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Lawyers and bankers alike were celebrating in October following a dramatic upturn in corporate activity, with several big-ticket M&A deals hitting the headlines on the last day of the month, including Telefonica's 18bn recommended takeover of mobile telecommunications business O2 and the 410m management buyout of discount retailer Peacock. Meanwhile, rumours regarding possible bid approaches for glassmaker Pilkington, ports operator P&O, construction group Mowlem and Aston Villa Football Club were also rife.
Simmons & Simmons was the surprise beneficiary of Telefonica's takeover of BT spin-off O2. The 18bn bid is one of the largest-ever corporate deals in the telecoms sector and is also the biggest-ever all-cash bid for a UK target. Simmons first made contact with Telefonica after advising the Spanish telecoms business on the purchase of a 240m (161.4m) stake in China Netcom earlier this year.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has also benefited hugely from the unprecedented level of M&A activity. Within months of Freshfields completing a dramatic facelift of its corporate practice, the magic circle firm claims it has been inundated with instructions. The firm is sitting on the opposite side of the negotiating table to Simmons on the Telefonica/O2 marriage. Meanwhile, corporate partners Ed Braham and Farah Ispahani advised Goldman Sachs on the Peacock management buyout - the first UK leveraged buyout by hedge funds. Allen & Overy - led by corporate partner
Andrew Ballheimer, who is most famous for advising US sports tycoon Malcolm Glazer on his successful takeover of Manchester United Football Club - advised the hedge funds Och-Ziff Capital Management and Perry Capital Management on the landmark Peacock deal.
There are some key differences between the state of the M&A market today and what the City witnessed during the height of the dotcom boom. For instance, most of the deals announced in recent times involve traditional companies with trading histories. In contrast, in 2000 most deals centred around fledgling lossmaking businesses. Another noticeable difference is that a number of the deals announced last month involve foreign bidders and UK targets.