Mexico, dragged down by the slump in US consumer spending, has not done as well out of the recession as many of its Latin American neighbours. However, things started to look up in 2010 when its economy grew by 5.5 per cent – its fastest annual growth rate in more than a decade.
If DLA Piper’s dramatic move last month – which saw the firm scoop 14 lawyers from Thompson & Knight’s Mexico City office – is anything to go by, the Mexican
legal market may also be starting to get some of its mojo back.
The Lawyer consulted M&A data from Thomson Reuters which showed that, although it is still a considerable way behind Brazil, Mexico clocked up around 14 per cent of the deals that took place across Latin America in 2011 and was the second-highest country by deal value across the region between 2007 and 2012.
When it comes to foreign law firms, as with Brazil, Baker & McKenzie got in early and set up an office in Mexico City in 1961. It soon established outposts in Juárez, Tijuana, Monterrey – Mexico’s second-largest city – and Guadalajara, Mexico’s answer to Silicon Valley. It is hardly surprising then that the firm has generated a steady dealflow, acting on 27 M&A deals between 2007 and 2011.
Jones Day, which opened an office in Mexico City through a merger with local firm De Ovando y Martínez del Campo in 2009, handled 21 deals in the same period. However, few of the deal values have been disclosed, so it is difficult to tell how it compares with other firms.
White & Case opened its doors in Mexico City in 1991 and Monterrey in 2002. While the firm was third in terms of the number of deals, handling 14 M&A transactions over the five-year period, the deal value was comparatively low, at just over $7bn (£4.45bn).
There are a significant number of deals where the advisers are not disclosed, which could explain why several firms with Mexican offices fail to make much of impression on the list.
Greenberg Traurig opened in Mexico City in 2011 and acted on one deal that year, while Holland & Knight and Chadbourne & Parke, which opened offices in 1998 and 2008 respectively, fail to make the deal list.
Although the situation in the telecoms market has divided opinion (see box), the sector has produced some of 2010 and 2011’s biggest deals and given work to a number of US firms that do not have offices in Mexico.
In 2010, América Móvil retained Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton for its $27.5bn stockswap offer for Carso Global Telecom. Dewey & LeBoeuf acted for Credit Suisse, Sullivan & Cromwell advised stakeholder AT&T and Mayer Brown also had a role on the deal. Cleary, Dewey and Sullivan were again retained as América Móvil acquired Telmex Internacional for $6.4bn.
According to the data, Haynes & Boon, which launched an office in Mexico City in 1994, only acted on one deal over the five-year period. However, it was a significant one, acting as counsel to AT&T as it sold off its stock in Telmex to América Móvil for $1.1bn.
A recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report suggests that Mexicans pay too much for telecom services and lack of competition is costing the economy some $25bn (£15.9bn) per year.
The market is dominated by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, who boasts an estimated 70 per cent market share through his Telcel group. However, recent rulings by the country’s Federal Competition Commission (Cofeco) and Supreme Court suggest changes may be afoot, which could result in even more M&A activity.
Top three M&A deals of 2010
Heineken acquired FEMSA Cerveza for $7.43 bn (£4.72bn). Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Ritch Mueller, Pinheiro Neto and Tozzini Freire Teixeira e Silva acted for FEMSA and Heineken retained Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Galicia Abogados, Mundie e Advogados, Allen & Overy and Loyens & Loeff on the deal.
América Móvil retained Cleary on its $27.5bn stockswap offer for Carso Global Telecom. Dewey acted for Credit Suisse, Sullivan advised stakeholder AT&T and Mayer Brown also had a role on Latin America’s deal of the year.
América Móvil retained Cleary, Dewey and Sullivan again as it acquired Telmex Internacional for $6.4bn.
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