The total value of chemical mergers and acquisitions in the first quarter surpassed that of the first quarter of 2013, and activity for the year as a whole is likely to exceed that of last year, according to a report by the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. The first quarter brought 29 deals with disclosed values greater than $50 million, compared with 24 in 2013’s first quarter. Total deal value of $12.1 billion soared from $5.4 billion in the previous year’s quarter. Five deals worth more than $1 billion were reported; the largest was Ashland’s agreement to sell its water technologies business to private investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice for $1.8 billion. Overall, financial acquirers took a much larger stake, with 21% of deals, up from 13.5% for 2013 as a whole. They represented 40% of deal value in the quarter, driven by economic growth in developed countries and “an improved business climate for chemical producers,” says PwC’s Antoine Westerman. Whereas North America led the globe in the value of chemical businesses sold, China had a slight edge in deal volume.