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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Global merger and acquisition activity fell sharply in the first quarter of 2020, with dollar volume dropping 28% to $698 billion and the number of deals off 14% to 9,616, according to preliminary data from Refinitiv.

The big picture: The dollar drop was largely driven by the disappearance of megadeals valued at over $10 billion, which fell from $412 billion for the Jan. 1–March 28 period in 2019, to $179 billion that same period this year.

  • U.S. deal value also took a big bite, off 51%, which was enough to offset gains in Europe (+120%) and Japan (+66%).
  • The biggest falls by sector were for energy, health care, and materials. The only significant gainer was industrials, while consumer products, consumer staples, and retail were largely flat.
  • Private equity deal dollars actually rose slightly, bringing its percentage of the M&A market up from 10.7% in 2019 to 15.6% in 2020.

The deal number drop is a bit more complicated.

  • Yes, a 14% fall is significant. And unlike with the deal dollars, private equity played a major role with a 25% year-over-year decline.
  • But it's not much higher than the 13.1% decline between the 2018 and 2019 time periods.

The bottom line: Last year the deal dollar and number drops were nearly on par with one another, which suggests that there has been a lot of downward renegotiation over deals that were almost at the finish line.

Go deeper

Cyber war scales up with new Microsoft hack

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Last week's revelation of a new cyberattack on thousands of small businesses and organizations, on top of last year's SolarWinds hack, shows we've entered a new era of mass-scale cyber war.

Why it matters: In a world that's dependent on interlocking digital systems, there's no escaping today's cyber conflicts. We're all potential victims even if we're not participants.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
21 mins ago - Science

Spaceflight contests and our future in orbit

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wealthy private citizens are increasingly becoming the arbiters of who can go to space — and some of them want to bring the average person along for the ride.

Why it matters: Space is being opened up to people who wouldn't have had the prospect of flying there even five years ago, but these types of missions have far-reaching implications for who determines who gets to make use of space and for what.

1 hour ago - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: America looks for the exits after a year of COVID

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

A year after the coronavirus abruptly shut down much of the country, Americans are watching for a clear signal of when the pandemic will be over — and most won't be ready to ditch the masks and social distancing until they get it, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

The big picture: The poll found that more Americans are expecting the outbreak to be over sooner rather than later, as vaccinations ramp up throughout the country — but that very few are ready to end the precautions that have upended their lives.

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