Linklaters, the UK based law firm, has claimed first place in a global mergers and acquisitions league table ousting US rival Sullivan & Cromwell, which has held the top spot for the past four years.
Roles on four of the ten biggest M&A deals of 2008 – including InBev’s $60.8 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch, the year’s largest – pushed Linklaters’ deal tally to $365 billion, according to Bloomberg data.
The 2,600-lawyer firm, which jumped from seventh place last year, also secured mandates on Lloyds TSB’s takeover of HBOS and Merrill Lynch’s sale to Bank of America.
The flurry of deals was enough to push Sullivan & Cromwell, which advised on $309 billion of deals, in to second place in the weakest year for global M&A since 2004.
The value of deals struck in 2008 was $2.5 trillion, down 38 per cent from $4.06 trillion in the record year of 2007.
The only other UK-based law firms to feature in the Bloomberg top ten were Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which held third place from last year, and Clifford Chance, which slipped one place to sixth.
UK rival Allen & Overy dropped out of the top ten after finishing second in 2007.
David Barnes, head of Linklaters’ corporate department, said the firm’s performance was a mixture of strategy and good fortune. “Our efforts to build a strong presence in the US paid off last year while at the same time we benefited because some of our longstanding clients like InBev were the ones doing deals.”
Mr Barnes added that roles on several financial services deals since the Lehman Brothers collapse, including the $23 billion nationalisation of Fortis, helped the firm’s tally.
Mr Barnes joined other commentators in predicting that the recent slump in M&A, which saw deal value drop 43 per cent between the third and fourth quarters of 2008, would continue into 2009.
He said the value of M&A would fall again in 2009 but added that there would still be work for corporate lawyers. “Companies will still need to move capital around and there will be businesses looking for bargains,” he said. “Those retailers that survive the next few months may decide to consolidate or divest poor performing assets to shape up for the long term.”