FORTUNE — It’s been a slow year for U.S. mergers and acquisitions, and things may not be turning around any time soon.
Ernst & Young today released the results of its bi-annual survey of more than global corporate executives, including more than 400 in the U.S. It found that just 23% of U.S. respondents are planning to pursue acquisitions over the next 12 months, compared to 36% who responded affirmatively in an April survey. And, of that 23%, the vast majority expects the transactions to be valued at $500 million or less (i.e., small deals).
Overall, just 48% of U.S. respondents said that they plan to deploy excess cash toward growth objectives — and, among that set, the majority favor organic growth over acquisitions.
In fact, the only foreseeable increase in U.S. M&A may relate to purchases by those from outside the country. Ernst & Young vice chairman Richard Jeanneret writes:
At the same time, however, Jeanneret writes that an 18-month “portfolio optimization” trend among U.S. companies is believed to have reached its end. So if foreign buyers want in, they’re going to have to make the first move.
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