Number crunching: Norton Rose

The all-singing, all-dancing Norton Rose global network has held up well in international corporate work, especially since mergers in Australia, Canada and South Africa gave it access to key energy and resources markets.

It was proud, for example, to win a role for Allied Gold Mining on its triple listing in London, Toronto and Sydney last year, shortly after the merger with Canada’s Ogilvy Renault and Australian firm Deacons went live.

But how does its global M&A practice really fare?

The proportion of global revenue coming from outside the UK is usually the measure of how international a City firm is: the magic circle (excluding Slaughter and May) is almost defined by the fact that all four bring in more abroad than on home soil. They see the business as truly international – borders are irrelevant.

Norton Rose has also made the case for its position as an international practice de rigueur. It brings in roughly 65 per cent of its £488m global revenue from outside London, according to The Lawyer UK 200 Annual Report 2011.

But The Lawyer has decided to set money aside for once and take a look at how Norton Rose’s M&A practice looks based purely on deal numbers. Data from Thomson Reuters stretching from 2006 to late 2011 shows 810 M&A deals on which the firm or its merger partners have advised globally.

This includes deals carried out in Australia, Canada and South Africa before Norton Rose opened there. Of these deals, 277 involved only a legacy firm and not Norton Rose itself. The location of a deal is defined by the location of the target.

Of the 810 deals, 159, or just under 20 per cent, were acquisitions of UK, Isle of Man or Channel Islands targets, the latter two locations accounting for just a handful.

Outside the UK, the firm’s strongest card by volume is Continental Europe: it won roles on 178 deals, representing 22 per cent of all M&A mandates.

Australasia is not far behind on 21 per cent, while Canadian deals account for roughly 16.5 per cent of the global deal count. Perhaps surprisingly, only eight of the 134 deals where the target was Canada-based took place in 2011, a year in which Norton Rose went live with its first Canadian merger and announced a second. There were 39 US-based deals.

Asia is a strong point, but deal numbers are well down on Europe and Australasia. It advised on fewer Chinese or Hong Kong deals than US ones, despite having offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Acquisitions of Chinese or Hong Kong entities accounted for 31 deals, while the rest of Asia added a further 45.

The African M&A practice is relatively small: it advised on 12 North African, 11 Central African and three South African deals.

The mergers of this year and last, which have given the firm its first South American office, are sure to bolster these numbers and the lagging South American figures: only six deals were takeovers of South American or Caribbean targets.

It will be interesting to take another look in a year or two and judge the effects of the firm’s recent global expansion.

Norton Rose in Canada

Norton Rose’s record on M&A deals where the target was Canada-based has been mixed, judging by data from Thomson Reuters. The firm and its extinct merger partners only won two mandates in 2006, rising to 19 in 2007 and peaking at 44 in 2008. Volume dropped to 24 in 2009, no doubt due to the credit crunch, before rising to 37 in 2010. Startlingly, it then only advised on eight Canadian deals up to November 2011, when it merged with Montreal’s Ogilvy Renault and announced a tie-up with Calgary-based Macleod Dixon.

Ogilvy’s top five deals in Canada

  1. One of the firms advising Alcan on its $43bn (£27.4bn) merger with Rio Tinto in 2007
  2. Among the firms advising US pulp and paper company Bowater on its 2007 £2.7bn Abitibi-Consolidated merger
  3. Acted for Canadian drug company Valeant Pharm alongside US firms on its £2.7bn merger with Biovail in 2010
  4. Advised transport client CHC Helicopter on its £1.4bn takeover by private equity group First Reserve in 2008 alongside three other firms
  5. Advised Canwest and a Goldman Sachs affiliate on the acquisition of media company Alliance Atlantis in 2007 for £1.3bn. Six law firms advised the acquirer in total