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Press Release

M&A deals plunge as tougher conditions than expected spook markets, with North America stuck in grip of persisting slowdown

July 6, 2023

Mergers and Acquisitions

LONDON, July 6, 2023 — Global M&A suffered a record decline in the first half of 2023 as interest rate rises and economic uncertainty hit financing, according to research on completed deals from WTW’s Quarterly Deal Performance Monitor (QDPM)[1].

Potential buyers will be kicking the tyres a bit harder as they seek deals to address strategic priorities.”

Jana Mercereau | Head of Corporate M&A Consulting, Great Britain at WTW

Run in partnership with the M&A Research Centre at The Bayes Business School, the WTW data reveals activity for deals valued over $100 million slowed significantly around the world during the first half of 2023, with a total of 280 deals completed compared to 441 during the same period in 2022. This represents a 37% drop in volume and the lowest figure for the first half of a year since 2009.

The challenging macroeconomic conditions are acutely evident in the North American market, where volumes fell for an unprecedented sixth consecutive quarter from a near all-time high of 173 deals in the third quarter of 2021 to just 61 deals between April and June 2023.

In addition to the low number of M&A deals, acquirers that completed transactions in 2023 also underperformed the market by -2.1pp (percentage points). This represents a marked decline following the positive performance of +4.4pp in the second half of 2022. However, despite the continued volatility, global M&A still achieved an overall positive performance of +1.4pp for the last 12 months.

Jana Mercereau, Head of Corporate M&A Consulting, Great Britain at WTW, said: “A perfect storm of higher inflation, interest rates, capital costs and greater regulatory scrutiny, combined with major geopolitical headwinds and a banking crisis, have triggered a steeper drop-off in M&A activity than anticipated by the market.

“Buyers have had to shift gears to adapt to a more cautious M&A environment, although deal conversations have continued throughout this period of uncertainty. With these disruptive trends expected to continue into the second half of 2023, potential buyers will be kicking the tyres a bit harder as they seek deals to address strategic priorities, expand into new markets and fill capability gaps.”

The deal performance during the first six months of 2023 would have been substantially worse if not for the Asia-Pacific region, where buyers continue to outperform the rest of the world. APAC acquirers outperformed their regional index by +10.9pp. With 72 deals closed in H1 2023, the region still saw a 25% drop in volume compared to H1 2022 (96 deals).

In contrast to the APAC region, North American acquirers underperformed their index between January and June by -5.9pp, while dealmakers from Europe underperformed their regional index by -8.3pp.

The WTW data also shows:

  • Only three mega deals closed in the first half of 2023 compared to 12 deals in H1 2022.
  • Performance of acquirers in North America for the second quarter of 2023 at -10.3pp is the second worst on record, exceeded only by the same quarter in 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Acquirer performance in Europe during the last three months is the worst on record at -10.8pp.
  • Asia Pacific buyers have now achieved a positive performance for eight consecutive quarters. To put this in context, buyers in North America and Europe have only recorded two and one positive quarters respectively during the same period.
  • Intra-regional deals have increased for three successive quarters (compared to cross regional deals) and intra-sector deals also experienced a big jump from 57% in the first quarter of 2023 to 67% in the latest quarter (compared to cross sector deals), indicating a clear trend of buyers seeking deals closer to home.

Mercereau said: “When inflation stabilises and credit markets re-open, we expect deal appetite to increase considerably fuelled by pent-up demand with digital transformation, portfolio rebalancing and ESG issues continuing to be key drivers.

“Larger deals will remain tough to pull off due to increasing anti-trust and regulatory pushback. Instead, companies are more likely to pursue small to midsize deals, which are easier to complete than megadeals and lower risk in today’s difficult financing environment. But in the race to acquire - whatever the size of deal - due diligence that is faster, deeper and better focused, combined with a plan for successful integration, will prove even more critical in a volatile market.”

WTW QDPM Methodology

  • All analysis is conducted from the perspective of the acquirer.
  • Share-price performance within the quarterly study is measured as a percentage change in share price from six months prior to the announcement date to the end of the quarter.
  • All deals where the acquirer owned less than 50% of the shares of the target after the acquisition were removed, hence no minority purchases have been considered. All deals where the acquirer held more than 50% of target shares prior to the acquisition have been removed, hence no remaining purchases have been considered.
  • Only completed M&A deals with a value of at least $100 million which meet the study criteria are included in this research.
  • Deal data sourced from Refinitiv.

About WTW M&A

WTW’s M&A practice combines our expertise in risk and human capital to offer a full range of M&A services and solutions covering all stages of the M&A process. We have particular expertise in the areas of planning, due diligence, risk transfer and post transaction integration, areas that define the success of any transaction.

About WTW

At WTW (NASDAQ: WTW), we provide data-driven, insight-led solutions in the areas of people, risk and capital. Leveraging the global view and local expertise of our colleagues serving 140 countries and markets, we help organisations sharpen their strategy, enhance organisational resilience, motivate their workforce and maximise performance.

Working shoulder to shoulder with our clients, we uncover opportunities for sustainable success—and provide perspective that moves you.


  1. The M&A research tracks the number of completed deals over $100m and the share price performance of the acquiring company against the MSCI World Index, which is used as default, unless stated otherwise. Return to article
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