International law firms behind record-breaking worldwide M&A pacts

International law firms behind record-breaking worldwide M&A pacts

US firms dominate the global ranking, as domestic deals kick $5 trillion barrier

The US firms have dominated Refinitiv’s top 20 mergers and acquisitions (M&A) legal advisors league table as deals smashed through the $5 trillion barrier. It is the first time that companies have rushed to make agreements while the interest rates remained low.

(Founded in 2018, Remitiv is an American-British global provider of financial market data and infrastructure).

While international law firm Sullivan & Cromwell lead the pack having worked on 198 deals worth $551bn, just short of an 11% market share, Latham & Watkins ranked second, advising on 710 deals worth $504bn, a 10th of the market share.

Similarly, Kirkland & Ellis ranked third, advising on 789 deals worth $498bn. Davis Polk & Wardwell and White & Case ranked fourth and fifth, working on 207 and 411 deals worth $474bn and $451bn, respectively.

As per Refinitiv’s data, the $5tr milestone is 40 per cent more than the value of transactions recorded in 2020 and almost a fifth more than the previous annual record of $4.2tr hit in 2015.

The number of deals is also the highest since records began in 1980, currently standing at more than 52,000 – 22 per cent more than during the same period in 2020. The vast bulk of those deals have been in the US, with targets accounting for 45 per cent of global activity.

This dwarfs China, which is the second most active jurisdiction, accounting for an activity of 9 per cent.

Technology is the leading sector globally for M&A activity, accounting for roughly a fifth of overall deal value ($989bn) – a record high, and 94 per cent more than the value of all technology acquisitions that happened in 2020.

Private equity deals also accounted for a fifth of overall deal value, 81 per cent more than 2020 levels and 53 per cent more than the previous annual record of $663bn hit in 2007 in the run-up to the global financial crisis.

The number of mega-deals (transactions valued at $5bn or more) is another record that stands at 154, compared to 110 during 2020. The combined value of the 154 deals is over $1.7tr, the highest level since 2015.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison completed the global top 10 legal advisor league table. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was 11th and the highest non-US firm in the rankings and one of three to make to the top 20. Others included Herbert Smith Freehills (12th) and Allen & Overy (16th).

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