Goldman led Canadian pack in value of M&A deals in 2014: Reuters

(Reuters) – Goldman Sachs Group Inc led investment banks advising on mergers and acquisitions in Canada in 2014, a year in which big international oil and gas deals were hot before oil prices turned cold.

Before the fourth-quarter collapse of oil prices, Canadian M&A activity last year was dominated by big energy-sector deals such as Spanish oil giant Repsol SA‘s US$8.3 billion bid for Talisman Energy and Encana Corp‘s US$5.9 billion buyout of U.S. rival Athlon.

According to data released by Thomson Reuters on Thursday, the total value of M&A deals in Canada in 2014 jumped to US$203.1 billion from US$147.2 billion in 2013, with Goldman and its international peers enjoying a banner year. Goldman advised on deals worth US$56 billion, including Talisman in the Repsol bid.

“Canada has been dominated by cross-border activity this year,” said David Rawlings, head of JPMorgan‘s Canadian operations. “We feel like the M&A environment – for energy and other sectors – will remain constructive in 2015, although the drivers of the activity may change.”

The top six spots on the Canadian M&A league tables were captured by Goldman, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), JPMorgan Chase & Co, Barclays Plc, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank AG.

Bankers at both the large international and Canadian banks remain optimistic about 2015, despite weak resource prices.

“I think 2015 will be a solid year and it may surprise on the upside,” said Bruce Rothney, head of Barclays Canada.

Despite the few mega deals in which global banks played a significant role, Canadian banks RBC, Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Toronto-Dominion Bank and CIBC advised on the vast majority of transactions in 2014.

Bankers expect an increase in M&A activity in mining, a big sector within the domestic market, but one that has been hurt by a pullback in commodity prices over the last two years.

“We are constructive on the outlook for mining,” said Daniel Barclay, BMO’s head of investment and corporate banking. “We are not talking bull market, but we are way past the bottom.”

The top law firms advising on M&A deals were Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, followed by Skadden and Blake, Cassels & Graydon.

“In terms of M&A activity, I do not think 2014 was an aberration. It was a departure point for more to come,” said Emmanuel Pressman, head of Osler’s M&A group in Toronto.

(Reporting by Euan Rocha and John Tilak; Editing by Peter Galloway)

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