Big is back (sort of)

Contact: Brenon Daly

The number of big-ticket deals in 2010 jumped by one-quarter from the level posted in each of the past two years, an indication that buyers are once again open to a bit more risk. We tallied 40 transactions valued at $1bn or more last year, up from 32 in 2009 and 33 in 2008. One of the reasons for the rise in 2010 – unlike the two previous years – is that the acquirers had to top a pretty bullish tech market to secure their deals. Companies including Isilon Systems, Netezza, ArcSight and 3PAR all got taken off the board last year at their highest-ever valuation.

Also unlike the two previous years, we had a number of ‘serial shoppers’ on the list. Hewlett-Packard inked three 10-digit deals in 2010, while IBM and Intel each closed two of the big transactions as well. And it wasn’t just strategic buyers. The Carlyle Group announced a pair of billion-dollar acquisitions – on back-to-back days, no less. Overall, buyout shops accounted for seven deals last year valued at more than $1bn, up from four in 2008 and five in 2009.

10-digit transactions

Year Number of deals worth $1bn+
2010 40
2009 32
2008 33
2007 79
2006 74
2005 70

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase