Less than half of Canadian business leaders plan to actively pursue acquisitions in the next year, despite how a majority of executives remain optimistic about the economy and corporate earnings, according to a new survey released Tuesday.

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.’s Global Capital Confidence Barometer found that only 46 per cent of Canadian executives say they intend to seek M&A deals in the next 12 months, while 73 per cent of respondents said they expect company earnings will improve.

"Confidence is there, but deal intentions are lacking," said Doug Jenkinson, partner at EY Canada's Transaction Advisory Services practice, in a release. "Canadian executives are taking stock after recent record levels of M&A activity. Unachieved synergies in recent transactions and rising geopolitical uncertainty is pushing deals down the boardroom agenda for the time being." 

Indeed, the EY survey also found that 19 per cent of executives say changes in trade and tariff policies are prompting them to reconsider potential acquisition targets.

"The shift from NAFTA to USMCA is on the minds of executives, and many are waiting for more clarity before firming up deal plans,'' Jenkinson said.

In the first half of 2018, Canadian M&A activity hit $93 billion amid a surge in deals in the cannabis, energy and real estate sectors, according to a report by PwC Canada.