White & Case Launches Global Antitrust Merger StatPak: Finds Massive Global Surge in Merger Control Filings in 2021

Press Release
4 min read

  • Offers the first compilation of merger control filings by competition authorities around the world, with real-time, calendar-year statistics
  • US merger filings hit a 20-year high in calendar 2021
  • White & Case data shows a strong rise in merger filings globally in calendar 2021, with Middle Eastern jurisdictions increasingly a factor

Global merger notifications across 24 jurisdictions have increased 35 percent in 2021 against the past five-year average, according to the newly launched White & Case Global Antitrust Merger StatPak (WAMS) survey, a resource providing up-to-date information on merger control filing activity by competition authorities around the world.

WAMS is the first-of-its-kind tool to serve as a clearinghouse for merger notification data, all in one place, in an easy-to-access format. It currently includes filing activity data from 58 of the most active merger control jurisdictions in the world, spanning five continents.

"The number of merger control regimes across the globe has nearly doubled in the past ten years," said J. Mark Gidley, White & Case's Chair of its Global Antitrust/Competition Practice. "As a result, not only has the number of filings increased dramatically, but the surge has led certain jurisdictions to retool how they assess merger activity. With these changing market realities and the rising tide of antitrust enforcement globally, WAMS will be an integral tool for companies assessing antitrust approvals in cross-border M&A activity." 

The data, which has assessed 83,600 merger control filings globally from 2016 through 2021, will be updated regularly, and countries will be added as information becomes available.

United States: Rebounding M&A Activity

While WAMS data revealed that merger control filing activity decreased significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it rebounded strongly in 2021, with a significant spike of filings being detected across the 13 jurisdictions that make this information available.

The US saw the largest increase in Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) merger control filings in 2021, with a 92 percent spike in filings as of November 30, compared to the full 2020 calendar year. The WAMS data also shows that the tremendous jump in US merger control filings seen in 2021 is historic when compared to the level of merger filings at any time in the past 20 years. 2021 was a record breaking year for US mergers. In contrast to the 20-year average for the US antitrust agencies in 2002 through 2020, the YTD for HSR filings more than doubled in 2021 — 137 percent higher over the prior 20-year average.

"The data shows that while the pandemic affected deal-making in 2020, the surge in US HSR activity in 2021 is unprecedented," said Gidley. "When assessing the filings made against pre-pandemic activity, there is a 93 percent increase in filings in 2021 against 2019 levels, reflecting that deal-making is currently at its highest point in the last 20 years. Anticipated changes to tax laws, a strong SPAC market and investors having plenty of dry powder have made US antitrust regulators busier than ever."

WAMS data also shows that November is consistently the busiest month for merger control activity, with November 2021 seeing the highest number of HSR merger filings in the modern era. In November 2021, there were 607 filings representing more than a 40 percent YOY increase from the 424 filings made in November 2020.

United Kingdom: No Brexit Increase in Merger Filings Yet 

While UK authorities had anticipated that M&A activity would skyrocket following Brexit, UK merger notifications have so far not increased in the 2021 calendar year to date, according to WAMS data. As of November 30, 2021, there have been 33 notified mergers in the UK, which is a decrease from the 2020 calendar year's 38 filings, and is significantly below the average 60.4 filings for the five-year period of 2015 through to 2019.

Middle East and North Africa (MENA): Emerges as a New Center for Antitrust Merger Reviews

The Middle East and North Africa's influence as a region of importance for competition law is growing rapidly, with the region showing a strong increase in merger control filings from 2017 through 2020, according to WAMS data. Merger filings in jurisdictions across the Middle East and North Africa have grown annually at a 20 percent pace, and these filings have nearly doubled in the past four years, as merger notification regimes have come into existence and matured.

"Over the past five years, we've seen economic activity rise in the Middle East and North Africa, while many of the merger control regimes across the region have also matured," said Gidley. "Seeing the reactivation of the Moroccan Competition Council in November 2018 has also resulted in more filings in 2019 and thereafter. Based on the data we are seeing, we expect this trend to continue."

Saudi Arabia saw the greatest growth in the region, with 137 merger notifications in 2020, compared to the two notified mergers it reported in 2013, representing a 350 percent growth in filings over the seven-year period. Egypt also has become much more active in global merger clearances.

Germany: Filings Decrease Following Regulatory Changes

After it was unclear how changes to merger filing thresholds would affect the number of notifications submitted through 2021, WAMS data shows that filings in Germany have dropped less than anticipated. Based on YTD results as of November 30, 2021, it appears that notifications in Germany are approximately down 20 percent when compared to 2020, and are down closer to 24 percent when compared to the five-year average for 2015 to 2019.


View the full results of the White & Case Global Antitrust Merger StatPak (WAMS).


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