Energy deals keep M&A teams ticking over

Joshua Freedman, reporter, The Lawyer


The world of corporate deals has been either on the road to recovery or rather dull, depending on who you ask and which statistics you believe. Energy lawyers have seen a notable upturn, with deals such as GDF Suez’s £17.1bn investment in International Power, which gave roles to Linklaters and Clifford Chance as well as French and offshore firms.

Law firms’ 2010-11 corporate turnovers show that UK outfits’ global corporate practice turnovers for the past financial year are undoubtedly influenced by uncertainty in the markets. Summers may always be quieter than the rest of the year, but developments in Greece made the middle of 2010 a true silly season.

There was a slight lull over the winter months before the rush of February to March, but it was events in Greece that had the biggest effect on the M&A market and law firms’ fortunes, with deals and projects being put on hold.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s global corporate practice appears to have suffered slightly, turning over £376.2m in 2010-11, down by 5.7 per cent on the previous year’s figure of £399m. This was, in turn, a 1.1 per cent decrease from the £454.3m it produced in 2008-9, although it was up on its 2007-8 turnover. This was despite some impressive client wins, including on the Rosneft deal, where it was instructed by BP, an established Linklaters client.

Linklaters, however, saw a clear increase in its corporate revenue, turning over £475.2m, or just under 40 per cent, of overall income for the firm globally. Last year the practice contributed £449.5m – some 38 per cent of overall turnover.

Slaughter and May maintains its position just behind the big four of Linklaters, Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy when it comes to corporate turnover, although Slaughters’ figures are estimates as the firm does not disclose turnover.

Norton Rose suffered from the relative inactivity of key clients such as HSBC and Axa, but was able to make ends meet thanks to the busy energy sector – one of the firm’s strongest tricks. The firm’s corporate turnover was up by some 58 per cent, from £107.4m in 2009-10 to £169.3m in 2010-11, thanks to the merger with Australian firm Deacons that went live in January 2010.

Herbert Smith, Hogan Lovells, CMS Cameron McKenna, DLA Piper, Eversheds and Ashurst all get a look-in just outside the leading pack, but the market is still dominated by the usual suspects.