City giants lose out to US firms in M&A league

US firms are taking a bigger bite of the large corporate deals work as cross-border M&A work continues to give million-pound rewards.

According to Corporate Money, for the first quarter of 1999 four out of the 10 largest dealmakers in the UK are US firms.

Sullivan & Cromwell knocks heavyweights Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May out of the fray – both were top of the table for the first quarter of 1998 – with the US firm revealing one deal totalling u33,630m.

Other US firms gaining from giant mergers and transactions include Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Jones Day Reavis Pogue and Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson.

Managing partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, William Plapinger, says a number of its deals were done in the UK: “It has a lot to do with UK firms being acquired outside in the US.”

He adds: “These deals are done hand in hand with law firms in different regions.”

However, Freshfields partner in corporate Edward Braham says there is not a sudden influx of US firms: “There will always be a US presence in these tables on corporate deals.”

Freshfields has retained the number one slot that it had achieved by the end of 1998, after accumulating a u52,919m total for 32 deals for the first three months of 1999.

In the first quarter of 1998 Freshfields sat in sixth place with deals totalling just u4,095m.

Linklaters remains one of the UK's major players, coming a close second this year with a total of u52,161m – it came first in the first quarter 1998 with deals valued at u11,218m. But this year both Freshfields and Linklaters are among those who have been bolstered by advising on Vodafone's billion-pound acquisition of Airtouch Communications.

However, David Childs, head of corporate at Clifford Chance, which has recently been involved in the BP Amoco takeover of Arco (The Lawyer 5 April), says: “The calculation of these things is always a lottery.”

He argues: “The table does not take into account those transactions that have not closed or those that have been aborted.”