Page 1 of 4

For anyone expecting a big rebound in mergers and acquisitions, 2011 was a disappointment. A sluggish world economy and a spiraling euro zone crisis muted deal activity. Through early December announced global M&A volume stood at $2.6 trillion, up just 4 percent from $2.5 trillion a year earlier, according to Dealogic. But for rainmakers things looked brighter: Fee revenue rose 9 percent, to $17.7 billion.

The bankers featured in Institutional Investor’s 2011 Rainmakers of the Year claimed a big chunk of those earnings. The top ten deals by fees, as estimated by investment consulting firm Freeman ­Consulting, fetched a combined $800 million, just shy of the $839 million total for 2010.

Cross-border mergers led the way. Five of the ten transactions involved companies from two countries, including the No. 1 deal, French drugmaker Sanofi’s $21 billion takeover of U.S.-based Genzyme Corp. These tie-ups proved lucrative for bankers and shareholders despite a 3 percent year-over-year drop in cross-­border deal volume, from $861 billion to $834 billion, Dealogic reports.

Likewise, some sectors yielded more riches than others. Four of our top ten deals are in health care, which remained robust with volume of $220 billion as of early December, a 5 percent increase over 2010. Telecommunications and high-tech take four positions, even though telecom deal volume plunged 18 percent, to $200 billion. And old media coughs up the big bucks as Comcast Corp.’s $31.5 billion buyout of NBC Universal claims the No. 4 spot. 

Will 2012 bring more rain? “There has certainly been a recent slowdown in announcement activity because of market volatility,” says Anthony Whittemore, New York–based co-head of M&A Americas at Deutsche Bank. “But as the fundamental drivers for deals remain in place, we could see a good snapback in M&A early [in 2012] if volatility subsides.”  — Xiang Ji

1/Stuart Smith & Team/Credit Suisse

For Genzyme, it was the opening salvo of a war on the drugmaker. In February 2009, Henri Termeer, then ­Genzyme’s chairman, president and CEO, received a scathing warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The document listed numerous violations of FDA manufacturing standards at the biotech company’s plant in Allston, ­Massachusetts. It escalated a mounting crisis that included delayed approval of Lumizyme, a drug therapy for the rare genetic disorder Pompe disease, and knocked more than 25 percent off ­Genzyme’s share price in 2009 alone.