With just a few weeks to go before year end, 2019 has been a down year for M&A bankers. Overall global deal volumes are down 9% in the first nine months of the year according to Dealogic. In North America, the world’s biggest M&A market, volumes have dipped 2% which still represents a decent showing. In stark contrast, Europe is the worst-performing region, with volumes down by 26%. Volumes in Asia excluding Japan are down 22%, while Japan has posted a 12% rise. The stand-out region is the middle East, where activity has risen by 75%, although overall volumes are low - $390m compared with $1.1 trillion in the US.
Banks are looking to cut in certain areas, and beef up in others. If you're plotting your next M&A move, we've identified the best teams to target in each bank below. Remember, some banks operate a global balance sheet for industries, so weakness in one region can be off-set by dominance in another. Meanwhile global sectors such as healthcare and technology are dominated by activity from a handful of US-based companies – so if a bank is strong in the US in these sectors, it’s generally a good place to work.
This analysis is based on Dealogic fee and announced volume tables. Fee league tables are based on completed deals, on which bonuses are paid and show which teams have earned the most in 2019, while volume tables relate to announced deals that have not yet completed, but which provide a good indicator of which banks are well placed for 2020.
Where Bank of America is best for M&A:
Bank of America's M&A business is in the midst of a dramatic turnaround in its fortunes following a period of under-investment. Under new management the bank’s M&A has doubled down in its home market, where it has jumped to fourth place in the global fee rankings in the first nine months of 2019, compared with eighth a year ago.
The place to be at Bank of America in 2019 has been in the U.S., where it has climbed four places to fourth position in the M&A fee rankings. Six of its U.S. industry teams enjoy a top five spot in the fee rankings, and it has made big gains in consumer and retail (third) and media, telecommunications and entertainment (2nd).
Its energy and natural resources team has performed strongly, climbing to fourth from 10th by fee income while it is ranked second by announced deals this year , largely due to its lead role advising Occidental Petroleum on its $56bn bid for Anadarko Petroleum.
The bank has hired more managing directors in 2019 than any of its rivals but it still has room for improvement. It sits outside the top 10 fee rankings in both U.S. industrials and healthcare.
While it has made great strides in the U.S., its progress in EMEA has been more modest. It has jumped one spot to seventh in the fee rankings, featuring among the top earners in two industry sectors - energy and natural resources (third) and healthcare (fourth).
Where Barclays is best for M&A:
Barclays M&A team has enjoyed a steady year. It has jumped two places to fifth globally, one place to eighth in EMEA and it has retained fifth spot by fees in U.S. M&A.
Barclays’ core strength in M&A continues to be is in the U.S.. Here, its best showing has come in industrials, where it was ranked fourth by M&A fees in the first nine months of the year. It has perennial strength in energy and natural resources, where it climbed one place to third. Barclays is also top-five in healthcare and real estate, but it has lost ground in retail and consumer, falling outside of the top 10 fee rankings after losing a team to Evercore.
In EMEA, Barclays' strength is primarily in the UK , although it has dropped two places to sixth in the M&A fee rankings. Its industrials team is its strongest in the region, where it is ranked eighth by fees.
Where Centerview Partners is best for M&A:
Centerview Partners is a boutique that plays to its strengths across a handful of industry group. Its business is predominantly in the U.S., where it was ranked seventh by fees in the first nine months of the year.
If you want to know the best team to work for, then get to know Alan Hartmann, who runs the firm’s top-ranked healthcare team, which has earned $230m in fees and won a 17.5% market share, eclipsing Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley.
Centerview is also strong in consumer and retail. Here, it's ranked fourth by fees, while its telecoms, media and entertainment team has jumped to third place, having been outside the top 10 a year ago.
Centerview's business is less developed in EMEA and none of its industry teams feature in the top 10 but in many cases they work hand-in-glove with their U.S. peers. Centerview has been building out its sector expertise in Europe. In the last 12 months it has established a FIG team and is looking to open an operation in Paris.
Where Citi is best for M&A:
Citi dropped two places to sixth in the global M&A fee rankings for the first nine months of 2019, and four places to 8th in the U.S.. In EMEA, it bucked the trend, climbing two places to fifth.
In the U.S., its natural resources team sits in second place in the fee rankings, and third by announced deals so far this year.
Its U.S. consumer and retail team has also enjoyed a hot streak, climbing three places to second after earning $64m in fees in the year to September 30, according to Dealogic.
But outside of these groups, Citi has work to do in the US, particularly in technology M&A, where it ranks outside the top 10.
In EMEA, Citi's energy and natural resources team put in a stellar performance this year, earning top spot with $89m in fees and a 14.7% market share. Its telecoms team also turned in a strong performance, jumping to second place from fourth a year ago. Citi is also top-five in both FIG and media, telecoms and entertainment.
Where Credit Suisse is best for M&A:
Credit Suisse has just endured a torrid third quarter in M&A and was the hardest hit by a downturn in volumes. It has also changed the leadership of its investment banking and capital markets division, with Jim Amine, who has led the division since the financial crisis, stepping down.
CEO Tidjane Thiam has promised to recruit in M&A, singling out healthcare and technology in particular for investment, suggesting that it is picking its spots. These are two of its strongest teams in the US, although neither has breached the top-five by fees in 2019. In EMEA, its technology team is ranked fifth, its highest ranked in the region.
Overall, Credit Suisse dropped one place to eighth in the global M&A fee rankings and three places to 10th in US M&A. In EMEA it did not feature among the top 10 M&A fee earners for the first nine months of the year, according to Dealogic.
Where Deutsche Bank is best for M&A:
Deutsche Bank is in restructuring mode and it slipped out of the top ten global and US fee rankings for the first time in more than a decade. It crept back into the top ten for M&A fees in EMEA for the first nine months of the year.
