The protracted £50.2bn takeover of ABN Amro by a Royal Bank of Scotland-led consortium was big enough to propel Allen & Overy (A&O) up Bloomberg’s global and European M&A advisory tables for 2007.
A&O landed the European top spot and shot up 12 places to rank second in the global M&A tables for 2007 after leading the advice to ABN, among other top deals it landed in a bumper year.
Despite the credit crunch, 2007’s overall activity shattered past records with more than $4tr (£2.017tr) tabled in 32,662 announced deals. New York-headquartered Sullivan & Cromwell retained its title as global M&A champion, advising on $434.28bn (£218.96bn) worth of deals.
Other firms involved in the ABN takeover, including longstanding ABN counsel Nauta Dutilh, also benefited from the deal, making it into the top 10 European firms after a 23-place improvement on last year.
Meanwhile, Uría Menéndez also had a standout year in the rankings. The Spanish best friend of Slaughter and May outperformed its UK ally to gain eighth place in the global table – an astounding 30-point improvement on its 2006 result and nine places better than Slaughters.
Uría also did well in the European table, reaching fifth place compared with being ranked 21st last year. It advised Spanish bank Santander as part of the consortium that beat Clifford Chance client Barclays to win the battle for ABN, which was the biggest deal in the world in 2007.
Other standout deals for Uría included advising construction group Acciona on its joint £29bn bid with Italy’s Enel for Endesa, the world’s second-largest deal of 2007.
A&O topped the sector tables worldwide for both financial services and non-cyclical consumer industries, as well as being the best-ranked UK firm in the global, US and European tables for principals’ counsel in M&A.
Although A&O headed the European table for principals’ counsel, it was magic circle rival Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer that led in Bloomberg’s European rankings of advisers with any involvement in M&A for the second year running.
Freshfields global head of corporate Andreas Fabritius told The Lawyer: “We’ve had a very strong position for the last few years. If you top the rankings one year, it’s good. If you do it for two years, it’s wonderful. If you manage it for three years it reflects your true market position.”
He said the firm had largely hedged against the downturn caused by the credit crunch because the dominance of highly leveraged private equity-based deals had ebbed to the advantage of strategic buyers even before August’s slowdown. Examples included longstanding client ICI’s £8.1bn takeover by Dutch giant Akzo Nobel.
A&O corporate partner Alan Paul agreed. “2007 was really about a return to pure corporate,” he said. “I think we can expect that to continue in 2008.”
Looking at the global deal table of advisers with any involvement, Freshfields came second to Sullivan in those ranked by value, advising on 359 deals worth $516bn (£260.17bn). In that table, Freshfields pipped A&O, which came third.
The magic circle generally did well in the global tables tracking principals’ counsel ranked by volume, with all four firms landing in the top six. Clifford Chance advised on the most global deals in 2007 of the magic circle, with 453 under its belt, just beaten by DLA Piper in second place with 455 deals and Jones Day, which led with an impressive 522.
Freshfields also led the UK table by value, advising on 116 deals worth $320.42bn (£161.58bn).
The UK rankings in general painted a picture of consolidation, with the top five places remaining static from last year. However, Freshfields managed to boost its market share by 9.3 points.
Speaking from Germany, where the firm also led the pack, Fabritius said: “Our priorities for 2008 are similar to those for 2007: maintaining our market-leading position in the UK, Germany and China – three of our key markets – and concentrating on growing our share in other European jurisdictions as well as in Russia and the Middle East.”
The magic circle also did well in the US in 2007. A&O snuck into the top 10 – the only European firm to do so – of the rankings of principals’ advisers, while Freshfields and Clifford Chance both improved on their 2006 positions to gain places in the top 20.
A&O’s Paul commented: “This is really a development of what we’ve been doing for the last few years, namely building client relationships. In the States, for instance, we won a place on General Electric’s M&A panel.”
There was a slight shake-up in the top five rankings of US advisers, with Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom being nudged down to fourth place and M&A powerhouse Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz taking pole position, with $288.11bn (£145.27bn) worth of deals.
Canadian firm Blakes made an appearance in fifth place, due largely to its role advising telecoms company Bell Canada Enterprises on its $48bn (£24.2bn) buyout, the biggest take-private in Canadian history.