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Allen & Overy top regional firm

Allen & Overy top regional firm

Local deals such as the $12.3 billion sale of Foster's have helped Allen & Overy claim top spot in an M&A survey for the Asia-Pacific last year.Mergermarket has released its tables of…

Local deals such as the $12.3 billion sale of Foster's have helped Allen & Overy claim top spot in an M&A survey for the Asia-Pacific last year.

Mergermarket has released its tables of legal advisers across the global M&A sector for 2011.

Its regional analysis found that Allen & Overy acted on the highest value of deals last year in the Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan), with a role on deals with a combined value in excess of $US50 billion.

Australian firms Freehills and Allens Arthur Robinson were ranked second and third respectively, both advising on deals with a combined value of over $US43 billion.

Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett and Freshfiels Bruckhaus Deringer round out the top five, with the next highest Australian firms being Corrs Chambers Westgarth (eighth), Blake Dawson (ninth) and Clayton Utz (10th).

Mallesons Stephen Jaques rounded out the top 20, which was a heavy drop from last year's position of sixth.

The strong performance of A&O and Allens in the Mergermarket table was heavily bolstered by both firms acting on the Foster's sale, which was the largest M&A deal in the region in 2011.

"We think that when clients are buying legal services for these types of transactions, that you want to be competitive in your pricing, but clients understand that if you want the best product and the best service, you need to pay market rates," said Sydney based M&A corporate partner Aaron Kenavan when asked by Lawyers Weekly how the firm finds the balance between competing on price and expertise in the Australian M&A market.

Unlike the Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg M&A league tables which came out last week, the Mergermarket analysis doesn't have a distinct section on Australia and New Zealand.

According to Bloomberg, Allens Arthur Robinson ($US45.3 billion), Freehills ($US36.3 billion), Mallesons Stephen Jaques ($US33.8 billion), Clayton Utz ($US33.5 billion) and Simpson, Thatcher & Bartlett ($US33.3 billion) were the top five firms acting on announced deals in Australia and New Zealand by value. By deal count, Minter Ellison, with 93 deals, led an all top tier top five that included Freehills (62), Mallesons (57), Allens (55) and Clayton Utz (55).

The Thomson Reuters table also painted a picture of top-tier domination, with Freehills emerging as the leading firm by value for completed deals ($US63.5 billion), ahead of Clayton Utz ($US57.3 billion), Allens ($50.9 billion), Blake Dawson ($US49.3 billion) and Mallesons ($US46.6 billion).

After its first full year in Australia, Allen & Overy moved from 36th in 2011 to ninth in the Thomson Reuters table on completed deals. Other significant movers included Johnson Winter & Slattery (38th to 11th), and Clifford Chance (42nd to 22nd).

A&O also came in at number one for announced deals in the Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan), and at number three behind Freehills and Clayton Utz for completed deals in the Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan) in the Thomson Reuters survey.

Late last week, A&O released its Q4 2011 M&A Index which showed that Australia remained a popular destination for the leading global acquiring countries, being a top 10 target market for the USA, Japan, Canada, China (including Hong Kong) and Switzerland.

"Australia has strategically attractive and important assets and resources is the most obvious of those," said Kenavan. "The second reason why Australia is attractive to global investors is that our economy is relatively well positioned compared to many other developed nations.

"If people are looking to find growth in markets that have a lower risk then the traditional or emerging markets, then Australia is a good place to invest."

Similar to the Thomson and Bloomberg tables, the A&O index showed a significant decrease in deal flow for Q4 2011 as compared to Q4 2010.

Justin Whealing

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