The Mergers & Acquisitions Review: Editor's Preface

As highlighted by the previous edition of The Mergers & Acquisitions Review, the resilience of companies was severely tested in 2020 by the covid-19 pandemic. However, the second half of 2020 saw a rebound in M&A activity, with deal totals 122 per cent higher in value (US$2.5 trillion) and 5 per cent higher in volume (16,700 deals) compared to the first half of the year.1

The figures for the first half of 2021 tell a similar, and equally promising, story – deal value has almost tripled from €849.8 billion in the first half of 2020 to €2.4 trillion in the first half of 2021.2 This strong rebound has taken place in tandem with the broader recovery of the global economy, and the re-surfacing of countries from national lockdowns.

Leading the charge were the North American M&A markets, which saw deal value almost quadruple from €285.6 billion in the first half of 2020 to €1.2 trillion in the first half of 2021.3 US dealmaking, in particular, has benefited from a substantial injection of capital into the economy by the Biden administration, most notably the US$1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill approved by Congress in March, as well as a proliferation in the number of special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) and the unprecedented levels of funds raised thereby. In the Americas more broadly, the leading sectors for the first quarter of 2021 were technology, media and telecoms (548 deals totalling US$206.1 billion), industrial and chemicals (300 deals totalling US$100.8 billion) and financial services (170 deals totalling US$99.5 billion).4

The buoyancy of M&A activity in North America has meant that Europe's share of global M&A value has decreased from 28 per cent in 2020 to 21 per cent in the first half of 2021.5 Notwithstanding this proportionate decline, European dealmaking has also enjoyed a prosperous first half of 2021, with volume up 44 per cent and value rising 89 per cent year-on-year.6 Private equity was particularly active in this period, with private equity firms investing €193.2 billion in buyouts during the first half of 2021, almost equalling the €194.5 billion of buyout activity recorded across the whole of 2020, and exceeding the €168.8 billion and €174.7 billion recorded in 2019 and 2018, respectively.7 In the first half of this year, private equity firms substantially reconfigured their portfolios, with 614 exits worth a total of €101.4 billion (in excess of pre-pandemic levels) taking place.8

Looking forward to the remainder of 2021 and beyond, there is plenty of cause for optimism. The unique challenges posed by the pandemic appear, at least for now, to be behind us, and the restoration of normality (or at least a new normal), in global M&A and in the broader sense, is taking shape.

I would like to thank the contributors for their support in producing the 15th edition of The Mergers & Acquisitions Review. I hope the commentary in the following 36 chapters will provide a richer understanding of the shape of the global markets, and the challenges and opportunities facing market participants.

Mark Zerdin
Slaughter and May
November 2021


1 Mergermarket, 'Global dealmakers: Cross-border M&A in 2021'.

2 CMS, 'Road to recovery: European M&A Outlook 2022'.

3 ibid.

4 Mergermarket, 'Deal Drivers: Americas Q1 2021'.

5 CMS, 'Road to recovery: European M&A Outlook 2022'.

6 ibid.

7 Mergermarket, 'Deal Drivers: EMEA HY 2021'.

8 ibid.

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