ZURICH -(Dow Jones)- Swiss firms are far more upbeat on dealmaking this year, though experts don't expect a return to levels of mergers and acquisitions seen before the financial crisis until 2012 or 2013, according to a quarterly study carried out by consulting firm Ernst & Young.

"We expect calendar year 2011 to be significantly stronger than 2010 in terms of Swiss mergers-and-acquisitions activity as the corporate world's appetite for dealmaking has returned. The last quarter of 2010 was an indication of the improvement in the Swiss M&A market," E&Y's Swiss head of M&A Juerg Stucker said at a briefing.

As in the past, dealmaking in the fourth quarter was skewed by major transactions like Novartis AG's (NVS) $38.7 billion purchase of Alcon Inc. (ACL) from Nestle SA (NESN.VX). Two late-year deals--ABB Ltd.'s (ABB) $4.2 billion bid for Baldor Electric Co. (BEZ)and CVC Capital Partner Ltd.'s $3.5 billion purchase of Sunrise Communications AG from Danish Telecommunications provider TDC A/S (TDC.KO)--also dwarfed other 2010 activity.

Stucker said the factors speaking for mergers and acquisitions are easier financing, larger cash piles--remnants of firms securing as much financing as they could when debt markets seized up during the financial crisis--a generally more bouyant economic outlook in Switzerland, and a strong Swiss franc as an acquisition currency.

The notable exception is financial services, where firms remain lukewarm on dealmaking, E&Y's Stephan Haagmans said.

"For banks, the focus is much more on fulfilling their regulatory obligations, and M&A has definitely been relegated to the back burner," Haagmans said. UBS AG (UBS) and Credit Suisse Group (CS) are grappling with a Swiss top-up to stringent new international banking rules, dubbed Basel III, and the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, is set to enter force in 2013 as an effort to clamp down on abuses of tax havens.

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