Sullivan & Cromwell and Goodwin Procter top global M&A deal rankings as market continues to slow

Sullivan leads on value, Goodwin on volume as global activity sees largest year-on-year percentage decline since 2009

Sullivan & Cromwell and Goodwin Procter continued to top the global M&A legal advisory rankings respectively for value and volume at the end of the third quarter, according to Refinitiv.

Sullivan is on track to top the rankings by value for a second consecutive year having worked on 127 deals worth $373bn – roughly $64bn more than Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in second place, which had worked on 155 deals worth $309bn by the end of the third quarter. 

Goodwin Procter, which has been investing heavily its European private equity team and launched in Singapore earlier this week, continued to top the rankings by deal volume, working on 819 deals worth $98bn. The strength of this performance is underlined by the fact it advised on almost 200 more deals than second-placed Kirkland & Ellis (631 transactions).

Global M&A activity continued to slow in the third quarter, however, with the value of deals dropping by more than a third during the first nine months of the year. Activity hit $2.8tr, 34% lower than a year ago and the largest year-on-year percentage decline since 2009. The third quarter was also the first quarter that deal value had dropped below $1tr since the second quarter of 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic was in full swing. By volume, activity declined by 17% to 40,300 deals in the first nine months of the year – the lowest at this point in the calendar for two years.

Sullivan's ranking will have been helped by its role in last month’s blockbuster Porsche IPO that valued the German sports car maker at around €78bn. Sullivan advised Porsche SE – the holding company of Porsche’s parent company Volkswagen – on its €10.1bn investment in listed company Porsche AG in what the firm said was one of the largest M&A deals in Europe to date.

Sitting behind Sullivan and Simpson Thacher by value in third place is Latham & Watkins, which ranked second overall in 2021. It trails Sullivan by more than $100bn, working on 497 deals worth just under $261bn. Among deals it worked on in the third quarter is US private equity firm Energy Capital Partners' £1.3bn acquisition of UK waste management business Biffa

Kirkland ranked fourth by deal value, advising on 631 deals worth $235bn, while Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz followed in fifth spot, working on 67 deals worth $231bn. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was the highest ranked non-US firm in eighth place, advising on 158 deals worth roughly $227bn. 

In terms of volume, Latham (497 transactions) sits in third place behind Goodwin and Kirkland with Silicon Valley firms Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (405 deals) and Cooley (373) continuing to benefit from the strength of the tech market. They complete the fop five by volume in fourth and fifth place.

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