Cross-Border M&A –
2021 Checklist for Successful Acquisitions in the United States

January 19, 2021

M&A in 2020, like much else of a year in which a novel coronavirus exploded into a global pandemic, was both unpredictable and marked by extreme highs and lows. Global M&A volume amounted to $3.6 trillion in 2020, just above the average annual volume of $3.5 trillion over the ten years beginning with 2010. However, the year’s total disguises dramatic volatility in M&A activity over the year’s four quarters, which presented great challenges and opportunities for dealmakers, and made M&A in 2020 exceedingly complex and multi-faceted.

While the first quarter began with several large transactions, including Aon’s $30.1 billion acquisition of Willis Towers Watson and Morgan Stanley’s $13.1 billion acquisition of E*Trade Financial, M&A slowed significantly in the latter half of the quarter as equity markets plunged and the public and private sectors implemented widespread shutdowns in response to the unprecedented coronavirus crisis. In the second quarter, global deal volume declined to levels not seen since the first quarter of 2013, as shutdowns continued and businesses devoted their resources to existence-preserving activities. Global M&A volume was $687.8 billion and $561.4 billion in the first and second quarters, respectively, and $1.2 trillion for the first half of 2020.