Mergermarket year-end rankings finds Kekst again on top

NEW YORK: Kekst led the way in both value and volume of North American M&A deals in 2004, according to Mergermarket's year-end rankings of financial PR firms, released last week.

NEW YORK: Kekst led the way in both value and volume of North American M&A deals in 2004, according to Mergermarket's year-end rankings of financial PR firms, released last week.

Kekst advised on 113 deals last year, with a total value of $236 billion. Senior partner Jeffrey Taufield played down the rankings, saying, "More important is the value added we bring to each transaction."

Brunswick Group was second in value, with 63 deals totaling $198 billion, followed by Citigate Sard Verbinnen and Joele Frank, Wilkinson Brimmer Katcher. Financial Dynamics was second in volume, with 83 deals worth $31.6 billion, followed by Sard and Brunswick.

The most improved firm was Abernathy MacGregor, which rose from 16th place in value in 2003 to fifth last year, handling 23 deals worth $45.3 billion.

Declan Kelly, CEO and president of FD, said the firm was pleased. "We've come [far] and now we're jousting for number one," he said. Kelly added that he put greater importance on deal volume than deal value.

After a relatively slow third quarter, deal value increased more than 40% in the fourth quarter for a strong finish. M&A value for 2004 rose 65% from the previous year to more than $1 trillion. "Many companies have kind of cleaned up their balance sheets from the last few years," said Josh Kosman, Mergermarket consultant editor. "Companies are getting comfortable again with acquiring."

Michael Buckley, a partner at Brunswick Group, said the late surge of activity might have had a political explanation. "A lot of people were waiting to do deals until after the election," he said. "There's somewhat increased confidence in the economy and an increased confidence in the ability to do transactions."

Buckley also noted that all eyes would be on China in the coming year. "We are very bullish about our prospects in that region," he said. "Short term, midterm, and long term, I think we're going to see cross-border M&A activity in increasing amounts involving China."

Kosman predicted "a steady rise" in M&A activity this year, but called the late-year flurry of deals in 2004 "an anomaly."

"This wouldn't have been such a great year if we didn't have that December," he said.

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