US$2.3 billion, the deal is more affordable, he said. Historically, there is often a bump in mergers and acquisitions when the dollar slides, Sadorsky said. On the flip side, Canadian companies have purchased American targets when the loonie sells at a premium, said Laurence Booth, a finance professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He points to acquisitions made by TD Bank (which bought The South Financial Group Inc. in 2010) and Royal Bank (which acquired City National Corporation in November 2015).
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The low loonie can also incentivize Canadian companies, which may not be able to afford to acquire entities abroad, to consider purchasing local ones, said Sadorsky. Already this year, Suncor Energy offered a multibillion-dollar deal to take over Canadian Oil Sands. The offer expires Friday. Sadorsky anticipates more domestic action this year in the oilpatch. Canada's current low interest-rate environment provides further enticement, he said, as companies can borrow money for any potential deals at cheaper rates. But some believe there is little correlation between low interest rates, a low dollar and an increase in mergers and acquisitions. In the third quarter of 2015, Canadian companies made 186 foreign-target acquisitions worth a total of $60 billion compared to 172 acquisitions over the same time the year before for $42 billion, according to the most recent quarterly report by Crosbie, a Toronto-based investment banking firm that tracks Canadian merger and acquisition activity. In the same time frame last year, Canadian companies acquired 1.6 times more companies outside the country's borders than foreigners acquired companies within Canada, the report found. It's important to recognize that while the exchange rate can offer a discount, it's the prospects for profit that often motivates acquisitions, said Booth. A sliding loonie can also mean that some Canadian firms are not as appealing to prospective buyers. "The change in the value of the currency is also strongly correlated with the attractiveness of Canadian firms as foreign targets."