Global deal-making is off to its fastest start since 2007, with the value of mergers and acquisitions struck in the first three months of 2015 up 21 per cent on the same period a year ago, to $811 billion.
Healthcare groups led the way, with a further three deals being announced on Monday. UnitedHealth Group said it was acquiring prescription management company Catamaran in a $12.8 billion all-cash deal, Horizon Pharma, a US-listed drug-maker, reached a $1.1 billion deal for Hyperion Therapeutics and Israel's largest drug-maker Teva Pharmaceuticals bought Auspex Pharmaceuticals for $3.2 billion.
But it was US ketchup maker Heinz that provided the highlight of the first quarter, with the biggest deal of 2015 so far. Its takeover of US consumer foods group Kraft — masterminded by Heinz's Brazilian owners 3G Capital and Warren Buffett — will create a company worth $100 billion including debt.
Heinz's move highlighted three major themes in global M&A this year: the prevalence of larger deals over smaller ones; the US as the center of deal-making activity; and the growing role of independent advisory firms. Neither Heinz nor Kraft relied on the services of a major global bank.