Big US firms in the money as M&A boom elicits double-digit growth

At least 18 of the largest US-based firms have announced growth in both profit and turnover for 2006.

But despite the sustained frenzy in M&A activity last year, the growth is in general steady rather than overwhelming – with a few exceptions.

Several of the top 10 US firms are yet to report their financial results, although if the precedent set by Sidley Austin and White & Case is any indication, double-digit growth can be expected at the US mega-firms.

Chicago-headquartered Sidley grew revenue by 11.6 per cent to $1.25bn (£679.35m). The firm profited from the end-of-year M&A frenzy and landed lucrative instructions such as advising on the £14bn buyout of Clear Channel.

Other firms known to have benefited from the booming M&A market were Cahill Gordon & Reindel and Cravath Swaine & Moore, both of which are yet to announce their 2006 financial results.

Sidley’s profitability, however, increased less dramatically, with average profit per equity partner (PEP) up by just 5.6 per cent to $1.31m (£712,000).

White & Case, by comparison, left Sidley in its wake as far as PEP was concerned. During 2005 PEP at the two firms was almost equal at around $1.24m (£681,000). But White & Case stormed ahead in 2006 posting a 21 per cent rise to $1.5m (£815,000). Chairman Duane Wall said White & Case had done exceptionally well across all its jurisdictions.

Another New York firm to see its profit skyrocket was Willkie Farr & Gallagher, which saw itself enter the elite club of firms that can boast PEPs of more than $2m (£1.09m) for the first time. Both its profit and its turnover rose by a little more than 13 per cent.

Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, meanwhile, maintained its position in the $2m-plus PEP club, posting a 13.7 per cent increase in PEP to $2.9m (£1.58m). The firm’s revenue also rose by 15.1 per cent to reach $556m (£302.17m).

That rise was, however, modest compared with Dechert. The Philadelphia-headquartered firm sustained the massive 30 per cent growth it saw in 2005 to post close to a 27 per cent increase in both PEP and turnover for 2006.

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe mitigated its failed merger with Dewey Ballantine by posting a very healthy 20.2 per cent rise in turnover to $666m (£362m) and a 15.3 per cent rise in PEP to $1.43m (£777,000).

Not to be outdone, Dewey bettered Orrick’s PEP – just – achieving a figure of $1.44m (£777,000). Although it broke the $400m (£217.39m) barrier for the first time in turnover, this increase was less dramatic at just more than 4 per cent.