David Fickling is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian.

Nisha Gopalan is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering deals and banking. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones as an editor and a reporter.

(Corrected )

There was a moment earlier this year when China Inc. appeared to be single-handedly keeping M&A bankers in their Maseratis and Patek Philippes. Chinese companies have announced $128.5 billion of proposed, pending or completed outbound deals in 2016, well ahead of the $106.6 billion from the U.S., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Shop 'Til You Drop
China's outbound M&A deals have totaled about $22 billion more than the U.S. so far this year
Source: Bloomberg data
Note: "Europe" includes only deals in which companies based in the European Free Trade Area made offers for businesses outside EFTA. Intra-EFTA deals are included in "Other".

With state-owned crane maker Zoomlion Heavy abandoning its pursuit of U.S. rival Terex last week, that wave shows signs of receding.

Transactions valued at billions of dollars have now fallen by the wayside. China Resources' $2.5 billion bid for Fairchild Semiconductor, and Tsinghua Unisplendour's attempt to invest $3.8 billion in Western Digital, a disk-drive maker, collapsed amid U.S. national-security concerns.

There are also domestic hurdles. Zoomlion failed to gain support from China's foreign-exchange regulator to convert yuan to dollars for the Terex purchase, an issue that's also holding up a take-private offer for antivirus software business Qihoo 360. Anbang Insurance's $14 billion bid for Starwood Hotels was scrapped in March, with Caixin Online reporting that Beijing's insurance regulator had voiced opposition.

Ebb and Flow
The value of China's outbound M&A is falling back from a peak during the first quarter of the year
Source: Bloomberg data

The biggest of the crop -- ChemChina's $43 billion acquisition of Swiss pesticide and seed-maker Syngenta -- remains in limbo after several farm-state senators called on the U.S. government to again play the national security card.

In the mean time, the value of outbound deals in May looks set to decline for the third straight month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, with the value of completed transactions heading to its lowest level since April 2015. With the yuan again weakening and some analysts predicting renewed capital outflows, regulators are even less likely to look kindly on currency-sapping overseas purchases. Don't be surprised if the M&A tally continues to decline.

That's something that should really keep the bankers up at night: They don't get their big payday unless a deal goes through.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

(Removes erroneous reference to Philips lighting unit from third paragraph.)

  1. Members of the European Free Trade Area take the prize with a $161.2 billion tally.

To contact the authors of this story:
David Fickling in Sydney at
Nisha Gopalan in Hong Kong at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Matthew Brooker at