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Q4 2023 – Global M&A poised for growth as storm clouds recede

Quarterly Deal Performance Monitor – Q4 2023

January 18, 2024

Global mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity lost steam in the final three months of 2023 with buyers struggling to add value.
Mergers and Acquisitions

Global mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity lost steam in the final three months of 2023 with buyers struggling to add value, according to new research on completed deals from WTW’s Quarterly Deal Performance Monitor (QDPM).

Based on share price performance, companies completing M&A deals in Q4 underperformed the wider market[1] by -13.6pp (percentage points) for acquisitions valued over $100 million between October and December 2023. This result is an all-time low for any quarter since 2008 (when this study began) and follows a negative performance of -8.7pp in the previous quarter.

Run in partnership with the M&A Research Centre at Bayes Business School, the full year figures for 2023 reveal an underperformance by buyers of -7.2pp compared to non-acquirers. This compares to the marginally negative full year performance of -0.8pp recorded in 2022. Despite these latest results, the long-term 15+ year trend shows deals have outperformed the market since the global financial crisis (+1.5pp).

Global deal volume was down by 27% with 619 transactions completed in 2023, compared to 853 in 2022, driven by persistent inflation, rising interest rates and geopolitical instability. Large deals (valued over $1 billion) were down by 30% in 2023, continuing a steady decline that began in 2020, with 145 completed compared to 208 in 2022. Eleven mega deals (valued over $10 billion) closed in 2023 compared to 15 in 2022. These numbers potentially indicate a new baseline and return to pre-pandemic levels.

Jana Mercereau, Head of Corporate M&A Consulting, Great Britain at WTW, said: “It has been a tough 12 months. M&A deals have been weighed down by geopolitical conflict, recession fears, rising interest rates and the high cost of capital. Potential for disruption in 2024 remains considerable, exacerbated by a packed election calendar and a complex regulatory landscape raising more hurdles, scrutiny and longer timetables to complete deals.

“Despite these headwinds, inflation and the cost of financing seem to be stabilising and the record level of dry powder waiting to be deployed suggest a rebound of activity in 2024. With transactions facing greater scrutiny, however, successful bids will depend more than ever on exercising a high-degree of caution, a focus on ‘best-fit’ deals and thorough due diligence.”

North America acquirers closed 317 deals in 2023, 21% fewer compared to the 402 deals completed in 2022. European dealmakers also underperformed their regional index and showed a negative performance of -7.6pp with 117 deals in 2023. Deals volumes are down compared to the 203 deals in 2022.

The Asia Pacific was the only region to outperform their regional index (+6.4pp) with 155 deals completed in 2023. As with other regions, however, Asia-Pacific volumes were down 23% compared to last year (200 deals in 2022).

Mercereau said: “Macroeconomic volatility and geopolitical conflict will ensure conditions continue to test dealmakers over the next 12 months, driving the current trend of targeting smaller mid-market transactions that are easier to execute, less risky to finance, and offer a unique and strategic fit within an acquirer’s portfolio.

“We also expect joint ventures, strategic alliances and minority investments to gather pace in 2024 as companies respond to market disruption by sharing and mitigating risk in pursuit of strategic deals, with a renewed focus on technology not only as a source of growth but to unlock greater value from M&A.”


  1. The M&A research tracks the number of completed deals over $100 million 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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