Skadden Regains Top Spot Among M&A Legal Advisers in 2012

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP recaptured the lead among mergers and acquisitions legal advisers in 2012, which saw a 7.8 percent drop in deal volume.

The law firm, based in New York, ranked No. 1 last year with $294.5 billion in transactions, up from $287.4 billion reported in 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The firm participated in 13 percent of global mergers and acquisitions by market value.

London-based Linklaters LLP was second, up eight spots from 2011, with $210.3 billion in transactions for 9 percent of the market. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP was third with $204.7 billion in transactions. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, which ranked first in 2011, fell to fifth place.

The total volume of M&A transactions fell to $2.22 trillion in 2012 from $2.41 trillion in 2011, according to Bloomberg data. Recession fears in Europe, the cooling of developing economies such as China and uncertainty about $600 billion in automatic U.S. government spending cuts and tax increases, known as the fiscal cliff, weighed on decision makers and damped the pace of deals through much of last year.

“Simple year-over-year comparisons aren’t necessarily perfect when looking at recent M&A cycles,” Matt Herman, head of Freshfields’s U.S. corporate practice, said in an e-mail.

“For example, 2011 was influenced by a very strong first four months, carried over from a spike that woke a dormant market in August 2010. Similarly, while the general assumption was that 2012 was going to start off strong, it didn’t pan out.”

Skadden Deals

Skadden Arps worked on 241 completed and pending deals for the year including Tokyo-based Softbank Corp.’s planned purchase of a stake in Sprint Nextel Corp. and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s $20.1 billion purchase of half of Grupo Modelo SAB that it didn’t already own.

The law firm was in the top spot most recently in 2010.

Eight of the top 10 legal advisers are U.S. firms, and purchases of companies in the Americas accounted for roughly half the global deal volume.

The Americas accounted for $1.37 trillion in deals compared with $891.7 billion in Europe, and $531.6 billion in the Asia Pacific region, excluding Japan.

Middle East

Japan accounted for $207.1 billion in deals followed by the Middle East and Africa with $85.4 billion, according to the data compiled by Bloomberg.

Skadden Arps took the top spot among cross-border announced deals, ousting Freshfields, which fell to third place, according to Bloomberg data. Skadden Arps also ranked No. 1 globally among firms acting as advisers to buyers and sellers.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP led in deals involving private-equity dollars. The law firm was fourth overall with $183.7 billion in transactions.

More than 97 percent of all M&A transactions last year were less than $500 million in size. Only 14 transactions were more than $10 billion, compared with 20 such deals in 2011.

Jones Day topped the list for advisers by deal count with 418 transactions. DLA Piper LLP ranked second with 281 transactions, one deal more than Latham & Watkins LLP.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP and Skadden were fourth and fifth on the list with 279 and 241 respectively.

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