Sullivan leads global M&A ranking from Latham and Kirkland as deals smash through $5tr barrier
US firms dominate global ranking with domestic deals accounting for almost half of record-breaking worldwide activity, according to Refinitiv
Global M&A activity smashed through the $5tr barrier for the first time on record as companies rush to make deals while interest rates remain low.
That $5tr milestone is 40% more than the value of transactions recorded in the whole of 2020 and almost a fifth more than the previous annual record of $4.2tr hit in 2015, according to Refinitiv data. The number of deals is also the highest since records began in 1980, currently standing at more than 52,000 – 22% more than during the same period of 2020. The vast bulk of those deals have been in the US, with US targets accounting for 45% of global activity. That dwarfed China – the second most active jurisdiction – which accounted for 9% of activity.
Given that large share of US deals, US firms dominate Refinitiv’s top 20 M&A legal advisors league table, with Sullivan & Cromwell leading the pack having worked on 198 deals worth $551bn, just short of an 11% market share. Latham & Watkins ranked second, advising on 710 deals worth $504bn, or a 10th of the market, while Kirkland & Ellis ranked third, advising on 789 deals worth $498bn. Davis Polk & Wardwell and White & Case completed the top five, working on 207 and 411 deals worth $474bn and $451bn respectively.
Technology is the leading sector globally for M&A activity, accounting for roughly a fifth of overall deal value ($989bn) – a record high, and 94% more than the value of all tech acquisitions agreed last year.
Private equity deals also accounted for a fifth of overall deal value, 81% more than 2020 levels and 53% more than the previous annual record of $663bn hit in 2007 in the run up to the global financial crisis.
The number of mega deals – transactions valued at $5bn or more – currently stands at 154, another record. That compares to 110 during the whole of 2020. The combined value of those 154 deals is more than $1.7tr – the highest level since 2015.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, Cravath Swaine & Moore and Paul Weiss completed the global top 10 legal advisor league table. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was 11th – the highest non-US firm in the rankings and one of three to make the top 20, the others being Herbert Smith Freehills (12th) and Allen & Overy (16th).
Record deal activity has helped fuel a salary war in the US, London and other legal centres as firms battle to hold on to their associates. A recent survey by Thomson Reuters and Georgetown Law’s Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession found that more than half of firms (51%) are now viewing acquiring and retaining talent as a high risk to future profitability.
|1||Sullivan & Cromwell||551,487||198|
|2||Latham & Watkins||503,915||710|
|3||Kirkland & Ellis||497,749||789|
|4||Davis Polk & Wardwell||474,087||207|
|5||White & Case||451,375||411|
|6||Simpson Thacher & Bartlett||439,689||227|
|8||Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz||383,209||98|
|9||Cravath, Swaine & Moore||353,643||78|
|11||Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer||309,156||261|
|12||Herbert Smith Freehills||269,507||182|
|15||Debevoise & Plimpton||204,666||106|
|16||Allen & Overy||202,384||263|
|17||Ropes & Gray||188,254||232|
|18||Alston & Bird||176,619||151|
|19||Gibson Dunn & Crutcher||171,584||186|
|20||Jones Day||169, 297||393|