If there’s anything M&A professionals dislike, it’s uncertainty. And heading into 2020, there’s more than enough uncertainty to go around, including questions about the economy, international trade, impeachment, domestic politics and more. The funny thing is, the lack of clarity may actually make the first half of the year a great time for M&A, as dealmakers push to close transactions before the looming uncertainty of Election Day and its outcome. We conducted interviews with 8 investment bankers and other M&A advisors. Some said the first half of the year will be robust, while others said the uncertainty may have a negative impact throughout 2020. “With any election comes some level of uncertainty, but our advice to clients about the timing of a transaction is company-specific rather than tied to an external event like an election,” says Derek Lewis, managing director, Harris Williams. “Certain trends such as tariffs causing uncertainty for companies with international footprints are likely to be top of mind through the 2020 election. That said, the impacts to date on cross-bor der dealmaking have been relatively limited. Regardless of the outcome of the election, the M&A market will continue to evolve over time and have a positive impact on the economy.” Read the full story, What’s ahead for M&A in 2020? We ask 8 advisors.

Mergers & Acquisitions has named the 2020 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. This marks the fifth year we have produced the list, which recognizes female leaders with significant influence inside their companies and in the wider dealmaking world. It’s been gratifying to watch the project evolve over the years – and become more influential itself. This year, we received more nominations than ever before. As a result, we expanded the number honored to 42 in 2020, up from 36 in 2019. Many dealmakers are new to our list, including Rockwood Equity Partners’ Kate Faust, William Blair’s Shay Brokemond and Avante Capital Partners’ Ivelisse Simon. Read our full coverage of all the champions of change on our list, including Q&As with each individual.

DEAL NEWS
Entertainment company Endeavor has acquired a majority stake in hospitality company provider On Location Experiences from Bruin Sports Capital, Carlyle, the National Football League and Redbird Capital Partners. The NFL is keeping a minority stake in the target, which offers entertainment experiences at sports events. Latham & Watkins and the Raine Group advised Endeavor. Paul Hastings advised On Location, and Ropes & Gray advised the NFL. Proskauer Rose advised PineBridge.

Cott Corp. (NYSEl COT) has acquired Leylines B.V.’s watercooler business. The target offers bottled water coolers to commercial and residential customers in the Netherlands.

Asset manager PineBridge Private credit has raisied its first direct lending fund at $396 million. The fund will provide senior secured loans to U.S.-based, sponsor-backed lower middle market companies across the consumer, business services, food and beverage and healthcare sectors.

To see which firms are fundraising, check out PE fundraising scorecard: Accel-KKR, TPG, Trivest.

DEAL TRENDS
Businesses operating in California are required to be in compliance with a sweeping new privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act, starting this month. They’ll have a few months to figure out the specifics, because the state’s attorA wave of startups, law firms and consultants are looking to take advantage of that anxiety—and to capture some of the $55 billion that companies are expected to spend on initial compliance with the lawney general is still working out the final rules and isn’t expected to start enforcement until July. Read the full story by Bloomberg News: Startups chase $55 billion boom fueled by California privacy law.

FEATURED CONTENT
Mergers & Acquisitions examines the impact of 7 technologies on M&A in the retail sector. Read the whole series:

Overview: Retail Tech M&A: 7 Technologies Driving Change
Retail Tech M&A #1: Nike, McDonald’s, PayPal, add customization, IoT
Retail Tech M&A #2: Why Walmart and other retailers are buying artificial intelligence startups
Retail Tech M&A #3: Amazon leads race to build fulfillment centers
Retail Tech M&A #4: Do robots fill orders faster?
Retail Tech M&A #5: Voice recognition gives retailers more ways to communicate
Retail Tech M&A #6: Data improves customer service
Retail Tech M&A #7: Demand for convenience drives growth in mobile ordering

Albertsons, Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), Stop & Shop and Walmart (NYSE: WMT) are building automated mini-warehouses and “dark stores” to make deliveries and prepare pickup orders. Mini-warehouses are usually attached to existing stores, and in most cases, “dark stores” are completely separate. Both formats are closed off to customers, and are mostly automated. They use the assistance of robots for speed, save on labor, and get orders out faster. Kroger bought a five percent stake in robotics firm Ocado. Read our full coverage: Smart supermarkets become popular, as Kroger, Walmart add them.

2019 was a milestone year for the Blackstone Group Inc. (NYSE: BX), which transitioned from a publicly traded partnership to a corporation on July 1. The New York firm announced the final close of its latest global real estate fund recently. With $20.5 billion of total capital commitments, Blackstone Real Estate Partners IX is the largest real estate fund ever raised. Mergers & Acquisitions spoke with Stephen A. Schwarzman, the firm’s co-founder, chairman and CEO. Read the full story: “Complete control” is the beauty of private equity, says Blackstone’s Stephen A. Schwarzman.

The private equity model has held up very well over the decades, continuing to outperform the public markets, even as economic cycles come and go. But the rate of growth has slowed, leading PE firms to seek adjacent areas of business to expand. As PE firms face increased pressure to produce higher returns on their investments, many of them are turning to a familiar area of business: lending. Adams Street Partners, Balance Point Capital, Carlyle and VSS are all actively engaged in lending. Read the full story: Private equity firms are becoming lenders. Here’s why.

To celebrate deals, dealmakers and dealmaking firms, Mergers & Acquisitions produces three special reports every year: the M&A Mid-Market Awards; the Rising Stars of Private Equity; and the Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. For more on the timeline and nomination process for each, see Special reports overview: M&A Mid-Market Awards, Rising Stars, Most Influential Women.

During the holiday season, Mergers & Acquisitions is covering the philanthropic and volunteer initiatives underway in the private equity industry. Last year, we published The Big Give, an in-depth look at how private equity firms are contributing. Efforts have continued to flourish, fueled by younger Millennials seeking to build a better future and by mature partners considering the legacy they will leave behind. Read our full coverage: Private equity gives back: Vista’s Robert F. Smith, Clearlake’s José E. Feliciano, Riverside employees.

EVENTS
The Annual AM&AA Winter Conference is taking place in Scottsdale, Arizona Jan. 8-10.

Deal Wave is being hosted by ACG Orange Country at the Ritz-Carlton-Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California on Jan. 9.

ACG New York is hosting the 12th annual healthcare conference and bourbon tasting at the Metropolitan Club in New York on Feb. 27.