An increasing number of privately held businesses (PHBs) around the world are planning to grow through mergers and acquisitions, according to the Grant Thornton International Business Report released on Feb. 17.

The US business consultancy's global study at the end of last year found the number of respondents expecting to make an acquisition in the next three years rising to 34 percent from 26 percent last year.

However, in Vietnam , only 17 percent of PHBs plan to grow through acquisitions in the next three years, down from 19 percent last year.

Matthew Lourey, Advisory Services Director of Grant Thornton Vietnam , explains the global trend: "At a time of improving economic and financing conditions, businesses are again looking towards acquisitions as a means of growing revenues as they shift their mindset from survival to strategic growth."

PHBs in the BRIC economies ( Brazil , Russia , India and China ) are among those leading the way with 44 percent of respondents considering an acquisition, compared to 27 percent in 2010.

Driven by the desire to access new markets and acquire new technology or established brands, 45 percent of businesses in mainland China plan to grow through acquisition, an increase of 19 percent over 2010.

Likewise, Indian companies are now back on the acquisition trail, with 40 percent of them planning an acquisition in the next three years and expecting their deals to be cross-border.

An increase in planned M&A activity is also seen in other major regions. For example, in North America , 41 percent of PHBs are planning acquisitions.

"After two slow years, with an improving economy and easing credit market, there is considerable pent-up demand for acquisitions," Ken Atkinson, managing partner of Grant Thornton Vietnam , explained.

The Grant Thornton International Business Report is a survey of medium to large privately held businesses that researched the opinions of more than 5,700 businesses in the last quarter and 11,000 on an annual basis.

The respondents are chief executive officers, managing directors, chairpersons, or other senior executives in 39 economies, primarily in five areas: manufacturing (25 percent), services (25 percent), retail (15 percent) and construction (10 percent), with the remaining 25 percent spread across all industries./.