Yesterday's Handelsblatt informed us that the 133 German corporates listed in the various DAX-indexes had a total of 189 bn € in goodwill on their 12/08 balance-sheets. Of this, 75 bn € was added since 2004, and 13 bn € in 2008 alone.
The biggest acquirers were Deutsche Telekom (21 bn € goodwill), Eon (17 bn €) and Siemens (16 bn €). 13 companies, including Deutsche Psot (10 bn € goodwill) had more goodwill than equity, i.e. their net tangible assets are negative.
Considering that the lion's share of M&A activitiy was cross-border, that the money paid for acquisitions includes not only goodwill, but also net assets, and that non-listed companies also engage in M&A, it appears that during the last 5 years, at least 1-2 % of Germany's GDP went into cross-border M&A.
That's quite a substantial part of the current account surplus. As much of it was clearly acquired at too high a price, it probably wasn't a much better use of investor money than buying American residential & commercial real estate.
In other words: Much of Germany's current account surplus was invested so wonderfully well (in M&A and foreign real estate), that it has all but evaporated by now...