Executive Summary/Highlights

  • Global M&A volume was more than US$5.8 trillion in 2021, the highest annual volume on record. Each of the four quarters of 2021 was one of the top six most active quarters by dollar volume since the beginning of 2010. In addition to a legion of private equity funded transactions, including such major transactions as Blackstone, Carlyle and Hellman & Friedman’s acquisition of Medline at a reported $34 billion, 2021 had its share of large and complicated strategic deals, particularly in sectors fueled by the digital and logistical transformation propelling the global economy, including Discovery’s US$43 billion acquisition of Warner Media from AT&T, Canadian Pacific Railways’ hard-fought bidding victory for Kansas City Southern at US$31 billion, and Square’s US$28 billion acquisition of Australia’s Afterpay.
  • Global M&A volume reached US$1.5 trillion in Q4 2021, the highest fourth quarter volume on record and the third highest quarterly volume, trailing only Q3 2021 (US$1.6 trillion) and Q2 2007 (US$1.8 trillion). Though Global M&A volume in Q4 2021 decreased 5% from Q3 2021, it increased 13% in comparison to Q4 2020 (US$1.3 trillion) and was 43% more than the average Q4 volume of global M&A over the last 10 years (US$1.0 trillion).
  • The record-breaking volume of M&A in 2021 was driven by a surge in deals valued between US$1 billion and US$10 billion. There was US$2.8 trillion of such deals in 2021, an 81% increase relative to the volume of such deals in 2020 (US$1.5 trillion) and a 99% jump relative to the volume of such deals in 2019 (US$1.4 trillion), the last full year prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • 2021’s US$2.1 trillion of cross-border M&A volume was 60% higher than the total cross-border volume in 2020 (US$1.3 trillion) and 60% higher than the average cross-border volume over the prior 10 years (US$1.3 trillion).
  • The Technology sector dominated M&A activity in Q4 2021, with US$313 billion in deals. Technology was the leading sector for global M&A for the sixth consecutive quarter, representing approximately 21% of total global M&A volume in Q4 2021.

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