Latham, Freshfields and Wachtell Top 2020’s Tech-Powered Global M&A Rankings

Latham & Watkins, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz took the top spots in the latest global M&A adviser rankings after a year powered by deals in the technology sector.

Transactions in the tech sector made up the largest overall segment of deal value globally with roughly 20% market share during 2020, according to an annual report by data provider Mergermarket.

Mark Druskoff, data-driven content coordinator for Mergermarket, said that he expects the tech sector to continue to be a driver in 2021, both on its own as well as because of how integrated it has become with more “traditional” sectors such as pharma and finance.

“There is pretty substantial promise in technology,” Druskoff said. “Industrial robots in manufacturing, online merchandise ordering, health care… these things, during COVID, are a necessity, and all involve a technology element.”

Latham & Watkins’ involvement in the largest U.S. deal in the sector, the AMD acquisition of Xilinx in November, helped push the firm to top of the global league table by value of deals after placing 2nd in U.S. M&A and 2nd in European M&A as well as 14th in the Asia Pacific region, according to the rankings.

Globally, the firm worked on 455 deals throughout the year worth $470.2 billion.

Farah O’Brien, partner and co-chair of the London corporate department at Latham & Watkins, said: “Q4 was really marked by a significant uplift in private equity transactions, which boosted deal values and wider market activity. This uplift has continued into 2021 and we expect another strong year for the team.”

Freshfields, meanwhile, finished top in Europe and also in Asia Pacific. In the U.S. it ranked 11th, which itself was a rise from 17th in 2019. Wachtell, meanwhile, maintained its position as first in the U.S. tables.

Lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic caused activity levels to plummet in April, however M&A came back during the summer months, according to Mergermarket analysis.

Overall, Druskoff said “mega deal” activity in the second half of the year was a driver for the year’s numbers.

The second half of the year saw M&A activity levels skyrocket, achieving $2.2 trillion worth of deals in the six months to the end of December – representing the highest half year figure on Mergermarket record.

September was the single most active month of 2020 with $415.6bn worth of deals done, helped along by a surge of multi-billion dollar transactions.

The report stated there were 1,289 deals that fell into the technology and telecom sector worth roughly $385 billion in 2020, compared to 1,300 deals in 2019 totaling $245 billion.

Meanwhile the total value of private equity buyouts in 2020, meanwhile, hit its highest its annual figure since the global financial crisis in 2008-2009, reaching a value of $608.7 billion across the year.

In December, corporate lawyers reported dealing with a flurry of M&A transactions that made the period up to Christmas one of the busiest of their careers.

Druskoff added that for the first time in several years, U.S. market share in overall global M&A declined in 2020. He said this was fueled not just by COVID, which every region had to deal with, but by political and social unrest and a presidential election that stirred uncertainty about the U.S. market. Political opinions aside, he said, a stable and consistent government apparatus controlled by one party coupled with the emergence of a COVID vaccine should provide some needed consistency moving into 2021.

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