King and Bernanke rescue mega takeovers
A couple of years ago, when I was making my documentary "The Greed Game," Stephen Schwarzman - the legendary founder of the private equity firm Blackstone - said that he relishes downturns in markets and economies.
No great mystery why: the woes of others throw up opportunities for buyout firms like Blackstone to acquire businesses and assets at keener prices.
That said, at the time Mr Schwarzman probably under-estimated the extent to which debt finance for firms like his would dry up for a period
The recovery at big private equity firms like Blackstone has been slower and harder than some would have expected.
Because for much of the past couple of years, the value of the assets on their books has fallen and the once-bitten banks have been reluctant to lend to them for takeovers.
But buyouts are coming back. At Davos, I was chatting to a private-equity pioneer almost as prominent as Mr Schwarzman. And this normally lugubrious character almost cracked a smile.
The leading firms can borrow again: less than before; and on lower multiples of the target companies' respective cash flows.
But although poor Guy Hands of Terra Firma may be floundering around in EMI's $5bn of debt, things are looking up for private equity in general.
Quite a few firms bought by private equity in the boom years - the likes of the leisure conglomerate, Merlin - will be sold on to the stock market in the coming few weeks, unless the recent wobbles in stock markets become something a good deal worse and investors' appetite evaporates.
That said, the real boom in takeovers is coming from a more traditional source.
Giant companies - such as Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and the food group Kraft - have been the great beneficiaries of savage reductions in interest rates and the creation of oodles of new money by the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank.
In rescuing the global economy, the western central banks have rescued the traditional mega takeover.
I'm not sure whether King and Bernanke would describe this as collateral damage or just one of those things.
But they have accelerated the corporate Darwinian process of reinforcing the market clout of the world's biggest and strongest businesses.
Because huge companies are currently able to raise record-breaking sums at very low interest rates by selling bonds to investors.
Kraft, for example, yesterday raised $9.5bn to finance its takeover of Cadbury.
And Berkshire Hathaway sold $8bn of notes to fund its acquisition of the railway group, Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
These are both among the 15 biggest corporate bond deals ever.
Kraft and BH may be paying a smidgeon more for this money than would have been the case if there hadn't mean a minor global tremor caused by the collapse in confidence in the ability of Greece to service its debt.
But with the interest payable on the different tranches at low to middling single-digit interest rates, this is cheap debt - cheap enough to finance the purchase of substantial companies like Cadbury with stable profits
Here's a fascinating statistic: Bloomberg has calculated that US companies are spending the highest portion of bond-sale proceeds in more than a decade - or around 70 per cent - on takeovers and expansion.
Where the US leads, the UK usually follows.
Which means that so long as global markets don't seriously crack as the result of growing concerns about heavily indebted countries' ability to pay their way - and that is a big if - then the Fed and the Bank of England may have fuelled a return to boom boom in takeovers.