Freshfields and DLA Piper cash in on first half European M&A deal surge

Duo top Mergermarket’s value and volume rankings respectively as total transaction value jumps by 81%
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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and DLA Piper have taken full advantage of a resurgence in European M&A, topping Mergermarket’s H1 rankings for value and volume respectively.

The two firms’ standings at the pinnacle of the respective tables are a repeat of 2020’s mid-year performance, but off that back of many more deals (see tables below). Freshfields has advised on 98 European deals this year, compared to 57 at the same stage last year, with the total value of transactions up by 30% to $147.1bn; DLA Piper’s deal count is up by 42% from 156 to 225, valued at a total of $28.7bn.

In line with global momentum, European M&A came back to life in the first half of the year with 5,374 deals worth $720.5bn, representing an 81% increase from the $397.8bn recorded in 1H20, according to Dealogic’s M&A Insights team. 

Second behind Freshfields by value was Wall Street leader Cravath Swaine & Moore, which jumped from 14th in 1H 2020 off the back of its work on 18 deals worth $144.2b, followed by White & Case, which topped the global 1H table. It advised on 136 European deals worth $112bn. The top five by value is completed by Kirkland & Ellis (98 deals valued at $102.2bn) and Clifford Chance (73 deals, valued at $101.5bn).  

The top three places in the table by deal count, meanwhile, remain unchanged from 1H2020, with White & Case in second, followed by CMS, which advised on 136 deals valued at $12.3bn.

Latham & Watkins has moved up to spots to fourth (128 deals worth $89bn) with Allen & Overy completing the top five (115 deals, $92bn). 

Dealogic’s M&A Insights team flagged the technology sector and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) as key drivers of European deal making. Cross-border activity also shot up after a pandemic-induced lull in the same period last year, with a second-quarter surge allowing outbound M&A to reach $182bn. The team also pointed to a surge in e-commerce activity with almost $30bn spent on e-commerce and online marketplace firms in 2021. This compares to just $10.6bn across the entirety of 2020.

The surge in European M&A has fuelled a spate of lateral hires at the top end of the corporate market in London and Munich, Germany's private equity hub. Notable hires include that of Slaughter and May corporate partner Murray Cox by Weil Gotshal & Manges in London and a pair of Kirkland & Ellis private equity partners by Clifford Chance in Munich.

Mergermarket: European H1 2021 Deals by Value

2021 2020 Firm Value ($bn) Deals
1 1 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 147.1 98
2 14 Cravath Swaine & Moore 144.2 18
3 10 White & Case 112 136
4 9 Kirkland & Ellis 102.2 98
5 4 Clifford Chance 101.5 73
6 12 Sullivan & Cromwell 99.4 28
7 6 Allen & Overy 92 115
8 2 Latham & Watkins 89 128
9 24 Davis Polk & Wardwell 82 28
10 22 Hengeler Mueller 74.8 40

Mergermarket: European H1 2021 Deals by Volume

2021 2020 Firm Value ($bn) Deals
1 1 DLA Piper 28.7 420
2 2 White & Case 112 377
3 3 CMS 12 332
4 6 Latham & Watkins 89 246
5 5 Allen & Overy 92 216
6 12 Eversheds Sutherland 10.5 193
7 4 Baker McKenzie 27.1 168
8 10 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 147.1 152
9 16 Kirkland & Ellise 102.2 144
10 7 LInklaters 66.3 143


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