The latest figures from investment bank Gruppo, Levey and Capell (GLC), New York, confirm the continuing trend toward consolidation in the direct marketing industry. According to GLC, 213 mergers, acquisitions and buyouts occurred in the first quarter, a 99 percent increase over the same period in 1997. Total strategic transactions reached 447, an increase of 46 percent. DM joint ventures and strategic alliances, driven by electronic marketers, search engines and online services, were up 85 percent. E-commerce also was responsible for a 75 percent increase in initial public offerings. New ventures were the only strategic transaction category to decline, falling 25 percent. GLC senior vice president Harry Chevan predicted high stock valuations will drive acquisitions and brand-building will lead to further consolidation of the catalog and supplier segments of the industry.