Corporate M&A activity hits all-time high

Global and U.S. merger and acquisition activity both hit all-time highs during the first half of 2018, driven by mega-deals in sectors like media, according to data from Thomson Reuters.

Data: Thomson Reuters Mergers and Acquisitions; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

What to watch: This record-setting half came against the backdrop of rising trade conflicts, but many dealmakers fear that an all-out trade war would severely slow new M&A activity in the second half.

The value of global M&A rose 64% over the first half of 2017, but the actual number of deals fell by nearly 10%.

  • This dichotomy was made possible by a massive increase in deals valued at $5 billion or more (+98%) and deals valued at $10 billion or more (+306%).
  • The U.S. saw a similar split, with deal value up 79% but the number of deals down 13%.
  • The only region with rising deal value and deal volume was Asia-Pacific (both inclusive and not inclusive of Japan).
  • Africa was the only region to see both numbers fall.

U.S.-based companies comprised 41% of all global deal targets, followed well behind by Britain with 11% and China with nearly 10%.

Private equity-backed deals came in at $215 billion. That represents a 46% boost over the first half of 2017, although private equity's piece of overall M&A fell from 9.5% to 8.6%.

Energy and power was the first half's busiest sector in terms of deal value, followed by media/entertainment and health care.

Morgan Stanley took the top spot in terms of M&A advisory work, flip-flopping with Goldman Sachs.

  • This also played out in the U.S., where other notable moves included Citi dropping from #3 to #10.