Blakes, Bennett Jones: League Table Standouts

The Thomson Reuters M&A Review and league tables for legal advisors are out for the first half of 2012, and two Canadian law firms are standing out from the crowd this year …

… but before we get into that, a glimpse at some of the top-line M&A figures:

Global M&A is way down this year as deal-makers hoard cash to get them through what are bound to be choppy markets over the short  term. Worldwide M&A fell 22% in the first half of the year, to US$1.1 trillion (by number of deals, worldwide M&A is down 17%).

The M&A figures are consistently dismal, but a few areas do show relative (stress on the *relative*) strength. Deal-making in the energy/power sector remains active, with activity representing 18% of announced M&A.

Retail and consumer staples were the only two sectors that actually showed gains year over year. Media/entertainment and consumer products, meanwhile, suffered the steepest declines, with drops in M&A activity of 46% and 45% respectively.

M&A in emerging markets also continues to hold up relatively well, with a drop in deal value of 12% (compared to 22% for the world). Moreover, a comparison of first and second quarters seem to signal an improving deal landscape, with M&A in the second quarter falling by 12% year over year. (We take our silver linings where we can find them.)

Now, on to the legal leaders:

For the “completed deals with any Canadian involvement” ranking, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP takes the top spot, rising from No. 3 last year with deals worth US$17.53 billion (representing a market share of 26.6% among ranked firms).

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP drops one spot to No. 2, with deals worth US$12.54 billion (19% market share). And Stikeman Elliott LLP rises significantly from the No. 9 spot last to take bronze this year, with completed deals worth US$10.59 billion (16% market share).

Turning to the more forward-looking “deals announced” ranking, Blakes once again takes the top spot, from No. 2 last year, with deals worth US$22.96 billion (22.6% market share).

McCarthy Tetrault LLP and Norton Rose Canada LLP both rise one rung to take the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, respectively, with deals worth US$18.87 billion (18.6% market share) and US$17.21 billion (16.9% market share).

Osler, which held the top spot for deals announced in the first half of 2011, dropped to No. 14, with deal value of US$8.58 billion (8.4% market share).

But the big story this year may be the much improved performance of Bennett Jones LLP, which made huge gains on the league tables.

In the “deals completed” ranking, Bennett Jones jumped from No. 40 last year to No. 6, with deal value of US$7.89 billion (11.9% market share). And in the “deals announced” category, the firm jumped from No. 28 to to No. 4, with deal value of US$17.1 billion (16.8% market share).

-David Dias

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