The overall position comes in spite of a flurry of high-profile transactions in France, including the first ever hostile foreign bid for a French company.
Last week, Pechiney, the aluminium group, agreed to a sweetened bid from Alcan of Canada. This followed Suez’s $4.2bn sale of its water treatment company, Ondeo Nalco, to a private equity consortium and the proposed $14bn sale by Vivendi Universal, the media group, of its US entertainment business to NBC.
A recent survey by Goldman Sachs of its top-100 clients showed a big improvement in chief executives’ outlook between April and June and a doubling in their plans for M&A.
The volume of deals in the US, virtually at a standstill in the first quarter because of the uncertainty surrounding the war in Iraq, has also fallen sharply during the third quarter, with about $101bn announced this year, compared with $144bn for the same period last year.