Unlike this time last year, prospects for U.S. corporate mergers and acquisitions (M&A) appear robust heading into the new year. And that bodes well for investors astute enough to identify the sectors where action will likely be hottest.
As an indication of the improving outlook, nine deals with a total value of $19.9 billion were announced from the start of December through Christmas Eve. That came on top of November's 14 M&A announcements, which were valued at $63.175 billion - although that number was distorted somewhat by Warren Buffett's $26.52 billion bid for the 78% of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. (NYSE: BNI) he didn't already own.
By contrast, archives of merger-tracking Web site The Online Investor, show 15 deals involving publicly traded U.S. stocks in December 2008, but the total value was a meager $3.986 billion. (That's not counting the $8.8 billion merger of Japanese electronics giants Panasonic Corp. (NYSE ADR: PC) and Sanyo Electric Co. (OTC: SANYY), which brightened the global picture somewhat.) November 2008 had 14 deals valued at just $4.898 billion.