THE FIRM perhaps worthy of the name ‘Threehills’ has maintained its top-place position in mergers and acquisitions for another year.
Finishing ahead of rivals Allens Arthur Robinson and Blake Dawson Waldron in both of the Thomson Financial Australia and New Zealand, and Asia-Pacific ex-Japan announced and completed M&A tables, Freehills reigned supreme with the greatest market share and number of deals.
In the completed transactions for the last calendar year in Australia and New Zealand, Freehills advised on 130 deals worth $70,342 million. This bettered their top ranking performance for 2005, the firm then involved in deals worth $57,969.4 million, an increase of 21.3 per cent.
Freehills corporate law partner, Rebecca Maslen-Stannage, said that although the firm won some landmark deals, “a strategic advantage we have is very talented lawyers right down to the junior levels”.
Having such a large M&A team around the country allowed for many large deals to be conducted simultaneously, Maslen-Stannage said. Across Australia, Freehills has approximately 150 lawyers in its M&A team, 45 of whom are partners. The important deals included KKR’s joint venture with Seven Network and Newbridge Capital’s acquisition of stores from retail giant Myer.
It was the combination of strength in numbers and strong junior lawyers that saw the firm take advantage of a bumper M&A year, which the Freehills partner put down to private equity activity reaching European and American levels in recent years.
“Another key driver of M&A is the energy and resources sector,” Maslen-Stannage said.
“High commodity prices and strong cash flows have positioned large producers well for acquisitions and we’ve worked on deals like Peabody Corporations’ acquisition of Excel Coal and Tullow Oil’s acquisition of Hardman Resources.”
Coming second in both announced and completed deals in Australia and New Zealand, Allens was involved in 113 finished deals for 2006 with a value of $58,861.6 million. This was a larger jump than Freehills from its 2005 performance, up 46.8 per cent from $40,090.9 million.
The largest increase by any of the top eight firms between 2005 and 2006 was achieved by third place-ranked Blakes. Their fourth place 2005 completed deals result of $20,080.8 million rose by 78 per cent to $35,767.8 million. But with only 93 deals under its belt, the firm was unable to threaten the top two.
Clayton Utz advised on 85 completed deals for $21,752.1 million, bettering its 2005 fifth place ranking with 28.4 per cent more in rank value, or $16,931.8 million.
Up from 9th place in 2005, Gilbert + Tobin bettered the $10,681.2 million of that year by 74.8 per cent, involving itself on 37 deals worth $18,672.4 million.
But in a comparably bad year for Mallesons, the firm fell from 3rd place in 2005 with $37,286.3 million worth of deals involvement to $16,537.9 million and 6th position, a drop of 55.7 per cent. This was despite advising on almost as many deals as Blakes — 92 for the previous year.
The pick of the New Zealand firms, Bell Gully, put in a strong performance for 2006, involved in 68 deals worth $14,249.3 million for its 7th place rank. This bettered its 13th place in 2005 by 47.2 per cent, engaging in deals worth $9,679.4 million in that year.
Minter Ellison was another firm to slide in 2006, though not as sharply as Mallesons. In 2005 the firm sat at number six — with deals worth $14,807.4 million — to 79 deals worth $14,019.5 million for 8th place, a drop of 5.3 per cent.
The remaining positions of the top 25 in the completed tables were occupied by Baker & McKenzie (14th), Arnold Bloch Leibler (17th) and Johnson Winter & Slattery (19th).
It was no surprise that M&A brought plenty of work to Australian firms last year. The industry total for completed deals rose from $137,286.7 million in 2005 to $147,058.1 million in 2006, an increase of 7.1 per cent. Yet in the announced deals, 2005’s $142,001.9 million jumped 54 per cent to $218,682.4 million.