The year 2010, however, holds promise, as corporates will take advantage of the new opportunities, the improving liquidity situation worldwide and the fact that the United States and Europe may witness further consolidation next year.
The global economic slowdown forced corporate India to look largely within the country for merger and acquisitions (M&As) in 2009, accounting for about 60% of the $10-billion worth of deals, reports PTI.
Besides, some foreign multi-national companies (MNCs)—possibly enticed by the world's second fastest growing economy— sought to enter India by buying into local companies, mostly in the telecom, steel and pharma sectors.
Cross-border deals, worth about $4 billion, could have been a lot larger had the estimated $12-billion takeover of global petrochemicals major LyondellBasell by Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) happened this year, and Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel's $23-billion worth deal with South Africa's MTN not failed—for the second time.
Some experts also said that the theme of the M&A space changed in 2009 from 'aggression and optimism' to 'distress sale and desperation' —thus leading to less intense deal activity.
But, it was the Ruias-led Essar group that bucked the trend and constantly went hunting overseas in sectors like oil, telecom and technology and kept the Indian flag flying on deal tables in one of the most difficult times for the global economy.
Good news also came from the Tatas who appeared to have overcome the impact of the global meltdown on their overseas acquisitions of iconic British carmaker Jaguar-Land Rover and steel behemoth Corus in Europe.
"Deals in 2009 were extremely difficult to consummate due to lack of availability of credit, driven by global turmoil as well increased concentration of companies to consolidate their current operations and adopting a wait and watch attitude," PwC's executive director Sanjeev Krishan said.
Consultancy major Grant Thornton said a total of 267 M&A deals were announced during 2009, for a total value of $10.03 billion, as against 454 deals worth $30.95 billion in 2008 and 676 deals totalling $51.11 billion in 2007.
The deal sphere was dominated by domestic deals as there were 142 domestic deals (wherein both the acquirer and the target company were Indian) with an announced value of $5.80 billion, while there were 125 cross-border deals with an announced value of $4.23 billion.
The major deals of the year included the merger of Reliance Industries with Reliance Petroleum, Russia's $676 million investment in Sistema Shyam Telecom, and Tech Mahindra's 31% stake buy in tainted IT firm Mahindra Satyam.
Other major M&As of the year include Sanofi Pasteur (the vaccines division of Sanofi-Aventis) 80% stake buy in Shantha Biotechnics for $664.9 million and Quippo Telecom's $533.3 million investment in Tata Tele Services' telecom tower and infrastructure arm.
Besides, non resident Indian (NRI) billionaire Lakshmi Mittal-led ArcelorMittal, which is waiting for long to establish a presence in India, finally made an entry by acquiring a majority stake in domestic steel firm Uttam Galva.
But, India Inc's shopping spree witnessed a significant decline in 2009 amid economic uncertainties, although experts believe the economy is on the right track to recovery and deal activity next year may rebound significantly provided the pace of recovery in 2010 stays bullish.
The year 2010, however, holds promise, as corporates would take advantage of the new opportunities, slowly improving liquidity situation worldwide and the fact that the United States and Europe may witness further consolidation next year.
But it might still be a little early for popping open the champagne in anticipation that deal activity will bounce back significantly and may even touch the pre-downturn levels, analysts feel.
Grant Thornton partner, specialist advisory services, CG Srividya, said: "While there is clearly an increase in deal activity recently compared to the initial few months of the year, India Inc requires much more confidence, risk appetite and the urge to grow rapidly before we get back to the peak activity levels of 2007 and most parts of 2008."
Echoing similar views, global consultancy Ernst & Young (E&Y) partner and national leader, transactions advisory services, Ranjan Biswas, said: "The outlook for mergers and acquisitions will improve over 2009, but a return to 2007 levels looks unlikely considering the sentiment is still downcast in most developed economies, leveraged acquisitions are still off limits for banks and access to alternative credit markets is still constrained."
"The year 2009 has been a year of introspection for Indian deal makers. It has been a year that witnessed economic uncertainties. The global as well as domestic investment sentiments had suffered a setback," Grant Thornton's Srividya said.
Going forward, PwC's Krishan said: "The FMCG, aerospace and defence and oil & gas sectors also look ripe for significant global consolidation. Another factor would be the re-emergence of the strategic buyers, who had been overshadowed by financial buyers until last year."