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June 09, 2021 | M&A Reports 

Crosbie & Company Canadian Mergers & Acquisitions Report for Q1 2021

Another Record Quarter – Domestic and X-Border M&A Both Strong

Following a record in the fourth quarter of 2020, Canadian M&A surged in Q1 2021 to a new all-time high.   1007 Canadian M&A transactions were announced in Q1, representing an increase of 8% from the prior quarter.      

“While some of this record activity likely represents a continued catchup of deals put on hold early in the pandemic, this may also be a sign of the next leg up in the M&A market,” said Ian Macdonell, Managing Director at Crosbie & Company.  “The M&A market is currently benefitting from multiple tailwinds.  These include expectations of a robust economic recovery as vaccinations lead to re-openings, significant buyer appetite, strong stock markets and excellent availability of low-cost debt financing.” 

The aggregate deal value in Q1 2021 of $81B was slightly less than Q4 2020’s $84B but it compares favorably to pre-pandemic quarterly totals.  There were 10 mega-deals (transactions with values above $1B) in Q1 worth a combined aggregate value of $53.3B.  The largest transaction announced in the quarter was Rogers Communications’ acquisition of Shaw Communications for $26.5B, representing one of the largest domestic M&A deals in the last decade.  

Although domestic M&A activity (683 announcements) was very strong in the quarter, what might be surprising is the strength of cross-border M&A in the context of an effectively closed border.  Cross border activity kept pace with the overall market activity reaching a new high of 436 transactions, representing 43% of total activity.  Moreover, 251 of these transactions were acquisitions abroad by Canadian companies - representing almost 25% of the announced deals in Q1.  From a value perspective, cross border deals declined from 69% of total value in Q4 to 24% in Q1 2020 which is partly a reflection of several very large domestic transactions.  Once again, Canada/US transactions accounted for the majority of cross border deals representing 57% and 71% of total cross border activity and deal value respectively.  

Financial sponsors were active in the first quarter of 2021 with 20 transactions (in excess of $100M) valued in aggregate at $25.4B, a decline from the 30 transactions with an aggregate value of $44.5B in Q4 2020.  Four of the 10 mega-deals in the quarter involved financial sponsors including two transactions where Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board sold portfolio investments.

The mid-market (transactions with values below $250M) also remained very active in Q1.  With 388 announcements, it represented 92% of announcements where the transaction values were disclosed, and 17% of aggregate value for such deals. 

The ‘tech boom’ continues as the Information Technology sector was once again the most active sector this quarter with 129 announced transactions valued at $16B.  The strength in commodities was reflected in 112 Metals and Mining transactions although at a total value of $219M, the average deals size was small.  Real Estate rounded out the top three most active sector with 110 transactions announced and total deal value of $4.3B.  Healthcare related deals continue to increase for the third quarter in a row and Precious Metals has increased activity to 103 transactions from a low of 88 in the last quarter of 2020.  


  • Deal activity in the first quarter of 2021 reached a new high watermark with 1007 announced transactions, increasing by over 26% year-over-over, and 7.7% from the previous high in Q4 2020 
  • Deal value also continued its rebound from the lows observed during the second and third quarter of 2020 with an aggregate deal value of $81B 
  • Despite a closed border, cross-border M&A activity remained strong, with 436 announced acquisitions, representing 43% of aggregate deal activity, in line with previous quarters
    • Canadian companies acquired 251 companies abroad in the quarter, representing almost a quarter of the total in the period


  • There were 10 mega-deals (those over $1B) announced in the first quarter of 2021 with an aggregate value of $53B 
    • This was in line with the fourth quarter of 2020 ($59B) and well above peak pandemic values signaling the completion of some deals that were put on hold during 2020
  • The largest announced transaction this quarter was Rogers Communications Inc.’s (TSX:RCI.B) $26.5B take over of Shaw Communications Inc. (TSX:SJR.B). This deal is one of the largest M&A transactions to take place in Canada of during the last 10 years  

Industry Sector Activity

  • The strength of M&A activity during the quarter was widespread across the industry spectrum, with activity increasing in 9 of the 14 industry categories 
  • Information Technology, Metals and Mining and Real Estate were the most active sectors this quarter with 129 ($16B), 112 ($219M) and 109 ($4B) transactions announced, respectively
  • Healthcare continues to increase for the third quarter in a row and Precious Metals has increased activity to 103 transactions from a low of 88 in the last quarter of 2020 

Breakdown by Transaction Size

  • For transactions with disclosed values, 91% of activity in the quarter represented mid-market transactions (values below $250M)
  • Q1 mega-deal activity (deals over $1B) continues to be strong with 10 announced deals valued at $53B
  • Rogers/Shaw transaction anchored the mega-deals table this quarter

Canadian Domiciled versus Foreign M&A Targets

  • Canadian companies made 749 acquisitions in the first quarter including 498 domestic deals, up 9% from 458 acquisitions in Q4 2020
  • There were 683 acquisitions of Canadian domiciled companies in Q1, a 7% increase relative to Q4 2020
  • Aggregate deal value for these Canadian domiciled targets increased to $50.1B from $33.8B in Q4 of 2020 and $13.5B in Q1 2020

Cross-Border Deals

  • Cross-border deals represented 43% of total activity and 24% of total deal value
  • The proportion of domestic deal value was lower this quarter compared to historical averages due to several large domestic Mega-Deals 
  • Outbound cross-border activity increased 9% and inbound cross-border activity increased by 3% compared to Q4 2020 
  • Canada/US transactions represented 57% of cross-border activity and 71% of deal value

Deals by Provincial Domicile

  • Ontario remains the most active province this quarter with 251 announced deals valued at $8.55B
  • British Columbia was also active this quarter with 155 deals valued at $3.5B
  • Alberta had the largest aggregate deal value of $35.2B, primarily due to the Rogers/Shaw mega-deal

Crosbie & Company Inc.
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Tel: 416.362.7726 | Toll Free: 1-866-873-7002 | Fax: 416.362.3447


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