US firms dominate M&A work as deals slump to decade low

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By Thomas Connelly on

Tech suffers particularly badly

Global merger and acquisition (M&A) activity has slumped to its lowest levels in a decade, new research has found.

In what is a major source of revenue for many big City law firms, M&A deals fell by a hefty 17% to $2.9 trillion last year, marking the slowest annual deal-making period since 2013. Over 55,000 deals completed last year, a 6% dip on the previous year.

The report, produced by the London Stock Exchange, found that Europe suffered more than the US, with M&A activity falling by 28% to a 10-year low of $598.1 billion in 2023. The is compared to the 5% decline to $1.4 trillion witnessed in the US.

In slightly more positive news, the report does note signs of recovery in the fourth quarter of 2023.

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In terms of the activity itself, energy and power accounted for $502.3 billion, an 11% uptick on 2022, while healthcare also enjoyed an increase of 11%. Both tech and industrials suffered declines of 47% and 14%, respectively.

So-called ‘mega-deals’ surpassing $10 billion dropped by 13% to $646.6 billion, while cross-border matters were also down 12% to $954.2 billion.

US law firms dominated the global list of M&A legal advisors, with Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins and Davis Polk securing the top spots. Freshfields was the highest ranked non-US firm in seventh.