Australia is set for a surge in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in 2010, says Australia-based international law firm Freehills.

In 2009, Freehills advised on the most number of M&A deals of any Australian law firm.

“Heightened momentum in takeovers and schemes is the next logical move following the hectic capital markets agenda that dominated 2009,” Freehills corporate M&A partner Rebecca Maslen-Stannage said in a statement.

“Australia is well positioned for an increase in M&A activity in 2010.”

Ms Maslen-Stannage said strong companies that had raised capital were moving beyond just thinking of survival and had positioned themselves for future growth.

Australia had been resilient during the global financial crisis, which had not escaped the attention of foreign investors.

Foreign investors were likely to be interested in high-quality resources, financial services and property assets.

“Strategic international players will look to strengthen or extend their foothold, with foreign buyers looking for key infrastructure assets,” Ms Maslen-Stannage said.

This trend had already started with the interest of the Canadian Pension Board in Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group and tollroads operator Transurban Group.

“We expect to see a high demand for safe and quality investments and we anticipate renewed activity and consolidation in the REITs (real estate investment trusts), technology, insurance and property markets,” Ms Maslen-Stannage said.

“Another driving factor behind the surge in M&A is that key cornerstone investors who came to market in 2009, including Warburg Pincus, China Investment Corporation and Brookfield, will be looking for their investee companies and entities to be active.”