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Freehills, Allens in M&A victory

Freehills, Allens in M&A victory

COMPETITION TO take the place as top dog in mergers and acquisitions has again begun. While Freehills this year clearly dominated the Thomson Financial M&A Australia and New Zealand tables,…

COMPETITION TO take the place as top dog in mergers and acquisitions has again begun. While Freehills this year clearly dominated the Thomson Financial M&A Australia and New Zealand tables, Bloomberg LP named Allens Arthur Robinson the top legal advisor for announced mergers and acquisition deals in the same region this calendar year.

According to Bloomberg, Allens ranked first in the Australian and New Zealand markets, with 27 announced deals worth a total value of US$17,184 (A$23,106) million. But according to Thomson Financial, which used different transaction parameters, the firm was ranked second in both announced and completed deals.

Thomson this year changed the methodology of the tables. While last year only deals worth over US$30 million could be included, this year it allowed “any involvement”, a source told Lawyers Weekly. This increased the number of deals included. While Freehills last year included 30 deals, this year, for example, it was allowed to include 121.

Freehills celebrated the breadth of deals in which the firm was involved, and said it has performed consistently well in the M&A market. Since the inception of the Thomson Financial tables, the firm said, it has acted on more M&A deals than any other Australian law firm, “demonstrating the market’s confidence in Freehills”.

“We’re very pleased the Thomson tables confirm our position as Australia’s leading M&A law firm. These results reflect the sheer depth and quality of talent in the Freehills M&A team and our dedication to achieving the best results for our clients. We look forward to doing more of the same for the remainder of 2005,” said Freehills head of corporate, Mark Crean.

Allens last week celebrated its placement on the Bloomberg tables, and said it was impressed it acted for a broad range of clients over a broad range of transactions. “Although the parameters of the M&A league tables can be debated, I also note that the average size of the transactions we handled was large compared to many of our competitors,” said Jon Webster, co-head of Allens’ mergers and acquisitions practice group.

Allens this year included about half the deals of competitor Freehills, and made up a rank value of US$21,863 ($29,418) million compared to Freehills’ US$29,199 ($39,291) million.

“Although there has been some softening in M&A activity, we are pleased with this strong result. In particular, we have seen a continuation of activity in the infrastructure, manufacturing and listed property trust sectors,” said Freehills’ Crean.

According to the Thomson tables, Mallesons Stephen Jaques ranked third and Blake Dawson Waldron (BDW) fourth as legal advisers in M&A in the Australia and NZ tables. In what it labelled Thomson’s “any involvement” tables, BDW listed 22 deals with a rank value of US$12,572 ($16,918) million. On the Bloomberg Announced Deals table, BDW was ranked third, with 17 deals worth US$12,855 ($17,299) million.

Blakes was given the number two position in the Connect4 M&A advisory league tables, as well. Regarding the results of all the tables, BDW M&A joint practice heads Bill Koeck and Marie McDonald said the results can be attributed to the work the firm has done on some of Australia’s biggest M&A deals.

“Our rankings are a reflection of the large number of major deals on which we’ve advised, including San Miguel’s $1.8 billion takeover of National Foods, Ramsay Health Care’s $1.4 billion acquisition of Affinity and Australia’s biggest-ever cash takeover — BHP Billiton’s $9.2 billion acquisition of WMC [Resources].”

Freehills acted on some landmark deals in the past six months, including Transurban’s takeover of Hills Motorway, San Miguel’s takeover of National foods, Metcash’s bid for Foodland and Industry Fund Management’s bid for Pacific Hydro. Freehills is also legal adviser to the Australian Government on the Telstra 3 scoping study.

During the past six months, Allens clients in M&A have included WMC Resources, GPT and Southcorp. Regarding its competitors, Allens’ Webster said “I’m pleased that our clients have confidence in us when there are many chips on the table to be won or lost.”

Mergers and acquisitions work and the nature of the market is changing, said Webster. “The time companies have to make bids or responses is compressing and the nature of the deals means a broader range of legal skills have to be brought in more quickly and seamlessly than ever,” he said.

But, he said, the market is looking strong. “We are seeing a continuing strong pipeline of deals underpinned by the relatively strong Australian economy and the robustness of the resources sector,” Webster said. “We’re optimistic that the workflow will continue into the second half of 2005.”

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Freehills, Allens in M&A victory
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