Merger and acquisition activity in the United States has typically run in cycles, with peaks coinciding with periods of strong business growth. U.S. merger activity has been marked by five prominent waves: one around the turn of the twentieth century, the second peaking in 1929, the third in the latter half of the 1960s, the fourth in the first half of the 1980s, and the fifth in the latter half of the 1990s.

As Y2K proved to be a non-event, year 2000 saw SBC Communications acquiring Ameritech Corp. for $70.4 billion. One of the world’s largest oil companies, Exxon Corp., acquired Mobil Corp. for $85.1 billion while largest acquisition of all time took place as Vodafone AirTouch acquired Mannesmann for $202.8 billion. While nowhere near this amount, Pfizer, Inc., acquired Warner-Lambert Co. for $88.8 billion.

2001, GlaxoWellcome acquired SmithKline Beecham for $78.7 billion in another instance of the pharmaceutical industry shrinking. 2001 also saw the second-largest acquisition in history as struggling America Online acquired Time Warner for $181.6 billion.

Bell Atlantic Corp. acquired GTE Corp. for $71.3 billion in 2002. During the same year, Comcast Corp. acquired AT&T Broadband for $72.0 billion.

In 2005, Royal Dutch Petrol acquired Shell Trans. & Trade for $80.3 billion, creating Royal Dutch Shell.

2006 saw AT&T Inc. acquiring BellSouth Corp. for $89.4 billion, despite reservations from anti-trust regulators. A year later, Alteria spun-off Kraft Foods, Inc. to its shareholders for $61.6 billion. RFS Holdings acquired ABN-AMRO Holdings for $98.2 billion, making it the fourth-largest acquisition of all time.

In 2008, shareholders acquired Phillip Morris Intl. for $113.0 billion, making it the third-largest acquisition in history while Gaz de France, a French transportation company, acquired Suez for $75.2 billion.

And finally, 2009 witnessed the U.S. Treasury Dept. acquiring GM Certain Assets for $61.2 billion on the promise that they would return the company for profitability.


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