Stikemans, Blakes duke it out to top 2010 M&A activity

Canada's M&A activity increased in 2010, up 19 per cent by deal count and 6.8 per cent in terms of total deal value, compared to 2009, according to a report by the Mergermarket Group.

The report also tracks the top M&A legal advisers by total value and deal count. But the rankings take into consideration lapsed or withdrawn bids too, including the whopping $42-billion BHP Billiton Plc. bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., which was withdrawn following a promise by the federal government to stop it due to concerns it would not be beneficial to Canada.

No wonder then that Blake Cassels Graydon LLP and Stikeman Elliott LLP, which assisted the two opposing sides in the unsolicited Potash Corp. bid, claim the top spots in M&A activity for 2010 in terms of total value of deals. Blakes comes in first followed by Stikeman.

However, when it comes to deal numbers, though the same two firms lead the list, Stikeman grabs the top spot with 81, followed closely by Blakes with 78. Olser Hoskin Harcourt LLP is in third place with its work on 71 deals. McCarthy Tetrault LLP is in fourth with 48.

It worthy to note that Stikeman gained the most ground in 2010 compared to 2009, moving from seventh to second in terms of value of deals and from fourth to first in terms of number of deals.

The typical thriving sectors in the Canadian economy were the most active in M&A activity as well, the report notes, with energy, mining, utilities and financial services making up most of the M&A opportunities.

Energy, mining and utilities led with 168 deals valued at $51.6 billion, accounting for 65.7 percent of total Canadian deals.

Of course, Canadian banks were not beaten up by the crisis, so now they are taking advantage of their healthly outlook and going shopping in the United States and elsewhere, the report's authors note. "Deals in the financial services sector are seeing a revival as buyers cherry pick from the large basket of troubled U.S. banks," they write.

For more on the Potash Corp. case and foreign investment deals in Canada, check out the cover story of the February issue of Canadian Lawyer InHouse, which will be out Jan. 31

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