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Comcast deal collapse sort of helps 2015 M&A totals

Comcast boasts more Internet subscribers than those who have signed up for cable TV packages from the company.Comcast boasts more Internet subscribers than those who have signed up for cable TV packages from the company.
Comcast boasts more Internet subscribers than those who have signed up for cable TV packages from the company.Photograph by Joe Raedle — Getty Images

Comcast’s $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable would probably have gone down as the largest M&A deal of 2015, had Comcast (CMCSA) not decided to pull the plug. Now it simply goes down as the year’s largest canceled merger, and the 9th largest of all-time (fun note: it displaces Comcast’s failed deal for Walt Disney Co., as the 9th largest withdrawn M&A deal since 1980):

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But in a strange twist of deal accounting, today’s events actually make 2015 look like a better year for mergers and acquisitions (at least in the short term).

Thomson Reuters (TRI) originally reported $3.465 trillion in global M&A activity for 2014, which included all deals that were announced and/or closed last year. How it basically works is that Thomson Reuters “times” a deal to when it’s announced, and then later “moves” it to whenever it closes.

That means Comcast/Time Warner Cable was sitting in the 2014 numbers. Sure it won’t be added to 2015, but it still will be subtracted from 2014 — bringing that year’s grand total down to $3.395 trillion. The result should be that 2015 ultimately rises a bit by comparison. And for the sake of forecasting, remember that Q1 2015 was the busiest first quarter for M&A since 2007.

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