European M&A activity has plummeted this year, but within the Nordic region deal volume is rising, optimism is growing and, crucially, there are signs of new hiring within M&A teams.
According data from mergermarket, the value of European M&A transactions in the first three quarters of this year fell by 70% compared with the same period last year, and 48% by volume.
Within this, Nordic deals made up just 3.4% of activity by value but 10.8% by volume, with a number of Nordic operators moving up mergermarket's list of rising stars in the market.
Oslo-based Arctic Securities this year entered the company's list of top 20 financial advisers to European mid-market M&A deals by value, moving up from 81st to 18th place on the back of seven deals worth $867m.
Within the Nordic and Swedish markets, SEB Enskilda has knocked PricewaterhouseCoopers off the top spot, at least in terms of M&A deals by volume, with Goldman Sachs and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch taking the plaudits respectively for deals by value.
Other Nordic players to make the list this year so far include Oslo's ABG Sundal Collier, Swedbank Markets, which has also been rising fast, and Nordea Corporate Finance.
"The Norwegian economy, compared with many of the Nordic economies, is looking pretty strong. There has been a lot of activity going on," explains Petter Bakken, head of corporate finance at Arctic Securities, citing Cisco's $3bn cash offer earlier this month for Norwegian videoconferencing company Tandberg as a good case in point.
"We are also seeing a lot of activity within the oil-related sectors, shipping and energy, as well as number of smaller and more medium-sized deals, NOK1bn ($176m) or below."
But is this increased activity in the region leading to an appetite to hire?
Bakken believes so: "Among the investment banks, hiring is not, I would say, aggressive, but they are now becoming more open to recruitment than they were before the summer."
Commonly, the aim has been mostly to add people at relatively senior levels, such as associate or vice-president, including encouraging expats back from London and New York, he argues.
"2009 has turned out to be, so far, quite a good year in fact for the investment banks and we are optimistic for 2010, as I think we will see some more M&A activity as well as more IPOs coming to market," Bakken adds.