The number of buyouts and their value keeps on climbing, but a drop in fees private equity firms pay bankers reveals a sea change in how private equity firms are financing deals. According to figures from Freeman & Co. and Thomson Financial, p.e. firms paid 14% less in fees last year even while buyouts soared 39%. The research found that fees for arranging junk bonds was down by more than half, while syndicated loan fees reached their highest level since Freeman started keeping track of such figures more than 20 years ago. In addition, banks received 42% more in fees for advising on mergers, while losing an equal percentage for handling p.e-backed flotations. Only three of the top 10 advising banks saw a spike in fees most notably Barclays Capital, up an astounding 745.2% from $9 million to $76.4 million JPMorgan Chase, up 16.4%, and Goldman Sachs, up 4.1%. Biggest losers: Merrill Lynch, which saw a 44% decrease, Citigroup, off 36.3%, and Deutsche Bank, down 29.6%. The latest study is at odds with an earlier one from Dealogic, which anointed Goldman Sachs Capital Partners king of the p.e. sponsors in the first quarter with $130 million fees to banks; Permira Advisers tops the Freeman/Thomson list with $111.1 million.