Merger and acquisition (M&A) discussions in the specialty contracting industry are not dead, according to the findings of Columbus Capital Co., a New York investment banking firm. They aren't even injured, the firm maintains, though some acquirers are limping.

In its new study on M&A in the specialty contracting industry, Contractor M&A: 2001 Mid-Year Review, the firm highlights nearly 300 contractor deals and multiple emerging trends.

According to the study, the meltdown of the public financial markets — particularly a handful of high-profile rollups — has taken much of the wind from buyers' sails. However, some markets within the broader contracting industry still attract acquirers' interest. Highly sought after contractors include those in the electrical, telecommunications, utility line, HVAC, and roofing markets.

Of the specialty contractor owners interviewed, 71% believe overall M&A activity in the contracting market will increase or stay the same during the next 12 months. Another 88% expect utilities will increase or maintain their deal-making pace.