The pool of strategic buyer candidates runs deep and broad, but an intense buying spree helped propel PPG Industries (NYSE: PPG) to the top in 2014. The 132-year-old paints and coatings supplier won big with a $2.3 billion purchase of Consorcio Comex SA, boosting its presence across an emerging market. PPG also spent roughly $1 billion to snatch up four middle-market targets, contributing to an 8 percent increase in net sales for 2014.

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PPG searched near and far for targets. In February, it picked up Hi-Temp Coatings Technology Co., a supplier of temperature-resistant coatings, based in Boxborough, Massachusetts. That deal was followed by the purchase of Canal Supplies Inc., a Panama-based distributor of protective and marine coatings to customers in Central America, in March.

July was especially busy, when PPG finalized deals for two companies: Homax Group Inc. and Masterwork Paint Co. Homax, a Bellingham, Washington-based maker of decorative wall and ceiling texture repair products, bolstered PPG's construction segment, while fellow Pittsburgh paint distributor Masterwork grew PPG's current 900-store network by 13 additional locations. Masterwork, which caters to the architectural field, helped PPG extend its footprint further into Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio and New York.

PPG also succeeded where others fell short. In November, the company courted Consorcio Comex just months after talks fell apart between the Mexico City-based paint manufacturer and Sherwin-Williams Co. (NYSE: SHW). PPG chief executive Charles Bunch called the Comex deal a major play for PPG, citing little overlap between the two companies across Latin America.

PPG also found itself on the sell-side in 2014. In March, the company sold its 51 percent ownership stake in its Transitions Optical joint venture, as well as its entire optical sun lens segment to Essilor International SA. In September, PPG divested a flat glass-manufacturing facility in Mt. Zion, Illinois, to automotive glass manufacturer Fuyao Glass America Inc. for $22 million.

In a year when there were many savvy strategic buyers outpacing private equity firms, PPG was able to wield M&A effectively. Heading into 2015, it shows no sign of stopping, especially when it comes to growing overseas. In December, the company announced a deal to buy Revocoat, which makes high-performance polymers for the automotive industry and is headquartered in Cergy-Pontoise, France. And in January, PPG made an offer to buy a majority stake of a unit of Le Joint Français, which makes sealants for the aerospace and automotive businesses and is based in Bezons, France.

PPG's growth is fueled by the rebound of various sectors, including automotive, aerospace, energy infrastructure, electronics, packaging and construction. Companies that make paints, sealants, adhesives, fiber glass, inks and coatings, are in full land-grab mode and are continuing to forge deals in 2015.

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