Comment: A leading firm in M&A, which has surpassed the trend in an already booming market and enjoyed a remarkable year. With a corporate practice now substantially bigger than all of its rivals, the footprint of Hengeler in the M&A market is massive. It has had more than its fair share of the top deals (both international and domestic) but can also point to a long list of midsized deals where a new generation of younger partners are cutting their teeth. That breadth differentiates the firm more than anything from Freshfields and Linklaters. It is not surprising to see the firm involved with major German deals, such as the work for United Internet, Bosch or Knorr-Bremse. The test will always be how far it can compete on cross-border work. It is still the case that major international corporates are less likely to choose Hengeler and best friends for large multijurisdictional work, not least because they are less likely to be on the panel for such work in the first place. But on major deals with key clients, HM can still hold its own on outbound work (e.g. Vitol Group in Turkey or Fresenius Helios in Spain). It was also heavily involved in one of the most significant deals – Peugeot’s acquisition of Opel – thanks to its French partner Bredin Prat. The latter deal was important in another way as well: while market focus over the past few years has been on the dominance of Ziegenhain (esp. on the seller side), this year the talk was about the return of Schiessl to former glories. But there is a group of younger partners now emerging beneath the grandseigneurs in Düsseldorf and Munich: Meurer and Schwandtner, and Link and Wiegand respectively. This made the loss of a second M&A partner (to a US rival) within two years all the more disappointing and ominous: Dr. Steffen Oppenländer, who had been based in London for four years, moved in late summer 2017 to Milbank. After some years of stasis in Frankfurt, there was a decisive shift of gear with new partners in corporate being named but there is still some way to go before the office is returned to former glories. Hengeler partners insist, however, that the individual offices per se play very little role as regards the strength of the corporate team. Whether this is really the case will further be tested in a market where there are fewer transactions and there is more temptation to maintain the utilization rate in those offices that are closest.
Strengths: Outstanding partners who advise an array of top-level clients, asset classes and transaction sizes. Low leverage and high partner input.
Development potential: Even if the emergence of younger partners is an important development, the utilization rate, esp. among leading partners, is not sustainable. Even when the market cools off, it will shine a light on the huge generational shift that is facing the corporate practice in the years ahead. There is a substantial “bulge-bracket” of partners in their early 50s whose sizeable shoes have to be filled, not least as regards client acquisition. There are some encouraging signs, however. The younger partners, incl. those who have just been elected, seem to have an attitude to business development which matches more their contemporaries at other firms, rather than the more traditionally passive young Hengeler partner role.
Recommended: Prof. Dr. Hans-Jörg Ziegenhain (“always rigorous and quick”, client), Dr. Maximilian Schiessl (“extremely experienced, even beyond traditional specialties, very practice- and solution-oriented”, client), Dr. Christof Jäckle, Dr. Reinhold Ernst, Dr. Matthias Hentzen, Thomas Müller, Dr. Peter Weyland, Dr. Christian Möller, Prof. Dr. Jochen Vetter, Dr. Daniela Favoccia (“strong expertise, fair billing”, client), Dr. Emanuel Strehle, Dr. Albrecht Conrad, Dr. Joachim Rosengarten (“experienced high-caliber practitioner”, competitor), Thomas Meurer, Dr. Bernd Wirbel (“esp. good for strategically important projects”, client), Dr. Karsten Schmidt-Hern (“can quickly develop productive relationship based on trust with him”, client), Dr. Daniel Wiegand, Dr. Johannes Adolff, Dr. Georg Frowein, Dr. Nicolas Böhm, Dr. Christian Schwandtner, Dr. Alexander Nolte, Dr. Simon Link (“already provides high-caliber advice”, client), Dr. Georg Seyfarth (“quick, constructive, pleasant”, competitor).
Practice: Top-level M&A work, focus on German blue chips but also strong international contacts. Also leading in ?corporate. The various offices are becoming more similar (Düsseldorf was focused more on industry, whereas Frankfurt had good contacts to investment banks). (Corporate in total: 52 partners, 101 associates)
Clients: ?? United Internet on public takeover of Drillisch; Epigenomics on public takeover by Cathay Fortune; Bosch on sale of generator division to Chinese consortium; Deutsche Telekom on sale of Strato to United Internet; Knorr-Bremse on acquisition of Vossloh’s Electrical Systems division.
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