JUVE Law Firm of the year

M&A

A market boom for all firms

There has barely been a year where M&A lawyers have had it so good: A healthy economy encouraging companies to expand through acquisitions, a strong wave of investors from both the US and China, and finally German investment abroad. There was also a return of large public takeovers: both K+S and Deutsche Wohnen managed to fend off hostile takeover bids, while one of the biggest deals ever was launched from German soil, Bayer’s planned takeover of Monsanto. Every year, German lawyers are playing a more dominant role in international M&A projects.

Brexit could strengthen role of Continental Europe

The unexpected result of the Brexit referendum could alter the role of lawyers within European M&A. Firstly, the UK economy will be in limbo for at least two years. The initial reaction of M&A specialists was to advise clients against using English law in transactions since it is not clear to what extent it will be recognized by British and European legislation. This gives continental European M&A lawyers – but especially German M&A lawyers – the opportunity to accelerate their role as international transaction managers.

Resurgence of the lateral market

German M&A teams have racked up a good track record – not quite on the same level as the boom year 2014, but almost. The fact that this was happening through every sector of the market meant that the rising tide lifted all ships and those firms with primarily Mittelstand clients profited as much as the large firms. The rise of public takeovers in particular played right into the hands of specialists. The amount of know-how in this type of transaction is less widely spread. Sullivan & Cromwell played an especially dominant role in this segment last year.

Even before Brexit, law firms had decided to invest heavily in laterals to take advantage of the buoyant M&A market, with US firms in particular hitting the headlines with some spectacular moves. Chief of these was Latham & Watkins: after poaching Clifford Chance’s head of corporate last year, one of Linklaters’ most illustrious M&A lawyers, Dr. Rainer Traugott, joined the firm in early 2016. Nevertheless, even Latham was unable to hold on to all of its stars. Following a prominent loss to Kirkland & Ellis the previous year, the Frankfurt office lost the head Dr. Dirk Oberbracht and a partner experienced in takeover law to rivals Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. Even Kirkland landed a coup in 2016: it is the first firm to woo an experienced partner away from Hengeler Mueller: Dr. Achim Herfs.

British firms also profiting

UK firms were also active. After some had written off Clifford Chance after it lost numerous partners in the course of its restructuring, the firm showed that it was still an attractive destination for market-leading M&A partners: It captured Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s partner Dr. Anselm Raddatz, who will also co-lead the CC practice. Meanwhile UK-Australian firm Herbert Smith Freehills continued its growth in Germany by recruiting lawyers from Freshfields and Baker & McKenzie. So many moves on the top levels are likely to have repercussions for the markets in Frankfurt and Düsseldorf.

 


 

The firms in this chapter are those which are active in legal advice as well as project and transaction management during the acquisition of company assets (known as asset deals) and shares (known as share deals involving either minority or majority shares). Although the meaning of M&A includes mergers, a large number of lawyers active in this area expect such mergers to be part of pure ?corporate. Acquisition advice for private equity houses is discussed in the chapter ?private equity and venture capital.

 


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