Linklaters keeps top spot for UK M&A as US firms climb up rankings

Linklaters has held onto its position as the most prolific adviser on UK M&A, as annual deals data for 2012 shows US firms stealing a march on their City competitors.


The magic circle firm breached the $100bn (£61.7bn) mark, advising on deals valuing a total of $102.9bn from January until today (17 December), according to data provided by Thomson Reuters.

The figures encompass all deals since 1 January 2012 that involved a UK party.

Linklaters held the same position last year (2 January 2012).

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom jumped up to second place compared with 14th in 2011, with its combined deal value increasing from $23.4bn in 2011 to $79.7bn this year.

US rival Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton followed in third place with $66.8bn, with fourth and fifth places going to Brazilian firm Mattos Filho Veiga Filho Marrey with deals worth $57.1bn and New York’s Cravath Swaine & Moore on $55.6bn.

The figures show the increased activity of US firms on deals with a London element and follows attempts by American outfits to bulk up in the City.

The elite group of Skadden, Cleary and Cravath advised on over $150bn of UK deals between them and all scored higher than Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer on $50.7bn. US firm Shearman & Sterling, meanwhile, came in behind Clifford Chance but ahead of Allen & Overy and Slaughter and May.

Laurence Levy, co-head of Shearman’s London corporate team, commented: “We’ve had an increadible upturn in the last three months. We’ve been extremely busy since the summer break.

“I think it’s part of a trend of acceptance that there are a select defined group of international firms, whether New York-headquartered or London-headquartered, that are increasingly the ones people turn to on a big transaction. There’s less recognition in the London market of whether you’re a UK firm or not – it’s whether you’re a firm that can cover the M&A piece. We’re in that group of firms that is recognised for bigger-ticket M&A.”

Headline deals for Shearman this year include IntercontinentalExchange’s (ICE) unsuccessful bid for the London Metal Exchange, in which Levy advised ICE.

Freshfields and Linklaters both advised on the merger of Glencore and Xstrata (2 February 2012), while Freshfields scored roles for Logica on its £1.7bn takeover by Canada’s CGI and Invensys on the sale of its rail division to Siemens (28 November 2012).

However, the Glencore-Xstrata deal is not included in the data as both parties are based in Switzerland.

Freshfields London corporate head Julian Long said the firm’s strength was in global rather than purely UK M&A and blamed low M&A levels in the UK on the Eurozone crisis.

He commented: “It’s lack of business confidence. I think European M&A is down as a whole. Even though we’re not in the Euro, the Eurozone has a deadening impact on the UK.”

Julian Long
Julian Long

Skadden advised Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) on BP’s $27bn sale of a stake of its stake in TNK-BP, as well as guiding AAR through the sale of its own stake in TNK-BP to Rosneft (30 October 2012).

A Skadden spokeperson said: “The Skadden London office has always been centre-stage for the execution of international deal activity and that has continued despite the challenges of the market.”

US firms advised on a total of $351.2bn UK deals across the year, compared with $283.3bn for UK firms, although this number can include matters in which more than one firm advised on the same deal.

Total deal value with UK involvement was roughly flat at $327.7bn, up on $325.4bn in 2011.

Announced M&A with UK involvement, 2012 until 17 December

Firm Total deal value including net debt
of target ($m)
Rank Market share (%) Number of
Linklaters 102,901.2 1 31.4 97
Skadden 79,685.3 2 24.3 25
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton 66,759.9 3 20.4 11
Mattos Filho Veiga Filho Marrey Jr 57,077.3 4 17.4 5
Cravath, Swaine & Moore 55,583.4 5 17.0 7
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 50,678.2 6 15.5 70
Clifford Chance 38,501.3 7 11.8 69
Shearman & Sterling LLP 35,500.8 8 10.8 10
Weil Gotshal & Manges 26,602.4 9 8.1 24
Sullivan & Cromwell 25,063.8 10 7.7 16
Allen & Overy 23,468.6 11 7.2 64
Slaughter & May 21,583.6 12 6.6 41
Kirkland & Ellis 19,023.4 13 5.8 24
Latham & Watkins 16,404.5 14 5.0 31
King & Wood Mallesons 13,059.5 15 4.0 6
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP 12,582.3 16 3.8 36
DLA Piper 11,865.2 17 3.6 98
Hogan Lovells 11,589.3 18 3.5 27
Blake Cassels & Graydon 10,695.1 19 3.3 11
Ashurst 10,095.0 20 3.1 36
Baker & McKenzie 9,744.1 21 3.0 23
Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz 9,302.9 22 2.8 7
McCarthy Tetrault 8,818.1 23 2.7 6
Allens 8,088.2 24 2.5 6
Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson 7,502.9 25 2.3 4
Industry total 327,708.5 100.0 3,567
Source: Thomson Reuters        

Click here to view last year’s table.