Three-quarters of the way through 2013, three firms have landed in the top tier of three separate rankings of M&A legal advisers as the global M&A market experiences a boost from a spate of large transactions—several of figured into the telecommunications industry’s ongoing consolidation trend.
Each of the so-called league tables released this week by Bloomberg, Mergermarket, and Thomson Reuters ranks Davis Polk & Wardwell, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (in varying order) as the top three firms based on the total value of their corporate clients’ M&A transactions over the first nine months of 2013. Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters both ranked Wachtell first and Davis Polk second, with the order reversed in Mergermarket’s rankings. Simpson Thacher placed third in all the rankings.
Both Davis Polk and Wachtell advised clients on more than $260 billion worth of transactions through the end of September, according to the three separate rankings.
As The Am Law Daily has reported in the past, the three outlets rely on different metrics when ranking legal advisers, making the lists most useful for the broad view they offer of which law firms are especially active in the M&A market.
Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters both tabbed Jones Day as the top firm based on total transactions through the first three quarters of this year with 296 and 275 deals, respectively. DLA Piper sits atop Mergermarket’s deal count ranking with 247 deals during that same period.
Davis Polk topped all three outlets rankings based on total deal value in both the first and second quarters of this year, with Wachtell generally following close behind before overtaking its Am Law 100 rival in two of the three latest lists.
It’s worth noting that neither those firms nor Simpson Thacher managed to crack the top 10 legal advisers based on deal count in any of those rankings. Several of the deals on which they have advised, on the other hand, have been massive transactions worth at least $10 billion.
All three firms, for instance, have grabbed roles in the nearly $25 billion proposed sale of Dell to its founder, Michael Dell—a deal that is likely to move forward now that activist investor Carl Icahn has dropped his opposition. Earlier in the year, the $28 billion sale of H.J. Heinz Company to Berkshire Hathaway generated assignment roles forboth Davis Polk, which advised Heinz, and Wachtell, which took the lead for a special committee of that company’s board in February. More recently, Wachtell also advised French advertising group Publicis on its $23 billion merger with U.S. rival Omnicom in July.
Each of those deals has contributed to the uptick in global M&A activity, which Thomson Reuters reports edged up 2 percent in the first three quarters of this year compared to the same period in 2012. Global M&A jumped 36 percent in this year’s third quarter alone compared to last year’s third quarter, and 18 percent, to $685 billion in total deal value, between the second and third quarters of 2013, according to Bloomberg.
The third-quarter surge is largely due to the fact that the year’s largest deal so far—and the third-largest M&A transaction in history—came during those three months: Vodafone Group’s sale of its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon Communications for $130 billion in cash and stock. Wachtell snagged the role of lead adviser to Verizon Communications, while Simpson Thacher represented Vodafone. Davis Pol, meanwhile, represented J.P. Morgan Securities and Morgan Stanley, Verizon’s financial advisers on the transaction, part of the telecom industry’s broader consolidation trend.
As sibling publication Corporate Counsel noted on Monday, Mergermarket’s quarterly report shows that the technology/media/telecommunications industry accounted for 27.7 percent of total deal values through the first three quarters of 2013. The sector’s other major deals this year include Liberty Global’s $23 billion purchase of Virgin Media in February,and the proposed sale of Dutch mobile carrier Koninklijke KPN to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s America Movil. (The latter transaction is actually on hold at the moment, as KPN’s management is holding out for a better offer than the $9.6 billion Slim initially bid in August for the remaining 70 percent stake in the company he doesn’t already own.)