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. 

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