A deserted Paternoster Square by The London Stock Exchange in March during Covid-19 lockdown heardinlondon; Shutterstock
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and DLA Piper have topped Mergermarket’s European first half M&A league tables for value and volume respectively as activity plunged to the lowest level in more than a decade in the second quarter.
The dire market saw the majority of leading firms record sharp declines in deal value and volume worked on compared to the same period last year with the notable exceptions of Allen & Overy (A&O), which jumped up to third place for deal value from 22nd, and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), which was catapulted to fifth place from 34th.
Conversely, UK magic circle firm Slaughter and May fell out of the top 20 by value having secured third place in 1H19 and fifth in 1H18.
Overall, deal values for Q2 cratered to just shy of $84bn, the first time quarterly activity has failed to surpass $100bn since the third quarter of 2009, according to Mergermarket’s 1H20 M&A report. That meant deal values in the first six months of the year fell to $292bn — almost a third lower than the same period in 2019 and the lowest since 2010.
Jonathan Klonowski, research editor for EMEA at Mergermarket, said: “Amid severe economic contraction, companies have been reluctant to part with any large-sums of money in recent months, with only 19 deals valued above $1bn announced in the second quarter of the year. In contrast, 37 such deals occurred in the opening three months of 2020. The OECD is forecasting severe GDP falls across Europe, with the UK, France, and Italy all projected to suffer a drop by over 10% in 2020.”
As a consequence, law firms advising on European M&A deals saw the amount of work up for grabs dry up, with all firms in the top 20 of Mergermarket’s European league table by deal count working on fewer deals between January and the end of June compared to the same period a year ago.
Even so, DLA Piper maintained its number one position, working on 106 deals — roughly half of what it advised on in 2019. White & Case edged up one spot to second with 96 deals, 20 fewer than last year. CMS fell one spot to third, completing 82 deals, 60 fewer than in 2019.
The European league table by deal value had a slightly different complexion, with two of the top five firms seeing the value of the deals they worked on increase. A&O's third place was achieved by advising on $68bn-worth of deals, 43% higher than in 2019, while HSF's fifth ranking came courtesy of it advising on $66bn-worth of transactions, roughly three-and-a-half times higher than in 2019.
Freshfields rose up two places on its 1H 2019 position to take top spot, advising on $102bn-worth of deals, about a fifth lower than last year. Latham & Watkins ranked second, working on $73bn of deals — 17% lower than the same period in 2019.
|1||3||Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer||102.4||51|
|2||12||Latham & Watkins||73.1||72|
|3||22||Allen & Overy||68||72|
|4||14||Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton||66.5||20|
|5||34||Herbert Smith Freehills||66.3||26|
|6||4||Weil Gotshal & Manges||62.4||24|
|8||1||Kirkland & Ellis||49.5||41|
|10||15||Sullivan & Cromwell||47.6||22|
|2||3||White & Case||45.9||96|
|4||10||Latham & Watkins||73.1||72|
|5||4||Allen & Overy||68||72|
|10||5||Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer||102.4||51|
Further reading on deals
Latin America Covid-19 woes see region's M&A activity plunge to lowest on record — Deal value in first six months of the year falls below previous record low in 2003, Mergermarket report shows
Covid-19 sees US M&A activity suffer bigger decline than during financial crisis — Wachtell Lipton and Kirkland & Ellis cling on to top league table positions despite slowdown
Global M&A slowest since financial crisis as deal appetite slumps amid Covid-19 pandemic — Latham & Watkins replaces Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz at top of global M&A advisory league table for first half of 2020