Failed mergers a sign of the times for big companies

Staples and Office Depot became the latest companies to abandon plans for a merger after facing scrutiny on antitrust grounds.

A U.S. district court Tuesday, sided with the Federal Trade Commission against the $6 billion deal, sending both companies' stocks plummeting. As reported last week, while the overall failure rate for mergers remains near 5 percent, the biggest combinations do appear to be falling apart more often than in the past.

The pattern changes depending on the size of each deal — the trend is clearest for those worth more than $25 billion, according to FactSet data on attempted acquisitions of U.S. companies. Explore the data by sorting by deal size and hovering over each bar below. Blue is completed and red is canceled.

A decade of mergers
Show mergers deals worth at least

The Staples and Office Depot failure comes on the heels of the cancellation of the $35 billion deal between Halliburton and Baker Hughes. Other big companies, including Aetna and Humana, are also trying to push through large transactions under close scrutiny.

Staples will pay Office Depot a $250 million breakup fee, according to a statement by Staples CEO Ron Sargent.

Despite the recent series of high-profile flopped mergers between the biggest companies, the data show that they are being conducted at a normal rate. The cancellation rate is still near decade lows, according to an analysis of more than 7,000 attempted acquisitions worth more than $100 million.

Correction: Halliburton and Baker Hughes canceled a $35 billion deal. An earlier version misstated these facts.