Law firms say the slight uptick in M&A activity revealed in half-yearly league tables released last week reflect their own sense that the market has grown much more optimistic in the last couple of months.
League tables released by Bloomberg found that although deal volume in the Asia Pacific region was down by 54 per cent in the first half of 2009 compared with the first half of 2008 - which was to be expected - the second quarter of 2009 has shown some optimistic results, with deal volume up by 37 per cent, compared to the first quarter of 2009.
Similar tables released by Thomson Reuters, meanwhile, found that overall Australian M&A volume in the first half of 2009 posted an increase of 34.2 per cent to reach US$89.8 billion ($113 billion) from the first half of 2008 - largely due to the announcement of the $US58 billion joint venture partnership between Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton
According to Mallesons M&A co-head, Stephen Minns, an uptick in work at his firm in the second quarter of 2009 can be seen more specifically in the last six weeks.
Minns told Lawyers Weekly that much of the change comes down to a consensus that purchasers are starting to cautiously believe we've hit rock bottom and the way up is now in sight.
"If you were a purchaser with money, there was always the belief that next month, prices would be lower, so there was no urgency," said Minns. "I think what's happened in the last four to five weeks is perceptively, that [lack of urgency] has changed - I think there is a belief that we've seen the bottom, so just hanging around is not a good a thing."
Freehills M&A partner Rebecca Maslen-Stannage said that while the firm has seen a lot of capital raisings over the past six months with the intention of strengthening balance sheets, more recently they have been seeing companies raising capital with an eye for growth or acquisition.
Damian Reichel, head of M&A at Johnson Winter & Slattery also agreed that some clients are looking to make the most of emerging opportunities, having taken a wait-and-see approach for some times now. "We've still got the same bumpy water now, but people have put their toes in and thought 'We can still swim'," he said.
- Angela Priestley