Strategic deals dominate in record year for M&A

DUBAI - 2015 has been another year of record levels of M&A, with many corporates paying eye-watering sums to do strategic, transformational deals, according to Allen & Overy's latest M&A Insights Report.

17 December 2015
DUBAI - 2015 has been another year of record levels of M&A, with many corporates paying eye-watering sums to do strategic, transformational deals, according to Allen & Overy's latest M&A Insights Report.

Globally, deal values are up by 22% compared with last year to reach an unprecedented total deal value of USD4 trillion, while volumes continue to decline by nearly 13% year on year*. Approximately one third of all deals this year were cross-border, which is consistent with levels seen in 2014. The most active sectors by deal value were TMT and Life Sciences, which accounted for 25.7% and 21% of deal values, respectively.

While strategic deals were the global trend for 2015, the U.S. dominated with the most M&A transactions over USD5 billion. The U.S. was involved in 81 (or 62%) of the 131 deals valued at more than USD5bn globally and closed out the year with two outstanding transformational deals: the proposed USD160bn merger of Pfizer and Allergan, which will be the largest single transaction of 2015, and the planned USD130bn merger of DuPont and Dow Chemical.

Dirk Meeus, Global Co-Head of Corporate at Allen & Overy, commented: "The U.S. has traditionally dominated the M&A market, so it's no real surprise to see this trend play out in an environment with so many mega-deals."

M&A activity is supported by continued strong economic conditions and the availability of cheap debt and financing. A consistent driver for deals has been the search for cost synergies and efficiencies through consolidation. M&A is also being used as a defence tactic, especially in industries challenged by disruptive forces, such as energy services companies that are under pressure from declining commodity prices. Other drivers include shareholder activism, which continues to be a catalyst for doing M&A, and Government privatisation programmes in play around the world.

For the first time this year, Asia has overtaken Western Europe as the second most active M&A market to the U.S. High levels of activity has been driven by Chinese companies doing outbound acquisitions. Big brands and technology companies are particularly attractive targets, presenting an opportunity to shift consumer markets and expertise back to China. This trend is also underpinned by the Government's focus on diversification.

In a year that has seen more multi-billion dollar deals globally than ever before, it is possible to get a distorted view of the market if looking at values in isolation.

According to Allen & Overy, big-ticket M&A looks set to continue. In the Middle East in 2015, geo-political and economic events including declining oil prices did not seem to destabilise the M&A market as much as might have been expected. This may be a sign that investor confidence remains strong, or that companies and private equity (PE) houses are seeking alternative markets in which to invest, for example, Africa.

A significant deal unfolding in Q3 sees bids by GCC- and U.S.-based PE houses to acquire a controlling stake in Saudi Arabian supermarket chain Al-Raya for Foodstuff from owners Levant Capital and The Rohatyn Group. The transaction joins a growing list of deals for consumer-focused firms in the GCC, which have attracted attention from investors for the exposure they give to a predominantly young and growing population with increasing spending power.

What is more certain is the likelihood of seeing more mid-size M&A in 2016. One of the follow-on effects of a boom in strategic deals is that companies will need to reshape their portfolios and dispose of non-core assets. When they do, PE funds are likely to be a major buyer.


For further information, please contact Suzy Baxter,, on +971 (0)4 426 7155.

* Figures for 2015 represent the total number of deals announced between 1 January 2015 and 14 December 2015. Figures for 2014 represent deals announced in the full calendar year.

1. Allen & Overy is an international legal practice with approximately 5000 people, including some 525 partners, working in 44 offices worldwide.

2.. In this press release 'Allen & Overy' means Allen & Overy LLP and/or its affiliated undertakings.

3. The term 'partner' is used to refer to a member of Allen & Overy LLP or an employee or consultant with equivalent standing and qualifications or an individual with equivalent status in one of Allen & Overy LLP's affiliated undertakings.

© Press Release 2015

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