Mergers and acquisitions are expected to increase this year among mid-market businesses, according to a new survey.

The survey by accounting firm network Nexia International polled the leaders of 66 Nexia member firms, including CliftonLarsonAllen, at the end of 2011. According to the survey, 40 percent of the respondents reported that M&A activity has stayed the same over the past year, while 33 percent said it has increased, Nexia said Tuesday. Looking to the future, 52 percent of survey respondents expect the volume of M&A deals to remain active in the next 12 months, while 36 percent expect deals to increase. Deal value is also expected to remain steady or increase, overall.

“The M&A outlook in the United States is more upbeat than in Europe and the U.K.,” said CliftonLarsonAllen LLP partner Craig Arends, who helped prepare the survey report. “M&A activity is expected to hold steady or increase in 2012 due to low interest rates and the record levels of cash held on corporate balance sheets. Debt markets in the U.S. are also generally favorable.”

According to the firms surveyed, manufacturing is expected to be the most active sector for M&A deals in the next 12 months globally, driven by increases in demand from China, India and other countries. Communications technology and business services will also drive M&A—again in China and India—followed by health care as public health services around the world are increasingly outsourced.

Difficulties in raising financing and a lack of market confidence, followed by an inability to match valuation expectations, may be obstacles to M&A activity, according to the survey. Some firm leaders may need to change their expectations for the value of their firms to align with new market realties, the survey indicates.

Just over half of the firms surveyed advise privately owned companies, including family businesses. The survey suggests that succession planning remains a critical issue for private companies. Many private owners face the choice of continuing the business through a more challenging economic environment and the prevailing difficulties of raising capital to take the business to the next level or selling the business, even at a lower price.

The survey is available at

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