The steep drop-off in dollar volume of M&A activity is especially noteworthy because the total number of deals actually increased slightly, from 397 in 2007 to 404 in 2008. Thus, the average value of M&A deals fell from about $166 million during the first half of last year to $57 million this year, a 66% decline.
JEG's list of the top deals in 2008 tells the story: The biggest deal had Reed Elsevier buying ChoicePoint for $4.1 billion. While a large transaction by any standard, this deal looks modest compared to last year's $18.3 billion acquisition of Reuters by Thomson Corp.
But there are a few bright spots, according to JEG.
Online media and technology is the only category to see more activity both in terms of the number and value of deals. The number of deals in online media and technology increased almost 22%, from 120 in 2007 to 146 in 2008. The total value of these deals increased 40%, from $4.2 billion last year to $5.9 billion this year.