M&A deal values have slumped over the last year in Australia, but Freehills and Allens Arthur Robinson have managed to snare the lion's share of the legal work on offer.
The latest data released by Bloomberg shows that deal volumes in Australia are significantly down on last year, with 713 deals having been announced in the first three quarters of calendar year 2009, compared with 898 during the same period last year. Deal values have been even harder hit, having dropped 36 per cent on last year (from $US65 billion to $US42 billion).
However, on the global scale, Australia is faring relatively well. Deal volumes worldwide totalled 15,490 for the first three quarters of 2009 - a nosedive from last years' total of 22,222. Deal values have dropped a massive 43 per cent, standing at $US1185 billion at the end of September 2009, compared with $US2091 billion last year.
In the Australian market, Freehills is once again leading the tally board for M&A legal advisers, having advised on a total of 61 deals. Allens Arthur Robinson, Clayton Utz and Blake Dawson closely follow, having advised on 43, 41 and 40 deals respectively. Mallesons Stephen Jaques and Minter Ellison together share fifth place, with a deal count of 26 each.
However, in terms of deal value, Allens is leading the charge, its 43 deals worth $US18.5 billion. Freehills is in second position on $US16.3 billion, followed by Blakes, Mallesons and UK giant Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Allens Arthur Robinson partner Guy Alexander told Lawyers Weekly that the Australian M&A market had taken a hard hit during the first half of this year as a result of the GFC.
"In the first six months of this year, obviously, we saw a fairly significant drop in M&A activity as against where we were in calendar year 2008. Quite frankly, in December last year it was like the lights were being switched off in terms of demand on M&A deals," he says. "It was an unprecedented time in world markets where there was just no confidence whatsoever [and] debt financing for M&A deals was almost impossible to get."
However, he said that while traditional M&A deals fell away, in their place came a significant number of equity capital raisings which, while not as glamorous in value terms, have kept M&A teams busy.
"It's not the deals of two or three years ago - the huge debt-funded cash deals - but there's still plenty around. Maybe they're not the huge deal values in dollar terms, but from a legal point of view they're still pretty complex and good deals to do."
- Zoe Lyon