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Don't blame Obama, mergers are going strong as ever

If you ask some big companies like Halliburton and Pfizer, the Justice Department doesn't seem to have had much enthusiasm for mergers lately.

We've witnessed a string of high-profile companies fail in their merger attempts, and several other companies, including Staples and Office Depot and Aetna and Humana, have come under close scrutiny. And yet, it seems like the rest of the country's mergers seem to be getting by just fine.

In fact, the rate of canceled merger deals (deals that were announced but later scuttled) worth more than $100 million remains around 5 percent, according to a CNBC analysis of FactSet data on more than 7,000 attempted acquisitions by U.S. companies.


But all the bad news for merger-hungry executives hasn't been imaginary. It's just that the number of massive mergers has been growing, and the ones we hear about the most are the big ones that regulators end up killing to protect consumers.

In a statement after Halliburton and Baker Hughes canceled their $34 billion deal, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said: "The companies' decision to abandon this transaction — which would have left many oilfield service markets in the hands of a duopoly — is a victory for the U.S. economy and for all Americans."

Hailliburton said the deal would have benefited shareholders and customers, and that it had to be abandoned after regulatory issues made it untenable. Allergan's CEO was more direct about the termination of its $160 billion merger with Pfizer, saying that the U.S. government directly targeted the deal with new inversion rules.

Let's look at the numbers

It's clear that while moderately large companies are still pushing through mergers at about a normal rate, there has been a pattern of massive mergers falling to regulatory pressure. We broke down U.S. mergers by several cutoffs — $1 billion, $10 billion and $25 billion.

Explore the data yourself below: Blue lines show when successful mergers were announced and then completed, red lines show when canceled deals were announced and then withdrawn. Hover on each line for information and use the buttons to sort by deal size.

A decade of mergers
Show mergers deals worth at least

A recent EY survey found that 93 percent of U.S. executives had walked away from or canceled a deal in the last 12 months, but only 10 percent of them cited regulatory or antitrust concerns. The biggest reason was a gap between buyer and seller price expectations.

About two-thirds of executives said their company had two to three deals working their way through their pipelines, and the vast majority said the M&A markets would stay stable this year. Many more were considering billion dollar deals than at the same time last year. So while executives looking to consolidate their industries may have more to fear, M&A overall is still alive and well.

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