2014 was a huge year for M&A and private equity

Photograph by Kim Hong-Ji — Reuters

Global merger and acquisition activity hit $3.5 trillion in 2014, which is up 47% from the year before.

That’s the word from Thomson Reuters (TRI), whose data suggests that large deals in 2014 — 95 valued at $5 billion or more — were a key driver, given that the overall number of global M&A transactions only climbed by 6%.

This includes the year’s three largest announced deals, each of which is still pending: Comcast Corp.’s (CMCS) $70.67 billion deal for Time Warner Cable (TWC), AT&T’s (T) $67 billion purchase of DirecTV (DTV) and Activis (ACT) paying $66 billion for Allergan (AGN).

Ten of the year’s 15 largest acquisitions were for companies based in the United States, where volume climbed by 51.4% to $1.53 trillion. European M&A activity was up 55%, while Asia-Pacific hit its largest-ever total at $716 billion. Geographic regions with year-over-year decreases included Eastern Europe (-053.5%), Central America (-30.1%) and the Africa/Middle East (-16.9%).

The largest large country increase was for France (up 239% to $165 billion), while Germany was on the flipside (-21.6% to $73 billion).

Thomson Reuters also reported that there was nearly $562 billion of global private equity activity in 2014. That’s the industry’s highest mark since 2007, and a 43% bump over 2013. Perhaps more importantly, it represented 21.9% of total global M&A activity, which appears to be an all-time high (previous leader 2006 was at 21.3%). Pretty remarkable given the relative dearth of mega-LBOs last year, which was perhaps offset by a growing number of firms willing and able to play in the $1b-$3b space.

PitchBook also released a bunch of private equity data, showing that 60% of 2014 buyout activity was for add-on investments. It also reports that global private equity exit activity totaled $445.7 billion, which is a record high.

For private equity fundraising, Pitchbook shows a drop from $353 billion raised in 2013 to $291 billion raised in 2014.

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