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S&P Global reportedly in talks to buy IHS Markit, as race for scale among data providers takes off

November 30, 2020, 10:31 AM UTC

S&P Global Inc. is in advanced talks to buy IHS Markit Ltd. for about $44 billion, a deal that would accelerate the wave of consolidation among Wall Street’s biggest data providers.

An announcement could come as early as Monday, according to a person familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified because the information isn’t public. IHS Markit was valued at $36.9 billion at the close of New York trading on Friday, after climbing to a record earlier in the week. S&P has a market capitalization of $82 billion after climbing 25% in New York this year.

The proposed tie-up of S&P with IHS Markit, a research firm with more than 5,000 analysts, data scientists, financial experts and industry specialists, is part of a race for scale as the industry’s largest players try to capitalize on surging demand for data and analytics in increasingly computerized financial markets. This follows London Stock Exchange Group Plc’s $27 billion agreement last year to acquire Refinitiv.

Shares of S&P Global, IHS Markit and rivals including MSCI Inc. have soared in recent years, providing ample currency for deal-making.

“This is a huge consolidation of financial databases and services,” said Gary Dugan, chief executive officer of the Global CIO Office, an investment firm in Singapore. “S&P probably gathered that expansion incrementally wouldn’t work and instead has gone for a major acquisition, which will deepen their product range and relevance.”

Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with IHS Markit and S&P Global in providing financial analytics and information.

The deal would be the world’s second-largest acquisition of 2020, second only to the $56 billion set of transactions among China’s biggest oil and gas companies to sell their pipeline networks to a new national carrier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Representatives for S&P Global and IHS Markit didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The takeover would be an all-stock deal, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the talks.

Markit was famously founded in a U.K. barn by Lance Uggla, a Canadian who spotted an opportunity to provide pricing for the opaque world of credit default swaps just as trading of the derivatives was taking off in the early 2000s. Uggla built up the company through a breakneck series of acquisitions, culminating in the 2016 merger with IHS. A 2014 IPO of Markit valued it at about $4.5 billion.

Regulatory scrutiny could pose one risk for the tie-up, given the overlap between the firms’ data offerings, according to Craig A. Huber, founder of Huber Research Partners LLC. The LSE is still negotiating with European Union regulators over its deal for Refinitiv, with competition authorities expressing concerns over how some companies’ control of data can make them gatekeepers for an industry.

“Antitrust could be an issue since both are market data providers,” said Jin Rui Oh, director at United First Partners, an investment and advisory group that specializes in special situations. “That could be a little tricky.”

–With assistance from Max Zimmerman, Linus Chua, Kyungji Cho and Tom Metcalf.