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08 July 2020

Freshfields and DLA Piper top European H1 M&A tables for value and volume as deal activity plunges

Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills jump up rankings as Slaughter and May drops out of top 20

By Ben Edwards

Paternoster Square by The London Stock Exchange

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.

Mergermarket: Europe 1H 2020 Deals by Value
1H20 1H19 Firm Value ($bn) Deals
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
7 17 Linklaters 59.9 60
8 1 Kirkland & Ellis 49.5 41
9 19 Clifford Chance 49.1 55
10 15 Sullivan & Cromwell 47.6 22

Mergermarket: Europe 1H 2020 Deals by Volume
1H20 1H19 Firm Value ($bn) Deals
1 1 DLA Piper 4.7 106
2 3 White & Case 45.9 96
3 2 CMS 5.5 82
4 10 Latham & Watkins 73.1 72
5 4 Allen & Overy 68 72
6 6 Baker McKenzie 10.7 68
7 7 Linklaters 59.9 60
8 8 Clifford Chance 49.1 55
9 14 Hogan Lovells 9.8 54
10 5 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 102.4 51

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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

Q1 global M&A suffers sharp fall as Covid-19 bites

Wachtell tops US M&A advisory rankings as Covid-19 pandemic halves Q1 dealmaking

Political uncertainty weighs on Latin America M&A activity in first quarter

Asia Pacific M&A slowdown fails to derail region's top deal advisers

Wachtell, Sullivan and Kirkland top global M&A ranking after a near-record year for mega deals

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