Skadden tops global M&A rankings as Freshfields and CC compete with US leaders

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom was involved in more M&A transactions in 2015 than any other firm, with Clifford Chance joining Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer as the only magic circle representatives in the global top 10.

According to data from Thomson Reuters, Skadden advised on 279 deals worldwide last year worth $1.1tr (£744bn). Overall 2015 was a bumper year for M&A in which the total worth of deals rose from $3.5tr in 2014 to $4.5tr, with Skadden therefore accounting for 23 per cent of the total global M&A value.

In 2014, Skadden lost out on the top spot to a number of US firms, including Weil Gotshal & Manges, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz. However, last year it regained its first place position after a string of multi-billion dollar deals such as Pfizer and Allergan’s $160bn merger and Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable’s £78.7bn deal. 2014’s M&A leader Weil Gotshal & Manges on the other hand fell to thirteenth position, advising on 27 fewer deals than last year.

The Pfizer and Allergan tie-up led a number of firms to jump several places in the 2015 final rankings from their position in September. These include Latham & Watkins, rising from fourth spot to third, as well as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, which surged forward into the top 10 with a total of 86 deals worth $575.8bn.

Furthermore, the transaction has enabled Clifford Chance to leap into the top 10, joining Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer as the only UK-headquartered firms in the worldwide list. Clifford Chance’s 229 deals were worth $440.1bn, while Freshfields acted on 196 transactions with a total deal value of $577.6bn.

2015 worldwide M&A ranking
Rank Firm Total value ($bn) Number of deals
1 Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom 1119 279
2 Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz 761.7 133
3 Latham & Watkins 757.1 308
4 Cravath Swaine & Moore 731.5 88
5 Sullivan & Cromwell 695.6 154
6 Simpson Thacher & Bartlett 639.6 141
7 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 577.6 196
8 Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton 575.8 86
9 Davis Polk & Wardwell 489 167
10 Clifford Chance 440.1 229

As a result, Clifford Chance also ousted a number of firms from the UK M&A top 10 rankings, including Allen & Overy (A&O), Ashurst and King Wood & Mallesons, which featured heavily in earlier 2015 rankings as a result of Shell’s £47bn takeover of BG Group.

Since the third quarter, both A&O and Ashurst have fallen eight places, despite advising on an extra 21 and five transactions respectively since September. They were instead displaced by a number of firms working on the £71bn mega-merger between Anheuser-Busch Inbev and SABMiller.

SABMiller adviser Linklaters jumped just ahead of Clifford Chance into third spot, working on 66 deals worth $198bn, while second place Cravath Swaine & Moore advised on just seven deals over 2015, including ABInBev and Royal Dutch Shell.

2015 UK M&A ranking
Rank Firm Total value ($bn) Number of deals
1 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 291.4 80
2 Cravath Swaine & Moore 214.2 7
3 Linklaters 198.1 66
4 Clifford Chance 165.7 78
5 Sullivan & Cromwell 161.5 15
6 Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton 146.1 8
7 Simpson Thacher & Bartlett 142.4 23
8 Hogan Lovells 133.6 38
9 Slaughter and May 126.5 47
10 Dechert 126.1 14

With Visa Inc’s £15.1bn acquisition of Visa Europe the third largest UK M&A deal of 2015, a number of the company’s lead advisers also made gains in the European top 10 rankings. While Linklaters again jumped seven positions up the table, Sullivan & Cromwell rose five places into third place advising on 43 deals worth $277bn.

Slaughter and May, however, dropped seven places in both the UK and European M&A league tables from second spot to ninth. It was not involved in any of the top five transactions in the continent to have been announced this year.

2015 European M&A ranking
Rank Firm Total value ($bn) Number of deals
1 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 399 150
2 Linklaters 282.5 194
3 Sullivan & Cromwell 277 43
4 Cravath Swaine & Moore 270.9 21
5 Clifford Chance 221.9 201
6 Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton 197.9 44
7 Allen & Overy 193.3 184
8 Simspon Thacher & Bartlett 190.2 36
9 Slaughter and May 186.4 57
10 Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom 163.7 86