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Freehills and Blakes dictate M&A tables

Freehills and Blakes dictate M&A tables

THREE SEPARATE mergers and acquisitions league tables, covering the past six months, were released over the past week, with Freehills, Blake Dawson Waldron and

THREE SEPARATE mergers and acquisitions league tables, covering the past six months, were released over the past week, with Freehills, Blake Dawson Waldron and Allens Arthur Robinson consistently vying for the top spots and featuring throughout the Asia Pacific charts.

For the fifth consecutive six month period, Freehills topped the Thomson Financial Australia and New Zealand announced and completed deals tables, by number of deals and aggregate value. The firm was involved in 67 announced deals, with a value of US$27,844.2 ($37,397.7) million in the Australia and New Zealand market, and completed 59 with a value of US$22,099.1 ($29,682.2) million.

Blakes followed Freehills with Allens Arthur Robinson third on the announced deals table, and Blakes and Allens swapped positions on the completed deals table. Blakes announced 57 deals with a value of US$18,641.8 ($25,040.2) million, and completed 38 deals [US$7,812.0 ($10,493.4) million], while Allens was involved in 46 announced deals [US$16,857.9 ($22,645.7) million] and worked on 39 completed deals [US$13,691.5 ($18,392.2) million].

Minter Ellison, Clayton Utz and Johnson Winter Slattery were next in line on completed deals, at 30 [US$7,304.3 ($9,814.4) million], 30 [US$7,093.6 ($9,531.3) million] and 4 [US$5,746.6 ($7719.6) million] respectively.

On the Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) tables, Freehills placed a close second behind Linklaters on the announced deals, with an involvement in 71 — as opposed to Linklaters’ 35 — with a combined value of US$29,098.7 ($39,087.3) million. The combined value of Linklaters’ announced Asia Pacific deals was US$29,273.3 ($39,329.1) million.

Blakes was the second Australian firm on the table, placing fourth behind Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, with Allens fifth. Freehills pushed to the top of the completed deals table for the Asia Pacific region, ahead of Linklaters, having worked on 60 deals with a value of US$22,997.0 ($30,899.2) million. Allens was fourth on the table [39 deals; US$13,691.5 ($18,396.5) million] and Blakes was seventh [38 deals; US$7,812.0 ($10,496.5) million].

Freehills and Blakes consistently swapped first and second position on Mergermarket’s M&A tables for announced deals over the same period, with Blakes taking pole position on volume for the Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) region, to again place third behind Freehills and Linklaters on value. Freehills advised on 31 deals with a combined value of US$22,798.0 ($30,625.2) million; Linklaters advised on 19 with a value of US$21,362 ($28,698.3) million; Blakes was involved in 35 deals worth US$16,472 ($22,129.2) million, and Allens Arthur Robinson advised on 22 deals worth US$7,429 ($9,980.5) million, placing it third on volume and eighteenth on value.

Freehills also topped the Bloomberg tables on Australian and New Zealand announced deals, ranked on volume, followed by Blakes, Bell Gully, Gilbert & Tobin and Mallesons Stephen Jaques; and the Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) announced deals table, ranked by volume. In this case it was followed by Linklaters, Blakes, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Bell Gully.

Marie McDonald, practice head of Blakes’ national M&A team, said the firm was pleased to have performed so well on both volume and value across the tables. “We like to think we treat our small clients as well as the big clients,” she said. However, the ranking on value showed that the firm was also getting its fair share of big deals, which in the past six month period included advising Alinta on its bid for AGL and subsequent negotiated merger of their infrastructure businesses.

Rebecca Maslen-Stannage, a leading M&A partner at Freehills, says the firm is most focused on its results in the announced deals tables. “[Announced deals] are a better indicator of the state of the market,” she said.

She said the tables were one of the only emperical methods available for rating the firms against each other. While clients would be unlikely to go with a firm just because of their performance on a league table, Maslen-Stannage said they were often used as validation for the decisions made.

According to McDonald, clients are just as interested in the quality of the work being done, and the level of complexity and strategy required, as they are in the value or volume of transactions. Looking at the current M&A market, McDonald said she had never seen so many takeovers and schemes of arrangement coming through the doors.

“A lot of clients like the certainty that a scheme of arrangement gives you. A lot are looking at that as an alternative. We might have seen a couple of schemes a year in the past, but at the moment it feels like every client coming in contemplating a takeover is also willing to look at a scheme,” she said.

Maslen-Stannage is confident the M&A market has the legs to remain strong for some time yet. The increased competition from private equity funds has pushed asset prices up.

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