Mergers at snail's pace

A long-awaited rebound in global mergers is taking its time to arrive. But for all the hand-wringing by bankers and lawyers, the business of arranging deals has not quite disappeared yet.

A long-awaited rebound in global mergers is taking its time to arrive. But for all the hand-wringing by bankers and lawyers, the business of arranging deals has not quite disappeared yet.

Despite a strong start that yielded four blockbuster transactions in one week, the first half of 2013 was the slowest first six months for mergers in four years. Deals worth about $US996.8 billion were announced in that period, a sum that was down 13 per cent compared with a year earlier, according to data from Thomson Reuters.

The number of deals announced worldwide for the first six months was 16,808, the fewest for the period since 2003.

The slack pace has confounded many advisers, who continue to see an abundance of the traditional building blocks of a merger boom.

"We're seeing buyers and sellers talk about deals, only to see them die in the marketplace," said Scott Barshay, from US law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

The price of borrowing money remains near record lows, giving buyers relatively low costs for acquisitions.

"I think the reason activity is more muted is that many of today's decision-makers were also in very important seats during the financial crisis," said Michael Carr, head of mergers and acquisitions in the Americas at Goldman Sachs. "They saw what happened in the markets, and those memories will take a long time to fade."