Q1 Roundup: Skadden Back on Top as M&A Spikes

Boosted by megadeals, U.S. M&A volumes spiked by 59% over Q4 2023. With strong earnings, equity markets hitting highs, and interest rate cuts on the horizon, a measured confidence has returned – and deal activity along with it. High valuations have permitted large corporations to more easily finance deals despite high interest rates.

While private equity activity has remained sluggish and the regulatory climate hostile, companies forged ahead as recession fears diminished. DealPulse’s M&A database tracks publicly-announced deals over $25 million in value, harnessing both AI and attorneys to digest the granular deal points of each transaction to allow for comparisons across industries, specific deal terms, and both legal and financial advisors.

“[W]ith the business landscape experiencing seismic shifts – ranging from the rise of AI to the growing importance of sustainability and the emergence of a more demanding, tech-enabled consumer class – CEOs across industries tell us that M&A is a more vital strategic lever than ever,” according to McKinsey. “Organic growth – which never compared well with the most effective M&A strategy – pales further when significant strategic shifts are called for.”

Source: Reuters

The two largest deals of the quarter, Capital One’s acquisition of Discover Financial for $35.3 billion and Synopsys’s $35 billion acquisition of ANSYS, Inc., propelled each of this quarter’s leaders into the coveted top 5.

Skadden led the pack this quarter. While no stranger to the leader board, Skadden had dropped out of last quarter’s top 5 – but the firm came roaring back in 2024. Skadden advised ANSYS as well as 3 other clients on additional deals this quarter, including Catalent, Inc. in its 16.5 billion acquisition by Novo Holdings.

Wachtell comes in at the #2 spot for the second quarter in a row. The M&A powerhouse advised Capital One on its mega deal as well as Hewlett Packard in its $14 billion acquisition of Juniper Networks and APA Corporation in its $4.5 billion acquisition of Callon Petroleum Company.

Goodwin Proctor narrowly trails Wachtell this quarter, advising on $51.5 billion worth of deals. Most notably, Goodwin serves as co-counsel alongside Skadden in advising ANSYS, Inc.

Sullivan & Cromwell snagged the #4 spot, propelled by its representation of Discover Financial. SullCrom narrowly beat out Cleary Gottlieb, which rounded out the league table at the #5 spot, due to its representation of Synopsys.

While technology deals had evaporated in the end of 2024, they returned in 2024. Tech deals have served as a major driver of M&A activity in previous years but withered throughout much of 2023. During the first three months of this year, tech volumes skyrocketed by 42% to put the sector back in the lead once more.

Analysts anticipate a continued wave of transactions as companies adapt to rapid change within the economy. As always, DealPulse will be tracking them.