Latham & Watkins Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Dealmakers have been focused on U.S. assets through the first nine months of 2018, and one firm taking advantage of the trend is Latham & Watkins, according to three data sets that track M&A activity.

For the first three quarters of 2017, the firm was outside the top five in rankings prepared by Mergermarket, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg that track the top firms by value of announced deals. That changed this year, when Latham jumped into the top ranks in all three. While the order varied across the three measures, the firm placed highest, at second, in Thomson Reuters’ rankings.

Mergermarket found that global dealmaking activity was down worldwide in the third quarter, blaming geopolitical tensions and trade wars for the sleepiest period since the first quarter of 2016, measured in value of deals. Amid this dreary international outlook, the U.S. was a bright spot. It drew in 47.5 percent of the global activity in the third quarter, up from 40.9 percent in same period of 2017.

Looking at the wider first three quarters of 2018, according to Thomson Reuters, U.S.-based M&A increased 50 percent in volume from the same period of 2017.

Amid that backdrop, Latham climbed from seventh to fourth in Mergermarket’s data, eighth to second in Thomson Reuters’, and 10th to third in Bloombergs’.

Other noteworthy findings:

  • Four firms—Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Latham; Sullivan & Cromwell; and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz—landed in the top five in all three data sets. 
  • But Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which held on to the top spot in Mergermarket’s rankings, did not. Due to the differing methodologies employed by the three, it sank from first to sixth in Bloomberg’s report.
  • Two less familiar names appeared amid the global heavyweights that dominate the top 20: Delaware’s Potter Anderson & Corroon and Richard Layton & Finger. Although both firms have handled 10 or fewer deals so far this year, they both had roles in the one Mergermarket and Bloomberg are calling this biggest: Energy Transfer Partners’ agreement to merge with a wholly owned subsidiary of Energy Transfer Equity in a unit-for-unit exchange, reported at roughly $60 billion.

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