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Chart: The Golden State – 2004′s top 10 California IPOs Chart: U.S. law firms ranked by number of deals What a change one year can make. Last year, Silicon Valley mourned what had been the worst year for IPOs since 1979, and heavyweights like Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati had only a handful of initial public offerings. Altogether in the U.S., there were only 86 offerings. But this year was the best since 2000, with 250 IPOs being priced, according to data from securities research firm Thomson Financial. And this year, Wilson had a hand in 18 offerings, including the bumpy but successful debut of Mountain View’s Google Inc., which in August raised $1.6 billion in a novel, auction-type offering. Google’s lift-off had led to speculation it would prime the IPO pump, but it isn’t clear it gets the credit. “Clearly Google was in a class by itself,” says Latham & Watkins’ Patrick Pohlen. “But I don’t think it was the be-all end-all.” “I don’t think Google had an effect on other companies going public,” said Cooley Godward’s Mark Tanoury. “I think the economy had been improving for technology companies.” “A lot of people did file after Google’s success,” said Gregory Smith, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. “The real question is, of the deals that are on file, how many will actually get out?” Latham & Watkins emerged as 2004′s leader, representing the issuer or underwriter in 33 offerings nationwide. Skadden, Arps came in second, with 29. Valley-based tech firms had a prominent spot at the table. Wilson Sonsini had 18 deals and Cooley Godward had 15. “We knew going into the year that we had a really good base of private companies,” said Cooley’s Tanoury. “How many end up going public is not always in our control.” “Given the economic uncertainties, we’ve been pleased at the uptick in business,” said Wilson partner Jeffrey Saper. “We should expect that the deal flow [in the first quarter of the new year] should equal, if not surpass, last year’s first quarter.” Still, it’s nothing like 1996, when a record 873 companies went public. Pillsbury Winthrop’s Davina Kaile said companies going public today tend to be more mature than in the boom years. Firm leaders were also encouraged by data compiled by IPO Vital Signs, showing that 141 prospective IPO issuers are registered with the SEC. In that queue, Latham represents the most prospective issuers and is tied for the lead in representing underwriters. Judging by the amount of money raised, Skadden, Arps led the way in 2004, with more than $10 billion. But Skadden handled just one IPO for a California-based company. It found its deals in other states and, like other firms, it was also put to work on IPOs in other countries. Skadden lawyers represented China-based chip maker SMIC in a $1.7 billion offering listed on the New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges. Pillsbury Winthrop, meanwhile, represented issuers in six domestic IPOs in 2004. But the firm also represented Australia-based Virgin Blue Holdings Limited, a low-cost air carrier, in its $2.7 billion IPO.

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