Sometimes business combinations are about growth and sometimes they are about survival ... and every once in a while they can be both. There's no questioning that the current market environment for aggregates (a catch-all for crushed stone, sand, and gravel) is pretty poor as construction and large-scale infrastructure projects have evaporated. Consequently, while Martin Marietta's (NYSE:MLM) bid for Vulcan Materials (NYSE:VMC) may seem at least a little opportunistic, it does take some risk out for both companies and leaves both investor groups with a lot of upside.

Investopedia Markets: Explore the best one-stop source for financial news, quotes and insights.

The Proposed Deal
Although proxy materials from Martin Marietta suggest that these two companies have been talking about a deal for something like 18 months, Martin Marietta has apparently tired of waiting and debating. The company has launched a hostile stock-for-stock offer for its larger rival Vulcan.

Under the deal, Vulcan shareholders would get one-half share of Martin Marietta for each share of Vulcan they own - a deal that valued Vulcan at a roughly 10% premium based on the companies' closing prices prior to the deal. If the deal is accepted at this ratio, Vulcan shareholders would own over half of the combined entity. (For related reading, see Analyzing An Acquisition Announcement.)

Why Would Either Side Want This Deal?
What's interesting about this hostile offer is that Martin Marietta arguably needs this deal less than Vulcan. MLM has a somewhat stronger balance sheet, a better cost position and arguably a better geographical footprint. MLM has a good exposure to Texas, where the economy has been somewhat stronger and demand for hydraulic fracturing has given some support to aggregates, while Vulcan is more exposed to the weaker Sunbelt region.

It's also worth noting that MLM has a small (but not insignificant) specialty aggregates business. This business chips in about 10% of revenue, but carries higher margins on products used in areas like steel-making and flue gas remediation.

Still, one of the driving factors of this deal has to be operating efficiency. MLM believes that the combined companies could save between $200 million and $250 million in operating costs which is significant given the trailing EBITDAs of $352 million and $307 million, respectively. What's more, the combined entity would have an appealing geographical reach, roughly 15% market share and solid positioning for the eventual rebound in construction and road-building.

Not a Bad Deal for Either Side
Curiously, both stocks have been solid since the announcement of the offer - a positive sign given that most acquirers see their stock drop on such an announcement. This may actually in fact be one of those win-win deals for each shareholder base.

The shares of both companies are currently undervalued, as the market gives little thought to the idea that both are likely to survive, the country will continue to need roads, and this is an industry with huge regional moats to competition. While Vulcan shareholders may want to hold out for a slightly sweetened offer, the reality is that a stock-for-stock deal does give them a small premium today and the potential to share the upside from the combined company.

The Bottom Line
Investors waiting on a construction turnaround had best get comfy and be prepared for the long haul. Simply put, there's just not much going on at companies like Cemex (NYSE:CX), Eagle Materials (NYSE:EXP), USG (NYSE: USG), Louisiana-Pacific (NYSE:LPX), Texas Industries (NYSE:TXI), or the major contractors that points to a near-term turnaround in residential or infrastructure construction. Instead, companies are still looking to keep costs to a minimum, shutter excess capacity, and find deals aimed at driving more costs out of the operation.

Deal or no, both Martin Marietta and Vulcan are names worth watching for that eventual turnaround, but it is hard to argue that the combined entity wouldn't be a more appealing prospect. In the meantime, risk-tolerant investors can shop around in the aggregates, cement, and building materials space in search of bargains, but they would do well to mind the debt and liquidity numbers and confine their bets to those companies with real staying power should this slump stretch on even further. (For related reading on liquidity, see Understanding Financial Liquidity.)

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

At the time of writing, Stephen Simpson did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Have Commodities Bottomed?

    Commodity prices have been heading lower for more than four years, being the worst performing asset class of 2015 with more losses in cyclical commodities.
  2. Stock Analysis

    5 Cheap Dividend Stocks for a Bear Market

    Here are five stocks that pay safe dividends and should be at least somewhat resilient to a bear market.
  3. Investing

    How to Win More by Losing Less in Today’s Markets

    The further you fall, the harder it is to climb back up. It’s a universal truth that is painfully apparent in the investing world.
  4. Investing

    Oil: Why Not to Put Faith in Forecasts

    West Texas Intermediate oil futures have recently made pronounced movements. What do they bode for the world market?
  5. Fundamental Analysis

    Use Options Data To Predict Stock Market Direction

    Options market trading data can provide important insights about the direction of stocks and the overall market. Here’s how to track it.
  6. Stock Analysis

    2 Oil Stocks to Buy Right Now (PSX,TSO)

    Can these two oil stocks buck the trend?
  7. Investing News

    What Alcoa’s (AA) Breakup Means for Investors

    Alcoa plans to split into two companies. Is this a bullish catalyst for investors?
  8. Stock Analysis

    Top 3 Stocks for the Coming Holiday Season

    If you want to buck the bear market trend by going long on consumer stocks, these three might be your best bets.
  9. Investing News

    Could a Rate Hike Send Stocks Higher?

    A rate hike would certainly alter the investment scene, but would it be for the better or worse?
  10. Investing News

    Corporate Bonds or Stocks: Which is Better Now?

    With market volatility high, you may think it is time to run for corporate bonds instead of stocks. Before you do take a deeper look into which is better.
  1. How do dividends affect retained earnings?

    When a company issues a cash dividend to its shareholders, the retained earnings listed on the balance sheet are reduced ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Why would a corporation issue convertible bonds?

    A convertible bond represents a hybrid security that has bond and equity features; this type of bond allows the conversion ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does additional paid in capital affect retained earnings?

    Both additional paid-in capital and retained earnings are entries under the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What types of capital are not considered share capital?

    The money a business uses to fund operations or growth is called capital, and there are a number of capital sources available. ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between issued share capital and subscribed share capital?

    The difference between subscribed share capital and issued share capital is the former relates to the amount of stock for ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!