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M&A on a fast upward track

M&A activity in Australia, which has the largest M&A market in the Asia Pacific ex-Japan region, is set to grow by 20% this year, according to JPMorgan.

Local financial boutique East & Partners estimates that purely domestic M&A deals worth about A$11 billion (US$7.7 billion) are due to be completed in 2004 and expects the market to continue to grow by several billion dollars in 2005.

Paul Dowling, principal banking analyst at East & Partners, says the pipeline consists of deals set to take place as a result of consolidation in utilities, state sector assets, telecoms and the retail sector. Shaun Treacy, co-head of investment banking and head of M&A at JPMorgan Australia, says: ?The Duke [Energy] disposal [of its Australian and New Zealand gas assets for US$1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2004] and Singapore Power?s US$3.7 billion offer for TXU Australia confirm that the utility sector is alive.?

Despite the fact that the above utility deals are cross-border transactions, East & Partners says the key difference in this year?s pipeline of expected deals is that they involve fewer cross-border M&A deals. ?Instead of international companies coming into the Australian market to make acquisitions, existing domestic players are fuelling the high level of activity and largely focusing inside the Australian domestic economy,? says Dowling.

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