When it comes to the buying and selling of businesses, last year was a big deal. In fact, it was the biggest year on record for business mergers and acquisitions, with global deals approaching $4 trillion, according to Bloomberg Business News.

They ranged from megadeals such as Anheuser-Busch InBev agreeing to buy brewer SABMiller for $105 billion, to local companies such as Kroger Co. acquiring regional rival Roundy’s and Frisch’s Restaurants Inc. being purchased by an Atlanta equity firm.

“It will be hard to beat 2015, but that’s what we said about 2014. Actually the last four years have been really robust,” says D. Brock Denton, partner and co-leader of Keating, Muething & Klekamp’s business representation and transactions practice.

KMK is Cincinnati’s third largest law firm with 110 attorneys, but since its founding in 1954 the firm has grown with a focus on business representation. The business practice group has more than 30 attorneys including 21 partners, nine associates and three “of counsel” attorneys, and is the second largest practice within the firm behind the litigation group.

Besides mergers and acquisitions, KMK has expertise in all facets of business including general corporate issues, securities, taxes, private equity and venture capital. 

“We’re really a full-service business firm representing companies from the entrepreneur just starting out to Fortune 100 publicly traded companies that do serial acquisitions to grow their business,” he says.

Since its founding, KMK has grown with some of the region’s best known companies.

It represented the late Carl H. Lindner Jr. in acquiring savings and loans that became American Financial Corp. and Great American Insurance. It represented the Farmer family, which started as an industrial rag cleaning business, and grew into Cintas Corp., a $4.9 billion uniform and industrial services company. It also helped the upstart regional airline Comair, now a part of Delta Air Lines, buy its first airplane back in the late 1960s.

Although based here, the firm’s legal work stretches across the United States and overseas.

Denton says, “For example, in my practice, I do anywhere from 15 to 25 transactions a year and the last two years only a couple were local. Most of my work has been national in scope.”

Denton sees several factors fueling the growth in business buying and selling activity:

• Businesses have strong balance sheets, with a lot of cash on hand, and are looking for productive ways to deploy it.

• Additionally, debt and equity markets are favorable and financing acquisitions is relatively inexpensive.

• Finally, business investors demand growth and making a strategic acquisition of a competitor can accomplish that faster than trying to grow sales organically.

Among the hottest areas for deals, Denton says, are technology businesses, all types of commercial services, manufacturing and all types of health care companies.

Critics often debate how much economic value is actually created by mergers and acquisitions. But Denton says it can be a win-win for the buyer, the seller and their customers.

“It’s not to say every one is a success,” he says. “But I think if you lay the right foundation going in, there’s no reason they can’t be a success.”