Q4 M&A League Tables: A record year for dealmaking
The M&A market boomed in 2021. US activity was at record levels in terms of both number and total value of deals, with deals from private equity, technology and financial institutions all at their highest levels since at least 2008.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of deals over the past year has been the resurgence of mergers and acquisitions at financial institutions, particularly commercial banks. This sector was a pillar of the M&A market from the 1980s until 2008, when regulators effectively ended consolidation in the wake of the Great Financial Crisis.
But FIG M&A has boomed over the past year, with the biggest deal in the industry being BNP Paribas SA’s $16.3 billion agreement to sell Bank of the West Inc. to Bank of Montreal, announced in December. BNP used Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, which ranked fourth in The Deal’s advisor rankings for Q4 2021, while BMO used Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, which ranked 14th but on eight of the 20 largest deals of the year was there.
Tech dealmaking was also red hot, partly reflecting the ubiquity of technology across all sectors of the economy. Consider the largest tech deal signed by a strategic company in the fourth quarter, Emerson Electric Co.’s (EMR) $11 billion agreement to purchase Aspen Technology Inc. (AZPN), owned by Skadden , Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, third place, turned our ranking, while Emerson, historically a manufacturing company that buys Aspen for its software and services expertise, used Davis Polk & Wardwell, sixth place in our ranking.
Healthcare dealmaking has also been resilient, although the sector hasn’t seen a truly massive combination this year. But the largest merger in the industry signed by a strategic company showed how technology and healthcare come together when Oracle Corp. (ORCL) agreed to raise $28 billion for IT company Cerner Corp. (CERN) in healthcare, which approached Latham & Watkins (#2 in our ranking) as legal counsel, while Oracle employed Hogan Lovells (#34) with Kirkland & Ellis LLP (#1) as antitrust counsel.
Kirkland was also on the buy-side of the top three deals signed by private equity sponsors in the fourth quarter, advising Bain Capital LLC and Hellman & Friedman LLC on a $17 billion agreement to purchase Athenahealth Inc. from Veritas Capital Fund Management LLC, Evergreen Coast Capital Corp. and KKR & Co. Inc. and Global Infrastructure Partners on a $15 billion deal for CyrusOne Inc. (CONE) and as financing advisor to Advent International Corp., Permira Advisers LLC, Crosspoint Capital Partners, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, GIC Pte. ltd on a $14 billion agreement to purchase McAfee Corp. (MCFE).
Editor’s Note: The original version of this article, including additional rankings for Delaware law firms, proxy attorneys, and public relations firms, was previously published on The Deal’s premium subscription site.
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