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Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

The deal-making story of 2021 is up and to the right.

Driving the news: Global M&A activity is shattering all-time records through the first three quarters of 2021, according to preliminary data from Refinitiv.

By the numbers: Deal volume topped $4.3 trillion, nearly double the year-to-date period for 2020. It's also 34.4% higher than 2007, which was the prior record-holder and one of only two years in which $3 trillion was topped through the end of September.

  • The 2021 data includes $1.52 trillion for Q3, which also is an all-timer. Not just for a third quarter, but for any quarter.
  • Q3 also reflected higher average deal sizes, or at least higher disclosed deal sizes, as the number of deals was hundreds below any of the prior four quarters.
  • Geographically, European deal volume for Q3 is double 2020, while the U.S. is up 32% and Asia-Pacific climbed 21%. U.S. volume comprised 44.9% of global M&A year-to-date, and 36.9% for Q3.
  • Tech continued to lead all other industry sectors, with a 20.7% market share YTD, followed by financials (12%), industrials (11.3%) and energy (10%).

What’s happening? Animal spirits.

What’s the fear? Did you miss the reference to 2007?

The bottom line: This isn't just a deal-making boom. It's a deal-making boom in the context of a global pandemic and expectations of tax and interest rate hikes. Yes, cycles will eventually reassert themselves. But, for now, the economic Teflon is unprecedented.

Go deeper

Oct 15, 2021 - Health

UnitedHealth thinks the worst of COVID may be over

Expand chart
Data: Company filings; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

UnitedHealth Group raised its profit projections for the rest of 2021 even though the insurer covered 60,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations during the third quarter, a number that was "meaningfully above the second quarter," executives said Thursday.

Why it matters: Health insurers expected to incur higher COVID costs in the quarter after the Delta variant ran rampant over the summer, especially in states with low vaccination rates. But UnitedHealth's COVID costs fell in line with its projections and were offset by some providers delaying care again.

The E-commerce shopping spree

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Retailers have gotten really good at selling stuff online. So much so, investors want them to separate from the business units that do just that.

Why it matters: Spinning off these crown jewels may jeopardize both the physical and e-commerce sides of the companies in the long run by breaking the benefits of hybrid operations, analysts say.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. envoy to visit Sudan as "most dangerous" crisis intensifies

The sit-in in Khartoum. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty

U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman will visit Khartoum this week amid what Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has called the “worst and most dangerous" crisis of Sudan’s transition to democracy, two sources with direct knowledge tell Axios.

Driving the news: Roughly 2,000-3,000 people had joined a sit-in in Khartoum as of this afternoon, per Reuters, after protesters massed over the weekend to call on the military to bring down the government. The protests came just four weeks after a failed military coup.