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Optimism for M&A and capital markets in 2020

Cornelia Andersson
Cornelia Andersson
Head of M&A and Capital Raising, Product Strategy, Refinitiv

Are deal makers more optimistic at the start of 2020? Refinitiv’s annual Deal Makers Sentiment Survey asked 450 senior professionals in the investment banking community about their hopes and fears for the year.


  1. Deal makers have been increasingly optimistic about M&A and capital markets in 2020, with 47 percent anticipating growth in M&A volumes this year.
  2. Findings from the annual Refinitiv Deal Makers Sentiment Survey highlight unforeseen economic events as the most likely to influence deal making in the year ahead.
  3. Fears of protectionist policies have dropped slightly, from the second biggest concern last year, to the fifth for 2020.

Refinitiv’s annual Deal Makers Sentiment Survey this year involved contributions from more than 450 senior M&A and capital markets professionals.

The survey provides one of the most comprehensive snapshots of what the community expects from the year ahead, including confidence levels, growth expectations, and insight into where they expect the challenges to lie.

Download the annual Refinitiv Deal Makers Sentiment Survey

The findings from the previous year’s survey reflected caution. Compared to the 2018 figures, equity capital markets (ECM) activity underwent the slowest annual period since 2016.

M&A activity totaled US$3.9 trillion — the fourth largest annual period since records began in 1980, and DCM markets activity increased 14 percent.

So, were our survey respondents more bullish when they spoke to us as 2019 came to a close? Our 2020 survey findings reveal a broadly positive trajectory, with expectations of growth widely held, particularly in M&A and debt issuance in Asia.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Deal makers were more optimistic about M&A volume growth in 2020 than they were at the start of 2019. Forty-seven percent anticipate growth, with an average predicted growth rate of 4.7 percent compared with -0.6 percent in 2018.
  • Asian deal makers anticipate a stronger M&A global growth rate — 10.4 percent — than American and EMEA counterparts.
  • The areas which are expected to have the biggest impact on deal making are: economic, trade, and political.
  • Corporates are increasingly positive on M&A, and are more optimistic than investment banks and advisory. Average growth is predicted to be 7.4 percent.
  • More deal makers in the Americas expect an increase in the global equity market than the other regions. In EMEA, deal makers predict a lower rate of growth.
  • Sixty-two percent of all deal makers consider that European companies will be more attractive post-Brexit, a significant increase on 2018.

A focus on corporate sentiment

The proportion of corporate deal makers expecting revenues to increase has risen from 63 percent to 69 percent in the past year. Corporate confidence on revenue and capital expenditure is in line with the 2019 sentiment, with two-thirds expecting revenue growth.

Those expecting hiring to increase strongly during the year has gone from a negligible response to 15 percent. Capital expenditure is expecting to remain broadly flat.

Corporate confidence. Optimism for M&A and capital markets in 2020When it comes to macro-economic and world events, corporates are alive to potential unknown-unknowns, with 76 percent referencing an “unforeseen economic event” as most likely to influence deal making in 2020, compared with 60 percent of banking and advisory respondents.

With coronavirus continuing to spread and raising fears of a global pandemic, such concerns appear prescient and well-founded.

M&A and capital markets concerns

Overall, respondents were most concerned about the prospect of recession and the re-negotiation of global trade agreements. Notably, fears of protectionist policies have dropped slightly, from the second biggest concern last year, to the fifth for 2020.

There is a notable regional difference between respondents around the threat of international conflict derailing deal makers, with 68 percent in the Americas citing this, compared to 54 percent in EMEA.

In contrast to relatively measured predictions about economic growth, ‘lacklustre corporate growth’ is well down on the list of priorities, in sixth place, just above the threat of a large-scale terror attack.

To find out more about the state of M&A and capital markets in 2020, download the report

Webinar: What is in store for 2020 global deal making? Optimism for M&A and capital markets in 2020

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