A pair of new surveys, one by consultancy KPMG and the other by advisers Grant Thornton, show a new wave of mergers and acquisitions activity is beginning that could build through this year and beyond if the economy continues its slow rebound as expected.

Global M&A activity in 2010 totaled $2.4 trillion, up 23% from 2009, according to Thomson Reuters. Most deals in 2010 were smaller, although four topped $20 billion in size. Private equity deals also increased last year, and buyout deals were up 84%, to almost $200 billion. The expectation is that the numbers will be even higher for 2011.

But this uptick appears to be M&A with a difference.

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