NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Four out of five middle-market business leaders expect to engage in a merger or acquisition transaction in the next three years. That's a healthy outlook for investment banks and asset managers, said Sam Hendler, managing director at Harris Williams.

"There is going to be a tremendous transfer of value that takes place over the next several years through M&A, and tremendous wealth creation," said Hendler.

Harris Williams partnered with Inc. to survey nearly 700 leaders of privately held high-growth companies from the Inc. 5,000 list. The survey asked owners, partners and top senior executives at middle-market companies across a wide range of industries about their near-term plans for M&A.

According to the survey, almost 81% of business leaders indicated they are interested in some form of M&A over the next three years. While some business leaders intend to buy or merge with another company to drive further growth, 52% indicated that they anticipated selling their businesses.

The most active M&A players right now, according to Hendler, are in the health care, consumer, and information technology sectors.

"We are seeing very high multiples driven by significant amounts of corporate capital available," said Hendler, "as well as tremendous capital overhang and private equity dollars to be invested."

Although most business leaders expect to experience an M&A event in the near future, only 25% of respondents had a detailed exit strategy in place. Over 43% say their strategy is "still evolving," while more than 30% say they haven't begun to formulate one.

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