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Heinz Chairman, President and CEO William R. Johnson (L) presents Alex Behring (R), Managing Partner at 3G Capital, with a "terrible towel" after announcing that Heinz has agreed to be bought by Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital during a press conference in Pittsburgh PennsylvaniaFebruary 14, 2013. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and private equity firm 3G Capital will buy ketchup and baby food maker H.J. Heinz Co for $23.2 billion in cash, a deal that combines 3G's ambitions in the food industry with Buffett's hunt for growth.
Heinz Chairman, President and CEO William R. Johnson (L) presents Alex Behring (R), Managing Partner at 3G Capital, with a "terrible towel" after announcing that Heinz has agreed to be bought by Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital during a press conference in Pittsburgh PennsylvaniaFebruary 14, 2013. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and private equity firm 3G Capital will buy ketchup and baby food maker H.J. Heinz Co for $23.2 billion in cash, a deal that combines 3G's ambitions in the food industry with Buffett's hunt for growth.
(Jason Cohn/Reuters)

SCOTT BARLOW

Is M&A activity a sign of health, or desperation?

ROB Insight is a premium commentary product offering rapid analysis of business and economic news, corporate strategy and policy, published throughout the business day.

The New York Times is hailing a new era of aggressive merger and acquisition activity spurred by record low bond rates. The defining characteristic of the major deals so far, however, has been defensiveness – an attempt to adjust to unfavourable investing conditions. A flurry of big deals has historically been an optimistic sign for investors but this time, it appears to be cause for concern.