New York's leading law firms enjoy IPO revival

New York’s elite law firms are riding a wave of initial public offering (IPO) optimism. After months of ominous quiet on the IPO front, firms are beginning to see renewed interest in equity capital markets. Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Shearman & Sterling and Cravath Swain & Moore have bagged the two biggest IPOs of the year so far.
Last month, the IPOs of insurance company Travelers Property Casualty and Alcon raised $6.2bn (£4.35bn) between them in the same week. Nestlé spin-off Alcon listed on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $2.3bn (£1.61bn) from nearly 70,000 shares. It briefly held the top spot for largest US IPO of the year, until its performance was surpassed the next day by Travelers’ IPO, which generated $3.9bn (£2.73bn), making it the biggest ever US offering of an insurance company.
Citigroup subsidiary Travelers was advised by Skadden Arps partners Ken Bialkin and Gregory Fern-icola. The IPO was underwritten by Salomon Smith Barney. Cleary Gottlieb securities partners Allan Sperling and Leslie Silverman acted for the bank. It is the second time Travelers has gone public. The company was listed in 1996 and then taken back into private ownership in 2000.
Bialkin said: “It obviously has been a very successful deal. It was an intricate deal because it was not just an IPO but part of an overall restructuring to spin out most of the remaining shares that were held by Citigroup. It involves the re-entry of the Travelers business as a separate and free-standing entity.”
Bialkin was positive about the perceived pick-up in equity transactions. He said: “There is a sense that there will be a significant recovery in the capital formation and debt and equity issuings in the next 12 months, barring a resurgence of terrorism. There is a substantial optimism emanating from the US and radiating elsewhere.”
Sperling said: “I think there is a much better tone to the market and people feel we’ve turned a corner. I think, however, that markets are still relatively weak and will remain weak for more speculative deals. Travelers was a quality deal.”
By sales, Texas-based Alcon is the largest eye-care company in the world. A Cravath team headed by John Gaffney acted for Alcon. The offering was underwritten by lead managers Credit Suisse First Boston and Merrill Lynch. The banks were advised by a team led by Linda Quinn, a partner in Shearman’s New York office.
Shearman managing partner Robert Treuhold said: “Shearman worked on the year’s first billion-dollar-plus IPO. I believe this is a sign that the equity markets are picking up, though investors will continue to be more selective than in the past.”