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INVESTMENT bank Morgan Stanley beat rival Goldman Sachs to the top spot in the mergers and acquisitions deal value stakes during a tough year, a survey showed.

Morgan Stanley advised on deals worth $585.9bn (£363.4bn), compared with Goldman’s $548.6bn, according to the data group Mergermarket’s Global M&A Round-Up for 2009.

Goldman topped the table in terms of deal volume, completing 244 deals in contrast to Morgan Stanley’s 231.

The pair advised firms on deals in sectors ranging from Australian commodities to US healthcare and technology, Mergermarket said.

“The dynamic duo of the M&A world have benefited from advising clients across the globe on the majority of the largest transactions,” Mergermarket said.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman were the star performers in a year in which the number and value of deals was down 27 per cent compared with 2008, although activity improved in the final quarter, Mergermarket said.

Companies completed 2,523 deals worth $626.8bn in the quarter, making it the best for value since the third quarter of 2008.

Despite market uncertainty, the momentum is tipped to continue in 2010, thanks to firms’ record levels of cash and a thawing credit market.

“2009 was not a good year for M&A. The end of the year, however, showed signs that the recession is coming to an end and M&A is starting to pick up again,” Mergermarket said.