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Tried and trusted: US M&A in 2017

What's inside

US dealmaking remains robust, as M&A's
strategic value remains as relevant as ever

M&A's strategic importance endures

In spite of an uncertain political backdrop, 2017 was a solid year for M&A in the US. And our exclusive survey reveals the drivers that could continue the momentum through 2018.

Following two blockbuster years was never going to be easy, but US M&A more than held its own in 2017. The total value of US M&A dropped 14.3 percent to US$1.3 trillion year-on-year, but volume increased by 0.4 percent to 5,347 deals.

Putting this into clearer perspective, 2017 value was the third-highest since the economic crisis took hold in 2008. Solid economic fundamentals continue to ensure deals were done—interest rates remain low, equity values are at record highs and there is a high degree of confidence within the business community. The US economy is growing steadily and continues to create jobs.

Uncertainty around the policy direction of Trump's first year as President weighed on dealmakers' confidence in 2017, as have concerns about antitrust enforcement and increased scrutiny of inbound deals by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). Yet passage of a pro-business tax reform bill eased dealmakers' minds. The enthusiasm is evident in our survey of US dealmakers.

The survey also shows that strong strategic reasons continue to drive M&A. Technology is an important driver, disrupting companies in every industry, changing the way business is done and blurring the lines between traditional sector boundaries. “Old economy” companies simply have to buy tech skills and platforms if they are to survive the era of digital transformation. Meanwhile, technology companies are increasingly showing a willingness to acquire businesses that help them break into new adjacent sectors that they see as important for future growth.

Activist investors remain busy, with significant influence on corporate strategies. And traditional activists increasingly behave more like private equity funds as they partner with strategic acquirers or make acquisitions on their own. Meanwhile, private equity firms have record levels of untapped investment capital available for transactions. No dealmaker can afford to ignore macro-economic uncertainty, but the fundamentals supporting an active deal environment remain in place and M&A's strategic importance remains undiminished.


John Reiss
Partner, New York

Gregory Pryor
Partner, New York


Peaks, valleys and plateaus: The US M&A landscape in 2017

Overall deal value declined in 2017, yet it was higher than all other post-crisis years from 2008 to 2013.

street clock

US M&A survey: Drivers, dilemmas and destinations

Our exclusive survey identifies impacts from tax reforms and the repatriation of offshore capital as key areas to watch in 2018. Digital innovation remains a major driver for transactions, while effective due diligence poses a challenge.

New York City

Private equity activity reaches a peak

Record levels of dry powder and intense competition for deals caused buyout volume to reach a record high in 2017, while exit activity is encouraged by high valuations.

US dollar bank notes

Sector watch

Overview: Consumer and financial services power into 2018

The consumer, energy, financial services and tech sectors had standout years in 2017.

Pedestrians crossing in the streets of New York

Technology M&A volume skyrockets

The sector saw the highest number of deals across all industries in 2017, as the hunt for innovative technologies continues to break down sector boundaries.

Pursuit of scale drives consumer M&A

The race to consolidate resulted in a flurry of megadeals in 2017, while the disruptive impact of technology on consumer behavior continues to generate activity.

shopping carts

Insurance deals power financial services M&A

Insurance assets are attracting dealmakers due to low capital requirements and steady cash flows. Established fintech providers are using M&A to expand geographically.

High-rise buildings

Energy dealmaking is fueled by oil and power

Oil & gas dealmaking continues to generate the bulk of sector activity; consolidation in the power sector was driven by unsettled market conditions.

industrial heat pumps

Industrials and chemicals M&A moves into the digital age

While market uncertainty surrounding tax reforms and NAFTA negotiations caused sector deal value to take a hit in 2017, technological convergence continues to generate a healthy level of deals.

petrochemical industry

Searching for the next big thing: Healthcare M&A

The hunt for blockbuster drugs is driving activity within the sector, while technology firms’ increasing presence in the market will be an area to watch in 2018.

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Four key trends moving the M&A needle in 2018

M&A's strategic relevance will ensure transactions continue to close in the face of geopolitical uncertainty. But trends in four areas—taxation, technology, PE, and antitrust—could define the coming year of dealmaking

Brooklyn Bridge, New York

Meet our partners

Global M&A leaders

John Reiss

John Reiss
Partner, New York


Gregory Pryor

Gregory Pryor
Partner, New York


 Dr. Jörg Kraffel

Dr. Jörg Kraffel
Partner, Berlin


Christopher Kelly

Christopher Kelly
Partner, Hong Kong


Allan Taylor

Allan Taylor
Partner, London


 Barrye Wall

Barrye Wall
Partner, Singapore


John Cunningham

John Cunningham
Partner, London


Alexandre Ippolito

Alexandre Ippolito
Partner, Paris



Searching for the next big thing: Healthcare M&A

The hunt for blockbuster drugs is driving activity within the sector, while technology firms’ increasing presence in the market will be an area to watch in 2018.

2 min read

Despite a fall in headline figures, the healthcare sector continues to produce large deals, as companies use M&A to consolidate, reduce cost bases and broaden product portfolios. M&A volume decreased 4 percent to 542 deals in 2017, and deal value fell 15 percent to US$155.2 billion.


Number of deals in the US healthcare sector in 2017


Building new pipelines

Within the pharma sub-sector, companies have made acquisitions to bolster their R&D pipelines and enter new adjacent markets. “There is always the search for the next blockbuster drug. If you can’t develop it on your own, you will go out and you will buy someone that is developing it,” says Mort Pierce, partner at White & Case.

One such example is Gilead Sciences’ US$10.2 billion acquisition of Kite Pharma, which diversified its portfolio away from reliance on its hepatitis C drug pipeline. More recently, Gilead announced its US$567 million purchase of Cell Design Labs, providing it with access to new development pipelines for cancer treatments. Meanwhile, Japanese giant Takeda’s US$4.8 billion acquisition of Ariad delivered results when an Ariad lung cancer drug was approved by regulators a few months after the deal.


Percentage decrease in deal value targeting the sector compared to 2016


Medical muscle

Deal activity within the medical sub-sector is being driven by increasing pressure placed on suppliers to consolidate, reduce prices and create larger product portfolios. These drivers resulted in the largest deal of the year: medical supplies company Becton, Dickinson & Co.’s US$24 billion agreement to buy rival C.R. Bard. Through the deal, Bard adds oncology and surgery devices to its portfolio—both high-growth areas.


Tech infiltration

Healthcare companies are increasingly turning to M&A in response to challenges from technology companies encroaching on their markets. Pharmacy group CVS recently agreed to pay US$67.8 billion for health insurer Aetna in response to news that Amazon was preparing to move into medicine distribution. The deal also provides CVS with more purchasing power when dealing with pharmaceutical companies. “When a company like Amazon picks new areas that it wants to go into, that will spur deal growth by companies already operating in that sector, so that they can compete more effectively,” says Pierce.



1. Becton, Dickinson & Company agreed to buy C.R. Bard, Inc. for US$23.6 billion

2. Gilead Sciences acquired Kite Pharma for US$10.2 billion

3. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and GIC Private Limited agreed to buy Pharmaceutical Product Development, LLC for US$9.1 billion



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