Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the transport sector throughout the world is predicted to rise for the fourth consecutive year, according to a report from KPMG.

The analysis predicts the amount raised by completed M&A transactions this year will exceed £52bn, surpassing last year’s figure of £48bn.

Freight and logistics M&A activity specifically has quadrupled since 2013, according to the report. Completed transactions worth £7.2bn were recorded for the year, which rose to £31.4bn in 2015, with a further £33.2bn worth of upcoming transactions announced during the year.

KPMG identified mergers between asset-light and asset-heavy freight and logistics models to be one of the key trends driving the market. It said that while traditionally, asset-heavy operations have boosted their offerings by acquiring firms with fewer assets but strong IT systems, this had turned around.

Instead, there has been a recent increase in “leaner logisticians” looking for assets to supplement their existing operations.

An example, KPMG said, was XPO Logistics’ acquisition of MT Top 100 stalwart Norbert Dentressangle last year. This gave the US company a foothold – and road transport operation – in Europe.

James Stamp, UK head of transport at KPMG, said: “We expect investment activities in the transport and logistics sector to remain high, driven by the search for growth; changes in demographics and supply chain; evolution of business models; increased focus on customer proposition, and changes to the regulatory environment.

“With interest rates low, returns on asset acquisitions remain attractive. We expect investments will see transactions exceed £52bn on the basis of announced transactions alone.”

M&A activity in the freight sector this year has included Hargreaves Road Services’ purchase of Pryor Group from administration in March; Turners (Soham)’s acquisition of Macintyre Transport in January; Groupe Charles André’s purchase of Simon Gibson Transport earlier this year; and Culina Group’s acquisition of Great Bear Distribution last month.