The recently published report ‘M&A in TMT-Themes 2021’ analyzes all deals that had a disclosed deal value of more than or equal to $50 million. Despite the global pandemic, total M&A deal value in the global technology, media, and telecom (TMT) sector reached $1 trillion in 2021, up 30% from 2020. The total number of deals in 2021 reached 996, a huge 44% increase from 2020.

A significant amount of M&A activity was driven by the growing popularity of SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies) in 2021. SPACs refer to shell corporations designed with the single goal of taking companies public, without going through the traditional IPO process. This gained increasing popularity among private companies and acted as a shortcut to listing and raising funds through IPOs. This helped 2021 record the highest deal value over the last five years.

M&A activity was mostly contributed by US-based target companies

GlobalData’s deals database shows that there were 507 deals announced in 2021 involving the acquisition of a US-based company, with a total deal value of $648 billion, accounting for 58% of total transaction value in the sector. Europe ranked second, followed by APAC and the rest of the world. Compared to 2020, M&A transaction value in Europe and China dropped by 23% and 2%, respectively, in 2021. In contrast, the US and the rest of the world noted an increase in transaction value.

Some of the biggest deals in the US were AT&T’s move to combine WarnerMedia’s entertainment, sports, and news assets with Discovery (to create a media company with a combined value of $130 billion); the acquisition of Cerner, a provider of healthcare information technology solutions, by Oracle for $29.6 billion; and the Microsoft and Nuance Communications deal for $19.7 billion.

Top themes driving M&A activity in 2021         

Our thematic analysis of M&A deals announced in 2021 reveals that—when measured by deal value—connectivity, internet TV, and fintech were the top three themes driving deals among the top 100 M&A deals by deal size. These themes were followed by cybersecurity, healthtech, and big data. The major connectivity deals were the acquisition of TIM by KKR for $37.2 billion and the acquisition of Shaw Communications by Rogers Communications for $20.8 billion. The most notable internet TV deal was the afore mentioned merger of WarnerMedia’s entertainment, sports, and news assets with Discovery. Connectivity, fintech, and big data were the top three themes driving the top 100 M&A deals by volume.

2021, a blowout year for mega deals

The number of deals with a transaction value of $1 billion or more (mega deals) has been gradually increasing since 2017. In 2021 there were 220 mega M&A deals in the TMT sector, the highest level in the last five years. That was a 40% rise in volume terms and a 25% rise in value terms from 2020. Mega deals have become steadily more prominent over the last five years.

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By GlobalData

Buy-outs backed by private equity firms, led by the easy availability of financing and the booming stock market, both added fuel to the growth of M&A activity in 2021. The TMT sector adopted its M&A strategy to reflect new patterns of work and everyday life caused by the pandemic, a trend that continued in 2021 and led to a huge growth in transactions. In addition to the healthy growth in M&A transactions following COVID-19, a large proportion of M&A deal value was generated by TMT companies merging with SPAC vehicles, making 2021 a record-breaking year for SPAC deals. Compared to 2020, the number of SPAC deals almost doubled.