Mergers and acquisitions have plummeted this year, with the value of global deals falling by more than 50% compared with the first six months of 2019.

According to Mergermarket’s half-year roundup, deal values across the world fell to $901.6bn in the first half of 2020, down from $1.9 trillion last year. The volume of global deals decreased by almost a third, from 10,155 transactions to 6,938.

Meanwhile, Europe’s second quarter saw its lowest deal value since the financial crisis over a decade ago. Amid severe economic contraction, only 19 deals valued above $1bn were announced between April and the end of June, down from 37 in the first quarter.

Sixteen of the top 20 global M&A law firms – as ranked by Mergermarket - saw the value of their deals drop in the first half of 2020. Freshfields, Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance reported reductions of 31%, 30% and 56% respectively. Herbert Smith Freehills was a stark exception, with the value of its deals more than doubling.

In Europe, Freshfields topped the league table in terms of deal value, followed by Latham & Watkins and Allen & Overy. Herbert Smith Freehills rose from 34th place to fifth. 

Mergermarket said activity levels are similar to those in 2008 and 2009. However, it said that Covid-19 has generated ‘its own unique brand of mayhem’, as big deals struggle while the mid-market remains ‘resilient’.


*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.