Global mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity increased in the third quarter of this year, according to research on completed deals from WTW’s Quarterly Deal Performance Monitor (QDPM). Global volume rose by 16%, with 151 deals over $100 million in value completed during July to September, making it the busiest quarter of the year so far.
Despite this latest upswing in deal activity, large deals (valued over $1 billion) have continued to see a steady decline in volume that began in 2021, with 32 deals closed during July to September 2023. For the same quarters in 2022 and 2021, 50 and 67 large deals were completed, respectively.
David Dean, managing director, Mergers & Acquisitions, WTW, said: “Rising interest rates translating to higher financing costs, increased antitrust scrutiny and a more cautious attitude from lenders have been driving the sluggish pace of bigger, more complex deals.
“While it is too early to call a comeback, the recent rebound in deal volume across regions indicates pent-up demand, with M&A activity anticipated to improve as dealmakers enter the final and busiest quarter of the year.”
Run in partnership with the M&A Research Centre at the Bayes Business School, the WTW data reveal macroeconomic pressures have taken their toll on deal performance. Based on share price performance, buyers underperformed the wider market by –8.7 percentage points for deals completed between July and September 2023. This is the worst quarterly performance since this study began in 2008.
The M&A data show that Asia Pacific continues to be the only region to outperform its regional index. For the ninth consecutive quarter, buyers in the region outclassed their index with a positive performance of +7.6 percentage points, with 35 deals closed in the third quarter of 2023. This also represents an increase of five deals compared with the previous quarter.
Acquirers from both North America and Europe saw a similar increase in deal activity. North America buyers completed 77 deals during July to September this year, which is a 12% increase over the second quarter. Meanwhile, buyers from Europe completed 32 deals in the third quarter of 2023, up from both the first and second quarters. In contrast to the Asia Pacific region, however, acquirers in North America and Europe underperformed their regional indices by –10.3 percentage points and –3.4 percentage points, respectively.
With the exception of the energy/power and industrials sectors, where M&A deals recorded a marginally positive performance of +1.5 percentage points and +1.9 percentage points, respectively, compared with non-acquirers in their markets for the year to date, all other industries, including high technology (–18.5 percentage points) and financial services (–7.2 percentage points) have underperformed.
Dean said, “There is almost no margin of error in M&A deals today. With M&A activity widely expected to pick up pace, companies need to be ready to identify the right targets, how they fit in their business, navigate accelerated due diligence processes driven by aggressive timelines and above all ensure the right people are integrated to maximize M&A value.”