In the U.S., the German bank’s best showing is in telecoms, where it is ranked in seventh place. In EMEA, its FIG team is ranked third, its industrials team is fifth, while it biggest strength is in advising financial sponsors on a sector-wide basis.
Where Goldman Sachs is best for M&A:
Goldman reported a drop in its M&A revenues in the third quarter on the back of lower levels of deal activity, but it remains the bank to beat in most geographies and sectors.
Goldman was ranked top for M&A fees in the U.S., EMEA and globally and has a leading position in most industries, often with a double-digit market share. In the U.S. its industrials, telecoms, technology, FIG, energy and natural resources and media teams all topped the rankings.
Deutsche is top-three in all other sectors except retail and consumer team where it's dropped to fifth from first in the fee rankings.
It’s a similar story in EMEA, where it is ranked top three for every industry except energy and natural resources, where it is fourth. And if you’re an M&A banker specialising in the middle-market, then Goldman is hiring. It has built a 50-strong cross-markets team, dedicated to doing deals for clients with a market value of $500m or more.
Where JPMorgan is best for M&A:
JPMorgan retained second spot behind Goldman Sachs in the global, U.S. and EMEA M&A fee rankings in the first nine months of the year, and its industry teams are strong across the board.
JPMorgan does not enjoy the same dominance as Goldman. In the U.S., its only top-ranked team is in consumer and retail, while it was knocked off top spot by Centerview in healthcare. After ruling the roost in 2018, its media, telecoms and entertainment team currently lies in fifth spot. It also has work to do in energy and natural resources, where it lies seventh in the M&A fee rankings.
In EMEA, it has enjoyed a better year, and it has the top-ranked technology team. It also rules the roost in European FIG. The bank is top five in ever sector with the exception of telecoms, where it is ranked seventh.
Where Lazard is best for M&A:
Lazard can be a good bet for an M&A banker, if you choose your team carefully. It’s had a mixed year. While the bank retained its ninth spot in the global M&A fee rankings during the first nine months of the year, it does not feature in the top ten in the U.S. and slipped two places in the EMEA M&A fee rankings to seventh.
In 2019, Lazard has changed its senior management in each of its biggest regional operations as it looks to regain lost ground on Evercore Partners. Its best showing this year is in U.S. industrials and real estate, where it ranked sixth by fees.
By contrast, its industrials team in EMEA has had a stellar year, grabbing top spot after earning $59m in fees. It is also top-four in consumer and retail and telecoms, media and entertainment, according to Dealogic.
Where Morgan Stanley is best for M&A:
Morgan Stanley sits firmly in the trio of top global M&A houses alongside Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. As such it is a good bet across every industry sector. Overall, it has retained third spot globally and in the U.S. for M&A fees, and jumped one spot to fourth in EMEA.
By sector it is top five in U.S. industrials, technology, healthcare and it is top-ranked for far this year for announced real estate M&A in the U.S.. Morgan Stanley's technology team is ranked third globally, in the U.S. and EMEA by fees but Michael Grimes, who runs the broader technology, media and telecoms investment banking team, is regarded as the best in the business.
Morgan Stanley's U.S. energy and resources team is outside the top five for M&A fees, and it is ranked sixth by U.S. FIG M&A fees.
In EMEA, Morgan Stanley ranks third in telecoms, media and entertainment M&A, and it is top five in consumer and retail and healthcare.
Where Rothschild is best for M&A:
Rothschild is continuing to build out its M&A business North America but its stronghold remains in EMEA, where it is the most prolific firm by number of deals, particularly those involving financial sponsors.
Rothschild has fallen to third in the EMEA M&A fee rankings compared with first a year ago, but it has regained top spot in France and catapulted up the fee rankings to second in Spain, compared with 12 a year ago. In the U.K. it has lost its crown as the biggest fee earner, falling to fourth in M&A.
By sector, it has lost its crown as the top industrials house in EMEA to Lazard, but retained second spot in consumer and retail, one of its strongest teams. Its European real estate M&A team is top-ranked.
Where UBS is best for M&A
UBS claims not to set much store by league tables these days, focusing instead on returns and profitability. It looks to be a top three bank for fees in the client areas it competes in.
But it has shown modest improvement this year in EMEA, where it has climbed one place to ninth in the fee rankings and to 7th from 15th by announced deals.
In the U.S., UBS does not feature in the top ten for any industry group this year, something it is looking to rectify with more hires in 2020 but this will be a targeted effort in certain sub-sectors where it can compete such as healthcare, a big group that covers a number of different areas. For example, This year UBS’s global healthcare team under Rob DiGia has been building the team’s presence in medical devices and technology with the recruitment of Seth Damergy from Deutsche Bank. There is a whole swath of deals and companies that fall below the radar of mega-cap but enable bankers to build a reputation for deal-making.
Where Evercore is best for M&A
Evercore has enjoyed a strong year in M&A, rising from 12th to seventh in the global fee rankings, making it the leading independent firm. The bank’s core strength lies in the U.S., where it has jumped three places to sixth in the fee rankings.
During 2019, its industrials team has worked on some of the biggest deals of the year and it is ranked second behind Goldman Sachs in terms of announced deals in the U.S..
Evercore's U.S. energy and natural resources team is the only one to have a top five ranking, but it sits in the top 10 for most sectors. One surprising anomaly is in healthcare where it does not feature in the top 10 despite the presence of Francois Maisonrouge, seen as one of the best healthcare bankers. But its fortunes may be due for an imminent uplift, with the bank said to be helping Boots Walgreen explore a potential $70bn take-private.
Evercore is building its business in EMEA with hires across a number of sector teams, including retail, chemicals and industrials, but these are yet to translate into top five ranking.
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