Tech M&A spending hits post-recession high

Contact: Brenon Daly

Lifted by AT&T’s massive consolidation play, tech M&A spending in the just-closed first quarter hit a post-recession record of $84bn – one-third more than the previous high-water mark of $62bn set in Q2 2010. Additionally, the number of transactions in the just-completed first quarter (881) also set a new record. (See our full report on the first-quarter activity.)

And yet even without the landmark telecom deal, Q1 deal flow was surprisingly strong, particularly in March. Excluding AT&T’s planned purchase of T-Mobile USA, the quarterly spending total was higher than both the preceding Q4 2010 and the year-earlier Q1 2010. Most of that, however, was due to a flurry of activity in March, which saw spending at more than twice the monthly rate of the previous half-year and the highest level since last summer. (Again, that’s backing out the $39bn that AT&T is set to spend on T-Mobile USA, a deal that was announced on March 21.)

As the gigantic telecom transaction illustrates, M&A is an inherently lumpy business. So projecting annual totals from a single quarter’s activity doesn’t necessarily make for a reliable forecast. Nonetheless, we would note that the frenetic start to 2011 puts it on track for nearly $340bn in spending for the year. If it comes in at roughly that level, it would mark the highest annual spending total in four years and would not be too far from the level in 2005, just before tech M&A set off on a two-year record run.

Recent quarterly deal flow

Period Deal volume Deal value
Q1 2011 881 $84bn
Q4 2010 775 $37bn
Q3 2010 768 $46bn
Q2 2010 773 $62bn
Q1 2010 847 $30bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase