While Last year's £2.9bn bid for BlackBerry was perhaps born more out of necessity than future growth potential, it is evidence of a growing wave of deal activity on both sides of the Atlantic.
By James Quinn, Financial Editor
6:00AM BST 25 Sep 2013
As companies and investors used the dark days of the financial crisis to stockpile cash, the nascent economic recovery and future growth prospects have ensured that cash is now beginning to be put to use in a series of major deals.
Data from Dealogic, the stock market research firm, shows that global merger and acquisition volume has reached $2.02 trillion (£1.26 trillion) in the first nine months of this year, up 13pc on the same period in 2012.
At the same time, however, the number of acquisitions actually fell, down 20pc over the same period, to 26,194 deals. Put simply, the deals that are being done have been bigger, implying that those deals which have been completed are being done by larger companies at the top end of the scale.
High on the agenda, and vastly boosting the data, was Verizon Communications’ $130bn acquisition of Vodafone’s 45pc stake in Verizon Wireless.
Although not yet completed, the telecoms mega-merger, announced on September 1, is the second largest M&A deal on record, second only to Vodafone’s $172bn takeover of Germany’s Mannesmann in November 1999.
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What the data does show is there were 18 deals valued above $10bn, the highest number since the first nine months of 2008, ahead of the peak of the financial crisis, which accounted for 22pc of total volume.
In addition to Vodafone/Verizon, other major deals included Berkshire Hathaway and 3G’s $27.5bn acquisition of HJ Heinz in February and Liberty Global’s $25.1bn purchase of Virgin Media, also in February.
Those two deals rank third and fourth respectively year-to-date – the second largest deal of the year so far was the $64bn spin-off of Abbott’s AbbVie subsidiary at the start of the year.
But although two of the top four deals of the year involved UK companies, the trend shows that the UK and Europe is lagging behind the US in terms of merger activity.
The Dealogic data show that US M&A is at its highest in volume terms since 2008 for the first nine months of the year, up 37pc on 2012 at $853.7bn, while European deal flow stood at $574.2bn, down 61pc on the record volume announced in the same period in 2007.
This is partly because of a trend of US companies buying UK rivals, as seen in Liberty/Virgin Media, and partly because the US economic recovery is at a more advanced stage than that of the Continent.
Drilling down into the data, the UK remains the most targeted nation in Europe for deals, ahead of Germany and France respectively, with telecoms overtaking finance to become the most active sector.
What this data masks, however, is that year-to-date, 2013 has been a quiet year for global M&A overall. Recent data from accountancy firm KPMG showed that for the month of July, global M&A deals were down 10pc against the same month a year earlier, while transactions in high-growth markets – such as China and Brazil – stood at their lowest levels since 2005.
That has not stopped market watchers considering what might happen if the revival seen in certain sectors were to trigger a wider M&A return.
A recent 140-page tome from analysts at Societe Generale said that globalisation would trigger the sixth great M&A wave.
Quite when that wave will begin remains to be seen, but with low interest rates, continued quantitative easing and still sizeable cash deposits on the balance sheets of many large corporates, it could be sooner rather than later.