2008 will be remembered for many things, but the urge to merge isn't one of them.
Global merger volume dropped by almost a third in 2008, ending five years of deal growth as a lack of available credit, plunging stock markets and a worldwide financial crisis undermined companies' ability to make acquisitions.
In perhaps the most dramatic sign of how troubled the M&A market was this year, a record number of previously agreed deals—over 1,100—were cancelled.
"The thing about the last 12 weeks ... the world has completely changed," said Howard Lanser, director of mergers and acquisitions at investment bank Robert W. Baird.
Among the deals to collapse this quarter was the largest-ever leverage buyout as BCE failed to pass a solvency test and a $28.3 billion purchase by a group of private equity firms fell apart.
Mining company BHP Billiton scrapped its $66 billion takeover for rival Rio Tinto in November, while Huntsman terminated its $6.5 billion deal to be bought by Apollo Management's Hexion Specialty Chemicals.
One bright spot was hostile deal activity, with the U.S. seeing the most unsolicited bids since 1999.
Unsolicited deals, in which one company makes an uninvited takeover bid for another, included InBev's $60.4 billion acquisition of U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch .
Some hostile bids failed, such as Microsoft's bid for Yahoo while Samsung Electronics walked away from its $5.9 billion unsolicited bid for flash-memory card maker SanDisk.
And that leads to our Fast Money Reader Poll. Do you anticipate M&A to revive in 2009?
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Reuters and CNBC.com