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by Brenon Daly

We survey corporate development executives every year to get a sense of their shopping plans for the next 12 months. We’ll have a full report on the survey when we return from our holiday break in early January, but the headline finding is that two-thirds of the respondents expect the pace of M&A at their firms to pick up in 2010, compared to just 5% who see the rate tailing off. We would note that bullishness is echoed by technology investment bankers, who we also recently surveyed. (See our full report on the tech bankers’ survey.)

In addition to getting their outlook for the coming year, we also asked corporate development executives to pick a single deal that stood out to them as the most significant transaction of the year. The 2009 winner? Oracle’s (NYSE:ORCL) still-pending $7.4bn acquisition of Sun Microsystems (JAVA). Larry Ellison’s big gamble on hardware received twice as many votes as the second-place transaction, Hewlett-Packard’s (NYSE:HPQ) reach for 3Com (COMS) last month. (HP won the award last year for its purchase of services giant EDS.) Third place was claimed by EMC’s aggressive grab of Data Domain.

From our perspective, it’s fitting that Oracle’s purchase gets the coveted Golden Tombstone for 2009. (As an aside, it’s unintentionally accurate to be referring to ‘tombstones’ in connection with deals this year, if just because the M&A market was as quiet as a cemetery.) After all, 2009 has been characterized by transactions that are cheaper but take longer to close than in years past. Oracle, which announced the purchase of Sun in April but still hasn’t gotten full approval for it, is paying just 0.6x trailing sales for the faded tech giant. It was that kind of year for M&A, and one we’ll gladly put behind us. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2010 when we return from a much-needed break.

Golden Tombstone winners

Year Transaction
2009 Oracle’s $7.4bn purchase of Sun Microsystems
2008 HP’s $13.9bn acquisition of EDS
2007 Citrix’s $500m XenSource buy

Source: The 451 Corporate Development Outlook Survey

Disclosure: No positions

Source: Oracle Gets the Coveted Golden Tombstone