Across the Asia Pacific, a two-year-old slowdown in mergers and acquisitions continued into 2017, despite a strong final quarter.
Deal value totaled approximately $1.02 trillion from across the Asia Pacific, not including Japan. in 2017—down 1.6 percent from 2016, according to a report released by Thomson Reuters. But according to another report released by Mergermarket, total M&A volume in 2017 for the region was $673.5 billion—up slightly from $658.8 billion in 2016. Due to different methodologies, deal roundup statistics often vary from organization to organization.
Clifford Chance was ranked top M&A adviser for the Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) by both Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg L.P., with $88.7 billion and $86.9 billion, respectively, recorded in volume advised. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Herbert Smith Freehills claimed second- and third-place on both lists.
King & Wood Mallesons retained the top spot on Mergermarket’s list, advising deals valued at $81 billion in the Asia Pacific (excluding Japan)—a 50 percent fall in volume compared to 2016. Clifford Chance and Skadden rounded out the top three.
Paris-headquartered commercial real estate company Unibail-Rodamco SE’s $25 billion acquisition of Australian shopping mall operator Westfield Corp. Ltd. was one of the top deals in the region. Clifford Chance is advising Unibail-Rodamco alongside Shearman & Sterling. while Skadden and King & Wood Mallesons are acting for Westfield with Debevoise & Plimpton.
Clifford Chance and Skadden also advised some of the largest M&As in Asia. U.S.-based Skadden acted as regulatory counsel to a Chinese private equity consortium on its $16 billion acquisition of Singapore-based warehouse operator Global Logistic Properties Ltd., while the Magic Circle firm represented Bank of China Group Investment, a consortium member.
In October, both firms landed lead roles on a $5 billion energy deal when Clifford Chance advised U.S. investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners on its acquisition of Singaporean renewable energy producer Equis Energy.
One driver for Asia’s overall decrease in deal volume is a sharp fall of Chinese outbound deals compared to 2016. Thomson Reuters‘ data valued 862 outbound deals from China in 2017 at $141.5 billion, down 35 percent from the year before.
In its report, Mergermarket attributed the fall to the Chinese government’s tightening control of capital outflow. “China is now urging companies to restrict overseas investments, or only to look outbound if business-critical, with companies having to stress the returns it will bring back to China to gain the green light from regulators,” read the report.
Mergermarket also noted political headwinds from the receiving end of Asia’s outbound investments. “Multiple blocks by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States in 2017 have led would-be acquirers in China to rethink their strategies in the U.S.,” the report wrote. The research organization found an 81 percent drop in total value of U.S.-bound Chinese investments in 2017 compared to a year earlier.
“Unhappy with being labeled national security risks, dealmakers have begun to consider avoiding U.S. deals,” Mergermarket observed, “with the potential for tech investments to be especially vulnerable to such shifts and with Chinese companies now starting to look for targets elsewhere.”
Morrison & Foerster, which has one of the largest Japan practices among U.S. firms, unsurprisingly topped all three league tables for Japan M&As. In September, MoFo advised Toshiba Corp. on an $18 billion sale of its chipmaking unit to a Bain Capital-led consortium in the largest M&A deal in Japan and the largest private equity deal in Asia last year.
Traditionally strong Japanese outbound volume dropped by 36.7 percent in 2017 from a year earlier, according to Mergermarket, while inbound investments —those going into Japan, especially those from the United States—hit their highest volume since 2008.