Europe's media industry is expected to serve up a hearty feast in 2005 for the financial gourmands who orchestrate mergers and acquisitions.

Appetites whetted by the completion of media deals worth €16.3 billion ($20.82bn; £11.19bn) over the past year, more than 110 similar transactions are predicted in 2005.

So prognosticates PricewaterhouseCoopers, the audit and corporate finance group, a likely beneficiary of the consolidation frenzy.

In 2004, media sector deals leapt 14% to 97 in number, with the trail blazed by the merger between British TV titans Granada and Carlton.

Among the other mega-deals causing the the moneymen's cup of happiness to overflow was the €2.08bn acquisition of Netherlands-headquartered VNU's directories business by UK private equity groups Apax and Cinven. Likewise, the €1.1bn sale by Hollinger International of The Telegraph Group to the Barclay twins last August.

Of media industry sectors, publishing generated the most activity, the number of deals rising by more than a third to fifty-one, including eight valued at over €50m each.

According to PwC, 2005 bodes well for all whose thumbs are stuck the M&A pie, not least because many players in the game held back last year on major strategic acquisitions, focusing instead on smaller bolt-on deals.

Napkin neatly tucked beneath his chin, entertainment and media partner at PwC Corporate Finance Olivier Wolf believes that interest from private equity groups will underpin deal activity this year.

"Private equity now accounts for up to 45 % of the value of recent deals and will continue to be important in 2005," he burped in anticipation.

PwC also predicts more activity focused on outsourcing deals and joint ventures, citing the proposed Axel Springer-Bertelsmann printing duet. Other sources of growth include marriage broking in online content and advertising.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff