UK and US firms witnessed a bumper year for M&A in 2000, despite a 20 per cent fall in deal activity and a marketplace increasingly dominated by regulators.
In a survey of European deals completed in 2000 published by Thomson Financial Securities Data, Linklaters & Alliance came top (see table). The firm worked on 221 transactions with a value of $671.5bn (£455.6bn).
Slaughter and May also recorded a good year after a disappointing showing in the 1999 tables (The Lawyer, 17 January 2000), entering the top 10.
But the US firms greatly outnumber the UK practices. Sullivan & Cromwell, for example, was only narrowly pipped at the post by Linklaters. While it worked on considerably fewer deals at 75, their combined value was $660.1bn (£447.9bn).
There were a number of major mergers last year, including AOL and Time Warner, and SmithKline Beecham and Glaxo Wellcome.
Linklaters, Slaughters and Sullivan & Cromwell worked on the pharmaceutical deal, which is understood to have earned the City firms £30m in fees (The Lawyer, 24 January 2000).
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Cravath Swaine & Moore acted for Time Warner and AOL respectively. Cravaths is understood to have billed around $30m (£20.4m), although the sum was only due once the merger was given the go-ahead (The Lawyer, 24 January 2000).
But both deals came under close regulatory scrutiny that was typical of 2000. The Interbrew and Bass deal, for example, was recently blocked after concerns that it would create a duolopy.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer‘s head of corporate Barry O’Brien says: “There is a sense that some of the deals are facing tougher study by the antitrust authorities. Chief executives are going to hesitate before committing themselves when it is going to take an extra four months and may not go through at all.”
Alastair Gorrie, competition partner at Coudert Brothers, says the increased involvement of regulators is symptomatic of a consolidated market.
He says: “Certain industries are more concentrated. The easy deals have been done and it’s the bigger ones that are coming up. There have been more deals blocked at the European level during the past two years than ever before.”
Chris Bright, head of competition at Clifford Chance, says: “People have been very shocked by decisions in both Washington and Brussels. It is the dead hand of regulation.”