The UK200 2011 | By Catrin Griffiths
4 July 2012
18 July 2011
25 June 2012
The Lawyer Hot 100 2012
17 September 2010
An unsettled year has been assuaged somewhat by leveraged finance and a continuing uptick in foreign-sourced instructions.
For finance practices, the theme of 2010-11 was one of uncertainty, with instability mounting in the eurozone. However, the leveraged market held up well, with standout deals such as Sunrise, RBS WorldPay, Capio Sanidad, Trader Media Group, Refresco and Delachaux. High-yield - despite its temperamental nature - has become a standard component in UK finance practices’ armouries, while international projects work in emerging economies also bulked up the workflow. Meanwhile, the general lending side was slow, restructuring was patchy and intercreditor arguments were rife. Truly, it was a market in flux.
Although this table examines the revenues of the top UK-headquartered finance practices, the fact remains that a number of US firms - notably Latham & Watkins, Kirkland & Ellis and more recently Ropes & Gray - have made considerable inroads into banking and restructuring, with Bingham McCutchen and most recently Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan effectively colonising the contentious end of the business. At the end of the financial year Weil Gotshal & Manges finally committed to investing in a banking practice with the marquee hire of Stephen Lucas from Linklaters.
Allen & Overy’s (A&O) turnover edged up from £486m to £537m. A&O maintained a strong position in the leveraged buyout (LBO) market, despite its 2009 clearout of the LBO group. The firm now spreads leveraged deals around the general banking team, acting primarily for its traditional client base of senior lenders. It occupied an unusual position acting for the mezzanine on WorldPay, but a notable trend for the group was the involvement of a combined bank/bond team on Refreco’s e660m (£568.81m) senior secured note issue and e50m super priority revolving credit facility, Dematic’s e85m super senior revolving credit facility and a $300m (£189.45m) secured high-yield bond issue. In global terms, A&O’s finance group was augmented by a series of hires in its new offices in Australia, Morocco and Indonesia.
Clifford Chance increased its revenue from £486m to £524.2m. It won Finance Team of the Year at The Lawyer Awards for its rocket science work on the formation of the e440bn European Financial Stability Fund and its loans related to Ireland and Portugal - a deal that involved a team panning Paris, Luxembourg, Frankfurt and London. Like A&O, Clifford Chance made a strong showing in leveraged deals, particularly in the first six months of the financial year, as private equity houses embarked on a trading merry-go-round. Deals included Findus Italy and Britax, but there were also long-running global restructurings such as DP World’s, which eventually closed in 2010-11.
Linklaters consolidated its position as a top-tier firm in this field (as shown by its £2.6m revenue per partner figure) with the hire of restructuring star Chris Howard from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, who rejoined his former firm in November 2010 after a six-year gap. Freshfields also lost prominent banking partner Presley Warner to Sullivan & Cromwell in February 2011, sparking the now traditional assertions that the Fleet Street firm was not committed to serving lender clients. That said, Freshfields’ revenue per partner remained high at £2.7m, reflecting the firm’s still-remunerative borrower/sponsor practice.
Among the best performers of the year was Norton Rose, whose combination with Deacons helped propel it up the overall finance table with total turnover going from £119.7m to £151m, and with turnover in London up from £58m to £64m. The cluster of firms with turnovers in the region of £25m-£80m did well to stand their ground in a fluctuating year. Watson Farley & Williams, where finance represents nearly half of the firm’s entire practice, posted revenues of £41.7m. Just missing the table is Stephenson Harwood, which managed a respectable £23m.