Simpson Thacher tops M&A rankings for Q1 as activity falls

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has acted on M&A deals worth over $112bn so far this year, more than any other firm in the first quarter of 2016.

According to data from Thomson Reuters, the deal value of Simpson Thacher’s 26 transactions were higher than any firm, while second-placed White & Case won mandates on 43 deals, which totalled $94.5bn.

So far this year, a total of 6,718 deals have been announced worth $526.9bn. However, the M&A market has been slower in the first quarter of this year compared to 2015, when deal value totalled $684.3bn for the first three months of the year. A number of corporate partners have suggested that uncertainties in the market are causing some companies to rethink their position, singling out Brexit, falling oil prices and the Chinese economy.

Simpson Thacher’s dominance in both the worldwide and European rankings has been particularly down to its involvement in two of the largest M&A transactions this year. The US firm won a lead role in China National Chemical Corporation’s (ChemChina) $43bn acquisition of Syngenta, while it also acted for Tyco International in its $20bn merger with Johnson Controls.

But with ChemChina’s purchase of Swiss-based Syngenta serving as the biggest deal so far this year, local firms also found their way on to the table in the first quarter of 2016.

Homburger and Bär & Karrer have both worked on deals worth $48.3bn so far this year, earning them joint tenth position in terms of total M&A value. Meanwhile China’s Fangda Partners has also reaped the benefits of ChemChina’s investment in Europe, working with the Asian conglomerate on its Syngenta purchase.

2016 Q1 worldwide M&A ranking
Rank Firm Total value ($bn) Number of deals
1 Simpson Thacher & Bartlett 112.6 26
2 White & Case 94.5 43
3 Davis Polk & Wardwell 79.6 24
4 Osler Hoskin & Harcourt 78.6 15
5 Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom 73.6 41
6 Cravath Swaine & Moore 72.5 14
7 Sullivan & Cromwell 59.7 22
8 Fangda Partners 55.4 5
9 Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton 51.9 10
10 Homburger 48.3 3
10 Bär & Karrer 48.3 2

Since the start of 2016, last year’s champion Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has dipped to fifth position advising on 41 deals worth $73.6bn. The new entries at the top of the worldwide rankings have also seen UK firms such as Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Clifford Chance drop out of the top 10 for the first quarter of 2016, with the highest ranked M&A law firms instead comprimised of US, Chinese and Swiss firms.

However, Freshfields still leads the charge in terms of UK M&A, as a result of its involvement in the London Stock Exchange’s merger with Deutsche Boerse and the combination of Vodafone’s Dutch operations with Liberty Global. The firm, which has a market share of 25 per cent, has been involved in 10 deals already this year worth $12bn, above Slaughter and May’s trio of deals worth $7bn.

As a result, the deals saw local Dutch firms feature heavily in the UK M&A table, including Loyens & Loeff and NautaDutilh. Allen & Overy was the third most transactional firm in the UK M&A market, seeing the magic circle firm overtake rivals Linklaters and Clifford Chance, who dropped 10 and 12 places respectively.

Baker & McKenzie leapt up the UK M&A rankings, along with Bracewell, after Sysco acquired Bain Capital-owned Brakes Group for $3.1bn. Freshfields also won a role for the acquirer in this transaction, meaning the magic circle firm has led on the largest three M&A deals in the UK this year.

2016 Q1 UK M&A ranking
Rank Firm Total value ($bn) Number of deals
1 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 12 10
2 Slaughter and May 7 3
3 Allen & Overy 6.6 6
4 Loyens & Loeff 6.5 3
5 NautaDutilh 6.4 1
6 White & Case 5.6 12
7 Davis Polk & Wardwell 3.1 2
8 Bracewell & Giuliani 3.1 1
8 Baker & McKenzie 3.1 2
10 Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom 1.4 7