In a exclusive report with mergermarket, The New Lawyer’s top 15 M&A deals rankings reveal which Australian law firms worked on the biggest deals of the year.
Allens Arthur Robinson worked on 7 of the top 15, as did Freehills, while Blake Dawson worked on 4 and Mallesons Stephen Jaques worked on 3. Other firms featuring in the top 15 deals include Gilbert +Tobin, Johnson Winter & Slattery, Baker & Mckenzie, Clayton Utz and Corrs Chambers Westgarth.
The list of deals, ranging from the BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto’s signing of a binding agreement on combining their vast iron ore operations in Western Australia. The mining giants said the agreement was aimed at savings worth an estimated 10 billion US dollars.
For the law firms involved on the deal, including Allens Arthur Robinson, Blake Dawson and Freehills, as well as international firms Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Slaughter and May, the deal was not only the biggest of the year, it was the biggest ever involving an Australian company. The deal, announced on 5 December, was valued at A$58,000 million, making it the largest on The New Lawyer and mergermarket’s top 15 deals of the year.
While no other deal came close in terms of value this year, Australia some relatively large M&A involving energy and resources companies, experts said.
Paul Quinn, executive partner of Allens Arthur Robinson’s corporate practice, said yesterday the results show that Australia has been ranking well against its global counterparts in mergers and acquisitions in the past year.
“The year has been good,” said Quinn. “It’s been mixed. We certainly haven’t had the volume of deals we had a couple of years ago, but … in relation to Australia, you’ll see the Australian deals sit pretty strong relative to the rest of the word.”
Quinn said Australia features well in the M&A rankings. He said he understood that Australia was sitting in the top five globally in M&A.
Ranking second in the top 15 deals of the year comes the announced Chinalco deal with longtime rival BHP Billiton. Australia shocked China in June when it abruptly spurned the $20 billion investment. The deal included Allens Arthur Robinson, another Australian firm Johnson Winter & Slattery, and acting for Chinalco was Mallesons Stephen Jaques and other international firms.
According to Quinn, law firms are all looking for those big deals. “The strategy is to be involved in as many of the key deals going on that you can be. [Lawyers are] particularly interested in the key high profile deal,” he said.
But law firms have to be in it for the long term if they want to get on the key panels, Quinn said. And that comes down to relationships. Clients will base which firms from their panels they will use on the depth of the relationships they have, he said.
“You’ve strengthened and built that [relationship], he said. You want to be their principal strategic adviser on these types of deals,” Quinn said.
Coming up in 2010, Quinn predicts more energy and resources work in M&A, like Australia saw this year. He expects there to be more consolidation in the energy and resources market. “It’s an area that is fairly hot at the moment.”
Quinn also predicts there will be continued Chinese interest in investing in the resources sector next year.
The top 15 deals of the year can be found here.