1997 proves bumper year for corporate merger work

Firms pulled in a record £400m in legal fees for corporate merger advice last year, according to Acquisitions Monthly magazine and there is no sign of a down-turn yet.

Advising on the £9.8bn merger of Guinness with Grand Metropolitan to form Diageo ensured that Slaughter and May, Theodore Goddard, Norton Rose and SJ Berwin & Co were highly placed in the 1997 league table for UK public mergers and acquisitions.

The table of advisers to both companies and financial advisers also includes, at number 12, US firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, which formed part of the team that advised American Electric Power Company and Public Service Company in their £1.5bn takeover of Yorkshire Electricity.

The rankings do not completely reflect the relative fee incomes of the firms since SJ Berwin owes its place at number six to having just one partner, Stephen Kon, advising on the spirits market competition aspects of the Guinness/Grand Met merger.

Allen & Overy is continuing an apparently inexorable rise, up to second from fifth in 1996, eighth in 1994 and seventeenth in 1993.

Acquisitions Monthly editor Philip Healey commented: 'The leading law firms will be rubbing their hands together in glee, particularly as there are no signs of a downturn in M&A activity. In December alone 18 public bids were announced.'