By Denny Thomas
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Asia-Pacific M&A volumes fell 3.3 percent this year, recording the smallest annual tally in four years with stock market volatility hitting the confidence of buyers.
On the bright side, according to investment bankers interviewed by Reuters, the 2013 Asia acquisition arena was characterized by larger deals and a 13 percent rise in average fees earned per completed deal, according to Thomson Reuters calculations.
M&A specialists in the region expect takeover activity to improve in 2014 on the hopes that more of Asia's state-owned enterprises will seek to grow outside their home markets.
"We see a continued trend of larger-sized deals," said Rob Sivitilli, Asia head of M&A for J.P. Morgan . "Such deals typically require M&A advice."
Announced Asia-Pacific M&A deals in 2013 totaled $510 billion, according to preliminary data from Thomson Reuters, recording a third consecutive year of decline.
Mergers and acquisitions are a sign of corporate confidence and strengthening financial markets. Asia's share of the global M&A market was about 7 percent in 2000, a figure that rose to 20 percent in 2010 and which has now steadied to between 16-17 percent in the past two years.
GRAPHIC: Asia M&A volume http://link.reuters.com/gym45v
Morgan Stanley topped the 2013 league table rankings for the region, followed by UBS , Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan.
League table standings serve as key marketing material for banks, although more important is a bank's ability to bring revenues to the franchise through deal advisory.
M&A advisory fees in Asia, while a fraction of the total that the United States generates, have been steadily growing, even with deal volumes slowing, thanks to larger transactions.
Clients are beginning to pay for advice and J.P. Morgan's Sivitilli said the average fee per deal earned by the bank jumped 40 percent this year.
Morgan Stanley pocketed $108.3 million from completed deals, according to Thomson Reuters/Freeman Consulting Co, which calculates and estimates fees. For Morgan Stanley, that was a 6.3 percent rise from last year.
Goldman Sachs was No.2 with $87.1 million fees, followed by Citigroup with $80.5 million, the estimated data show. JPMorgan came in at No.5 with $74.5 million.
Bankers expect more M&A deals with Asian buyers and Asian targets in 2014 as valuations in the region remain cheap compared to other parts of the world.
"There continues to be strong cross-border interest in Southeast Asia assets, especially from financial institutions and consumer companies abroad, including Japanese corporates," said Hsin Yue Yong, Goldman Sachs' head of investment banking for Southeast Asia. (Additional reporting by Saeed Azhar in SINGAPORE; Editing by Michael Flaherty and Matt Driskill)