A steep decline in major M&A activity in Scandinavia has seen domestic firms in the region outperform their international rivals.
Announced deals in the first half of 2003 plummeted in Sweden and Finland compared with the same period last year, although Norway and Denmark performed much better, with deal activity remaining virtually static.
Keith Johnson, a partner in Linklaters‘ Stockholm office, said: “There haven’t been any big transactions. There are deals, but they’re all quite small. The other UK and US firms don’t have anything on the ground and they aren’t going to be doing anything in Scandinavia if there’s nothing big.”
Linklaters and White & Case are the only leading Anglo-Saxon firms with offices in the region and they are the only UK or US firms to maintain a strong presence on the M&A tables.
In the first six months of last year, Linklaters advised Scottish & Newcastle on its E2bn (£1.37bn) acquisition of Finnish brewery Hartwall and White & Case advised on the E7.3bn (£5.01bn) Telia-Sonera merger. The nearest that either firm has got to that this year is the merger of Mindab and AssiDomän, which created Sweden’s largest timber processing and saw mill company. Mindab and AssiDomän were advised by Linklaters and Vinge respectively.
Nordic takeover laws are complex and because of this it has been Nordic lawyers that have been chosen to advise.
Vinge managing partner Michael Wigge said: “Companies have been refinancing or restructuring existing companies rather than selling them.” This has kept banking and finance departments busy. Finland’s Hannes Snellman has scored a considerable coup by luring Matti Engelberg from Nordic investment bank Nordea. Engelberg was chief legal counsel of debt capital markets specialising in acquisition finance and structured transactions.
Kari Lautjärvi, head of the finance and capital markets at Hannes Snellman, said: “Spring has been very silent in M&A, but we’ve had a lot of finance work and the commercial litigation de-partment is very busy.”