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Asia enjoys a banner year for M&A despite tight travel restrictions

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Photo: iStock

Covid left Asia’s big markets closed to business travel, yet M&A is surging, with Australia and southeast Asia at the forefront of activity. China, where the focus is on local investments, is, however, bucking the trend.

These should have been lost years for Asia’s M&A bankers. Covid’s rapid spread led many of the region’s big markets – among them, China, Singapore and Australia – to all but close their borders to business travel.

M&A volumes should have collapsed. Instead, 2020 and 2021 have been strong and, in some cases, banner years.

It’s easy to forget now, but this corner of the financial markets was already in a spot of trouble when the pandemic hit.

Total M&A activity for Asia ex-Japan in 2019 was $679 billion, down 10.3% year on year and a five-year low, according to Dealogic. Tech and property did well, but other sectors were hit by sluggish global growth and a US-China trade war.

Activity slowed sharply in the first months of 2020, as would be expected, but then quickly picked up speed.

Last year, Asia ex-Japan M&A activity came in at $779.7 billion. The 2021 number is set to be even higher, with deal volume totalling $751.4

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Elliot Wilson is Greater China Editor and Private Banking and Wealth Management Editor. He joined the magazine in 2020 having been a regular contributor focusing on China and the Indian subcontinent, Russia and Eastern Europe/the CIS. He is based in Hong Kong.
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