Sullivan & Cromwell tops global M&A H1 ranking as deal activity slows

Simpson Thacher and Skadden complete the top three by deal value, according to Refinitiv

Sullivan & Cromwell is back on top of the global M&A legal advisor league tables at the end of the second quarter by deal value, unseating Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom which had led the rankings during the first three months of the year, according to Refinitiv.

Sullivan – which topped last year’s rankings – worked on 88 deals worth $356bn during the first half of the year, jumping from sixth spot at the end of the first quarter. The firm was among those to have advised Majorel Group Luxembourg recently on its potential merger with fellow customer experience provider Sitel Group, with the combination set to create an €8.6bn global giant.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett remained in second place, advising on 111 deals worth $325bn. It emerged in January that the firm was counselling Microsoft on its landmark $68.7bn acquisition of gaming giant Activision Blizzard, expected to close in 2023. 

Skadden slipped to third in the rankings, working on 86 deals worth $218bn. The firm has acted for Activision Blizzard in the Microsoft acquisition and is also acting for Chinese automotive tech firm ECARX in its go-public merger with special purpose acquisition company COVA Acquisition, in a deal worth $3.82bn. 

Global M&A activity fell by more than a fifth in the first six months of the year, clocking in at $2.2tr, making it the slowest opening half of the year in two years.

Even so, activity remained elevated by historic standards, with the roughly $1.2tr of deals announced in the second quarter marking the eighth consecutive quarter that deal values have exceeded $1tr, Refinitiv said. Despite the general downward trend from last year’s record activity, mega deals – those valued at $10bn or higher – increased by 11% compared to this point in the calendar 12 months ago.

Latham & Watkins – which has finished runner up for two years in a row – ranked fourth, working on 349 deals worth almost $208bn. Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz completed the top five, advising on 48 deals worth $191bn. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was the highest non-US firm in the rankings, edging into sixth spot having advised on 102 deals worth $181bn. Magic circle peer Clifford Chance (17th), India’s AZB & Partners (18th), Canada’s Osler Hoskin & Harcourt (20th), Germany’s Hengeler Mueller (21st) and India’s S&R Associates (24th) were the other international firms in the top 25 by deal value,

Meantime, Goodwin Procter continued to lead the league table by deal volume, working on 553 deals worth $69bn. Kirkland & Ellis was second by number of deals, working on 410 transactions worth $179bn, while Latham & Watkins' 349 deal haul put it in third spot.

Technology-related M&A deals accounted for a quarter of all transactions by value in the first half – a record. Even so, the total value of technology deals fell 19% to $531bn compared to a year ago.

Refinitiv: Global Announced Deals by Value H1 2022 

20222021FirmValue ($bn)Deals
11Sullivan & Cromwell 35688
24Simpson Thacher & Bartlett325111
43Latham & Watkins208349
56Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz19148
611Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 181102
78Kirkland & Ellis179410
85Davis Polk & Wardwell17981
92White & Case161195
1013Debevoise & Plimpton15538

Refinitiv: Global Announced Deals by Volume H1 2022

20222021FirmValue ($bn)Deals
11Goodwin Procter69553
22Kirkland & Ellis 179410
33Latham & Watkins208349
45Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati111240
11Sidley Austin137216
7=8Jones Day18195
7=6White & Case161195
99Baker McKenzie 47167
104DLA Piper 55158


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