Three Irish law firms catapulted to the top ranks of European merger advisers
A SLEW of takeover deals helped catapult three Dublin law firms to the top of the European legal adviser rankings last year, jostling with Wall Street and the City of London's so-called Magic Circle of top firms.
A&L Goodbody was ranked 18th in Europe according to new research from Thomson Reuters based on the $64.77bn (€54bn) value of mergers and acquisitions the Irish firm advised on last year. That was up from 32nd place in 2012.
Rival Matheson, formerly Matheson Ormsby Prentice, ranked 20 among European law firms last year, up from 122, and Arthur Cox moved from 119 to 22, based on the value of deals the firm advised on.
A&L Goodbody's David Widger said 2014 had been an exceptional year in terms of the value of Irish deals, but warned that the figures reflect so-called "inversions" involving US corporations merging with smaller, Irish-registered, but global, companies.
"Corporate inversion deals skewed the dollar value of mergers and acquisitions in Ireland," Mr Widger said.
The so-called inversions were driven by corporations looking to shrink global tax bills that are levied at 35pc of profits if they are US-based, higher than their rivals pay, he said.
For firms here it created a demand for advice on Irish company law, tax and takeover regulation.
The inversion trend, which gathered pace in 2012 and 2013 before accelerating last year, is now likely to slow following US Government interventions, he said. A&L Goodbody's 2014 deals include advising on the US$42.9bn (€35.7bn) merger of US medical device company Medtronic and Irish-domiciled Covidien, the biggest deal in Europe last year.
Sale of portfolios of loans by banks, including the liquidators of IBRC, were also a major theme last year.
That trend will extend into 2015, according to David Widger, when as well as sales by banks some US funds that bought Irish loans work through and sell on parts of their new portfolios.
The year ahead will also feature more traditional corporate M&A work, which remains at the core of A&L Goodbody's advisory practice, he said.
There is international appetite for Irish-owned trading business in the technology, medical devices and hotel sectors that are likely to throw up deals this year, he said.
In Europe the value of M&A activity announced last year reached US$1.3 trillion, up 35.5pc on to the previous year, according to Thomson Reuters.
Not all of those deals completed, including the planned merger of Ireland's Fyffes and US rival Chiquita.
Across Europe private equity firms such as Blackstone and Lone Star ramped up spending, in what was the sector's busiest year since before the credit bubble burst in 2008.
Globally, drugs, industrials and media deals dominated the M&A tables last year.
Market analysts think plunging prices could drive deals in the oil sector in 2015.