Freshfields’ trip

Latest M&A data puts Freshfields ahead of Linklaters on the global stage

Annual M&A data for UK deals for all of 2012 until 17 December suggest a poor year for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer at first glance, but closer inspection shows the year was far from bad for the magic circle firm.

According to data from Thomson Reuters, the firm advised on deals with UK involvement totalling $50.7bn (£31bn) in value, putting it behind a group of US firms including Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Cravath Swaine & Moore and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. It appeared to be truly eclipsed by Linklaters, whose $102.9bn combined deal value put it at the top by a mile.

But worldwide rankings show a different story. Skadden comes top on $323.4bn but Freshfields nudged ahead of Linklaters, with the rivals advising on $237.4bn and $209.7bn, respectively.

Freshfields London corporate head Julian Long, as you would expect, said the firm takes a global approach to M&A and is more interested in global than UK figures, where market activity has been low.

Plus the UK rankings do not include the mammoth UK-centred deal of the year, commodities trader Glencore’s £41.8bn merger with mining group Xstrata, as both have their headquarters in Switzerland. Freshfields partner Julian Makin led for Xstrata while Linklaters’ Charlie Jacobs handled matters for Glencore, and both instructions contributed to Linklaters’ and Freshfields’ top-two finish (in that order) on deals with any European involvement.

On US deals, Wachtell led easily on $251.5bn. Freshfields clocked up $70.4bn of American deals in 15th place, with Allen & Overy ranking 16th on $67.5bn. Linklaters, however, does not even make the top 25, despite roles for Amil Participações on UnitedHealth Group’s $4.9bn acquisition of a stake in the Brazilian healthcare company and for insurance giant WellPoint on its takeover of Amerigroup, also for $4.9bn.

If Linklaters could only add the US to its existing high-ranking M&A practice, just think what it could be.