Freshfields retains top position in M&A league

Freshfields has retained its position at the top of the mergers and acquisitions league table for 1998.

In 1997, the firm worked on 72 deals worth £45.7bn. This figure has almost doubled with the firm completing 80 deals totalling £86.4bn.

Freshfields' reputation for acting on mega-mergers was boosted last year after it advised on deals such as Scottish Power's £4.2bn takeover of US generator Pacificorps and the largest ever pharmaceuticals merger between Zeneca and Astra. The firm is also adviser to Amoco in its £67.5bn merger with BP.

Linklaters has pushed Slaughter and May out of second place and down to third. Linklaters completed fewer deals than Slaughters but, with a total value of £70.6bn, they were worth over £15bn more than Slaughters' 135 deals, which totalled £54.8bn.

Herbert Smith, Ashurst Morris Crisp and Norton Rose have dropped down the league table, while Clifford Chance has gained two places since last year. Allen & Overy and SJ Berwin suffered the biggest drop in rank. Both firms drop out of the top 10 completely, going from fourth to 12th and ninth to 26th position respectively, with the value of deals dropping by almost a third for SJ Berwin.

Three US firms gained a place in the top 10 last year – Sullivan & Cromwell, Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz and Winthrop Simpson Putnam & Roberts. In 1997, only one US firm, Cravath Swaine & Moore, held a place in the league, ranking 10th.

The increase in the number of US firms in the top 10 reflects the increase in the number of cross-border transactions in 1998 – 69.3 per cent as opposed to 47.9 per cent in 1997. The majority of these cross-border deals were between UK and US companies.

The total value of all deals also increased last year – by a staggering 39 per cent in one year – going from £153.8bn to £213.7bn, indicating that the financial crises in Russia and the Far East did not hit the UK as severely as was initially expected.