Led by the Reliance-Disney merger, the January-March quarter of 2024 has witnessed 427 merger and acquisition (M&A) and private equity (PE) deals worth $20.4 billion in India, Q1 deal tracker analysis of global consultancy Grant Thornton says.

However, if one excludes the $8.5 billion deal between Reliance entity Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd and Star India Pvt Ltd – Disney Star, overall values recorded a 16% decline compared to Q4 2023 and average deal size reduced from $62 million to $32 million during this period.

The other two big ticket deals during the quarter were the $2.5 billion investment by the Data Investment trust in ATC India Tower Corporation Pvt Ltd and $1.1 billion investment by the Highways Infrastructure Trust in PNC Infratech limited - 12 highway assets. The three billion-dollar deals together accounted for $12 billion, or nearly 59% of the total deal values in Q1 2024.

Traditional sectors such as telecom and infrastructure contributed with high-value deals, joining retail and media to dominate the deal values, while Retail, IT, and Banking led the volumes, the deal tracker report states. India also minted two unicorns, Krutrim SI Designs and Perfios, in the first quarter of the year.

"A closer look at Q1 2024 provides hope for a promising start to the year, with certain sectors experiencing resurgence and the emergence of the two unicorns early in the year indicating potential growth opportunities ahead," Shanthi Vijetha, Partner, Grant Thornton Bharat LLP says.

The consultancy notes that the quarter witnessed a 36% drop in the number of high-value deals (≥ $100 million) from 28 to 18, while billion-dollar deals registered an uptick compared to the previous quarter. The cross-border M&A activity witnessed its second-highest quarterly volumes in the last five years, it says. In the case of PE, India saw 307 deals amounting to $8.1 billion, which is a 51% rise in values and 10% rise in volumes over the previous quarter.

"While the upcoming events such as the Lok Sabha elections and Budget 2024 are crucial, a strong pipeline of deals on the back of increased attention from private capital keeps the outlook for 2024 optimistic. These events are likely to result in sectors aligning with the Government's focus areas, which will likely lead to a positive deal flow post-budget as investors keep a close watch on macroeconomic factors," Vijetha adds.

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