In contrast with first quarter 2008, the volume of mergers and acquisitions sank to 27 in Bulgaria, down by 18%.

Compared to Romania, the size of M&A deals sealed this year marked a sharp reduction from a year earlier: DealWatch sees an 82% decline while investment bank Raiffeisen Bank expects the market to shrink 90%.

First-quarter statistics show the closure of 46 deals at an aggregate value of 631.55 mln euros, down 82% from a year earlier, DealWatch data show.

The volume of mergers and acquisitions in the local market fell 22% versus Q1 2008.

The statistics turn even gloomier when excluding deals that partially include assets in Bulgaria.

The largest deal of the first quarter in Bulgaria was the acquisition by Time Warner of 31% stake in Central European Media that owns TV2 and RingTV channels. The deal was closed at 177 mln euros, but it is taken into account by DealWatch even if it doesn’t involve a company active only in Bulgaria.

Oman’s acquisition of 30% stake in Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank) takes no2 spot as the second largest deal of Q1.

Globally, the M&A market shrank by a third in first quarter this year from prior-year period, down to 444 bln dollars, as the international financial crisis has put an impressive number of deals on ice.

The decline comes in spite of the massive cash pumping from several banks and of the two giant-deals in US pharmaceutical industry evaluated at 110 bln dollars, equivalent to a third of the global M&A market in the analyzed timeframe.