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Bloomberg: Clifford Chance *(Shell’s solicitors), Freshfields, Allen & Overy See Sustained M&A

By Caroline Byrne

April 4 (Bloomberg) — Clifford Chance LLP, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Allen & Overy LLP, the three leading legal advisers on European mergers in the first quarter, see no slackening in the pace of takeovers in 2007.

The number of European transactions in the first quarter rose 4.7 percent to 2,346 from 2,240 a year earlier, while the value increased 6.5 percent to $486.4 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Two-thirds of the European deals involved Britain and Germany, the data show.

“There will be a market downturn but not in 2007,” said Helge Schafer, a corporate partner at Allen & Overy in Hamburg, Germany. “I think in the next quarter it will pick up.”

Clifford Chance, which worked on the two largest transactions of the quarter, anticipates more real estate deals involving German companies and governments, according to Oliver Felsenstein, a corporate partner in Frankfurt. The state of North Rhine- Westphalia, for example, plans to sell a company that owns more than 100,000 apartments, he said.

“The number of people who live in their own house in England is 70 percent compared to 45 percent in Germany so there is a view people will buy their own houses and there is a chance to privatize existing portfolios or sell to the tenants,” Felsenstein said in a telephone interview.

Volkswagen, Boots

Clifford Chance advised German automaker Volkswagen AG when Porsche AG raised its stake to 39.9 percent, triggering a required takeover bid. The firm also represented Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. on its 10.1 billion-pound ($20 million) bid for U.K. drug chain Alliance Boots Plc.

Globally, the U.S. outpaced Europe with $592.7 billion worth of deals. Asia had $210.7 billion, based on the March 31 figures. Worldwide private equity deals totaled $187.7 billion.

Within Europe, the U.K. remained the “ripest” market for buyouts. Still, private equity firms discovered Germany as industry breaks away from a system dominated by conglomerates, said Stephan Eilers, a Cologne-based tax partner at No. 2-ranked Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

“Corporates still have a lot of real estate on their balance sheets,” Eilers said. “We have numbers that say the German corporates have 80 percent more than the U.K. corporates, so that is the movement.”

There were 944 U.K. deals worth $171.3 billion in the first quarter, led by the Alliance Boots deal. At the same time, there were 360 transactions in Germany worth $142.6 billion.

“The pipeline is burstingly full,” said Ulrich Wolff, a Linklaters partner who specializes in private equity transactions in Frankfurt. “We have work right until the summer, so there is lots of activity.”

Bloomberg’s ranking of legal advisers includes deals in which the law firms directly represent buyers, sellers or targets. It doesn’t credit financial advisers’ lawyers.

Top-Ranked European M&A Law Firms for First Qtr 2007

Firm                      Deal Value ($Billions)    Count

Clifford Chance                 143.3                      61
Freshfields                       140.0                      66
Allen & Overy                     51.9                      46
Sullivan & Cromwell             43.2                      11
Slaughter and May              41.6                      20
Linklaters                           33.8                      61
Wachtell Lipton                  25.8                        3
Shearman                          22.8                      13
Macfarlanes                        22.0                        4
Darrois Villey                      21.5                        1

Source: Bloomberg data as of 12:30 p.m. on April 3. Law firms aren’t credited with helping the financial advisers on deals.

To contact the reporter on this story: Caroline Byrne in London at [email protected] .

Last Updated: April 4, 2007 05:25 EDT

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