2010 Biggest Year for M&A Exits Since — Really? — 1985

Were you sniffing about the economy last year? You must have been among the seemingly select few who didn’t sell their startup in 2010. According to new exit data published by peHUB parent Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association, last year saw more venture-backed M&A exits since people began recording this kind of thing in 1985. According to their findings, 420 deals were sewn up last year, roughly 18 percent of them IT-based.

A notoriously slow period of deal-making, even 2010’s fourth quarter was pretty good for M&A, with 88 venture-backed M&A deals reported as of December 31. Combined, the average disclosed deal value in the fourth quarter was $157.7 million, with HealthSpring’s acquisition of Bravo Health winning biggest venture-backed deal in the quarter. (It was apparently a win for investors, too. Bravo Health sold for $545 million. Backers including New Enterprise Associates and DLJ Merchant Banking Partners had sunk $157 million into the healthcare services company since its 1996 founding.)

You can find a broader array of stats here. You might also want to check out the current edition of Venture Capital Journal for a big blowout piece on last year’s M&A activity. It hits subscribers in a few days, but you can already find the story online.

Thomson Reuters and the NVCA teamed to release more IPO data this morning, too. As some of you already know, last year was actually pretty good for venture-backed IPOs, with 72 companies going public, the highest number since 2004.