The tech industry is leading a record boom in mergers and acquisitions

Microsoft’s $19.2 billion acquisition of Nuance Communications is one of the biggest deals of the year so far.
Microsoft’s $19.2 billion acquisition of Nuance Communications is one of the biggest deals of the year so far.
Image: REUTERS/Mike Segar
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The first half of 2021 has smashed global records for mergers and acquisitions. The tech industry, which saw its fortunes rise during the pandemic, led the charge with an unprecedented frenzy of deals worth more than $671 billion.

As of June 30, businesses worldwide had closed over $2.8 trillion in mergers and acquisitions, according to data from financial intelligence firm Refinitiv. “Over the course of 40 years of tracking mergers & acquisitions, we’ve never seen deal-making at this pace, by value and volume,” said Matt Toole, director for deals intelligence at Refinitiv, in a statement.

The booming merger market is a sign of an economy bouncing back from a pandemic-induced slump, buoyed by low interest rates and fiscal stimulus from governments around the globe. Toole attributes much of the growth to trends that started before the pandemic, including tech industry consolidation, a greater number of private equity firms buying up companies, and the rise of the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC); each of those trends picked up steam this year. Today’s merger momentum shows no sign of slowing. “As fiscal, monetary, and regulatory policies become clearer over the course of the second half of the year, deal-making will have to adapt, but conditions seem favorable for the current momentum to continue,” said Toole.

Tech leads the M&A market

The tech industry accounted for nearly a quarter of all mergers and acquisitions in the first half of the year. Among the largest deals was Microsoft’s acquisition of speech-to-text software maker Nuance Communications for $19.7 billion, announced in April. The total also includes a $31 billion deal to take Singapore-based ride-hailing company Grab public via a special purpose acquisition company announced in May.

Some of the recent tech deals have already triggered antitrust scrutiny. The US Justice Department is reviewing medical industry giant UnitedHealth Group’s $13 billion acquisition of the data analytics firm Change Healthcare. Antitrust regulators all over the world have trained their sights squarely on the tech industry, but most have focused on Silicon Valley tech giants such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple.

Even so, Refinitiv’s data show that tech industry deal volume has accelerated faster than any other sector.