M&A mania: Deal activity hits 8-year high

Cropped shot of male business lawyers shaking hands in office
Photograph by Corey Jenkins — Getty Images/Image Source

We have just a few hours left in the first quarter of 2015, which will go down as the richest first quarter for mergers and acquisitions since Q1 2007.

According to preliminary data from Thomson Reuters (TRI), which includes this morning’s flurry of new deals, there already has been more than $843 billion in global M&A activity. That’s 23.3% higher than the $694 billion of M&A activity in the first quarter of last year, and nearly 72% higher than Q1 2013.

The actual number of global deals was down slightly year-over-year, from 9,402 to 8,926.

U.S. M&A activity had its largest first quarter since 2000 with $414.7 billion, and it was the best first quarter ever for Asia (non-Japan) M&A with $199.7 billion.

Healthcare led the global sector chart with $109.5 billion in deal activity, followed by real estate ($94b), telecom ($90b) and financials ($78b). Last year’s Q1 leader, media and entertainment, fell to 10th place with just $48.55 billion in activity.

One area that did see precipitous declines, however, was private equity. There was only $35.25 billion of PE-backed buyout activity in the first three months of 2015, compared to $63.78 billion in Q1 2014. That’s a dollar decline of 44.7%, while the number of deals fell by 7.3%. Perhaps that figure would be helped a bit if Thomson Reuters opted to characterize the Heinz/Kraft Foods merger as a private equity deal, but it seems unlikely.

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