Australian and Indian firms made up half of the top 10 legal advisers for mergers and acquisitions in 2018 in the Asia Pacific, excluding Japan, while only two U.S. firms ranked in the top 10, according to data compiled by Mergermarket.
King & Wood Mallesons, Herbert Smith Freehills and Allens took the top three spots by deal volume while India’s Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co and AZB & Partners were eighth and ninth, respectively.
U.S. firms Sullivan & Cromwell and Davis Polk & Wardwell ranked sixth and 10th, respectively. For both firms, this was an improvement from 2017: Sullivan & Cromwell moved up from eighth and Davis Polk jumped from 23rd.
The Australian firms were boosted by several multibillion-dollar Australian outbound deals. In 2018, Australia saw engineering firm WorleyParsons Ltd. sell its energy and resources arm to Dallas-based Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. for $3.3 billion, Commonwealth Bank of Australia sell its global asset management business to Japanese bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. for $2.9 billion, and wealth management firm AMP Ltd. sell its Australia and New Zealand life insurance division to London-based Resolution Life Group Holdings for $2.3 billion.
Herbert Smith Freehills advised WorleyParsons—a longtime client of the firm—and the Commonwealth Bank, while King & Wood Mallesons advised AMP. The sell-offs by the Commonwealth Bank and AMP come after a regulatory crackdown on Australia’s financial sector, which found dozens of financial services providers guilty of misconduct.
In India, Shardul Amarchand advised U.S. retail giant Walmart Inc. on its $16 billion acquisition of Indian online retailer Flipkart Internet Private Ltd. Domestic firms also benefited from several large global transactions that contain a significant Indian piece. Shardul Amarchand gave Indian law advice to U.S. agrochemicals company Monsanto Co. on its $63 billion sale to German life sciences giant Bayer AG, while AZB advised British pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline plc’s $3.8 billion acquisition of the Horlicks brand from Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever plc. The deals propelled Shardul Amarchand and AZB into the top 10 in the 2018 league table from 30th and 14th the previous year, respectively.
The Flipkart deal and a new Indian bankruptcy code boosted the Indian M&A to reach the highest annual value of $100 billion in Mergermarket’s record, which goes back to 2001, making India the second most targeted country for M&As after China.
M&A activity in the Asia-Pacific, excluding Japan, reached its second-highest annual value since 2001, according to Mergermarket, with $717.4 billion from 4,036 deals—an increase of 2.6 percent in value but a drop of 42 deals from the previous year.
In Japan, where firms are ranked separately, U.S. firms jumped up in the rankings. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson and Latham & Watkins occupied the top two spots in 2018, up from 24th and 44th the previous year, respectively.
Fried Frank was on the largest M&A deal globally in 2018—the $79.7 billion takeover of Irish drugmaker Shire plc by Japanese pharmaceutical giant Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., advising Evercore Partners as one of the joint financial advisers to Takeda. Meanwhile, Latham advised California-based chip design firm Integrated Device Technology Inc. on its $6.7 billion sale to Japanese chip maker Renesas Electronics Corp.
Sullivan & Cromwell and Davis Polk & Wardwell were fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Japan M&A league table, up from 13th and 15th the previous year.
Japanese outbound activity reached an unprecedented level in 2018, with 311 deals worth $171.8 billion—the highest value on Mergermarket’s record, largely driven by the Takeda deal.
Japanese firms Mori Hamada & Matsumoto and Nishimura & Asahi completed the top five, placing third and fifth, respectively. Both were on the $5.7 billion tie-up between Japanese refiners Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd. and Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K.—the largest Japanese deal in 2018, according to Mergermarket. Mori Hamada advised Idemitsu while Nishimura represented Showa Shell.
Japanese M&A deal flow in 2018 was relatively steady, valued at $46.8 billion from 444 deals, up $1.2 billion from 24 fewer deals the previous year, according to Mergermarket. The steady deal flow is largely a result of Japan’s relatively stable economic and political circumstances, Mergermarket said.