Latham & Watkins represented issuers in 93 initial public offerings last year valued at more than $42 billion, topping rivals in the global race to help companies issue shares on public markets.
Latham’s leading year represented a more than three-fold increase in the value of issuer-side deals the firm advised on in 2020, when it represented 36 issuers raising more than $12 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The firm represented electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian Automotive Inc., which raised nearly $12 billion, the largest IPO last year.
The ability to provide post-IPO services helped Latham get companies’ business, said Ian Schuman, the firm’s global chair of capital markets. “Issuers have really gravitated to firms that can not only execute the IPO but also be all the things they’re going to be needing as a high-growth public company,” he said.
It was a record year for IPOs, with nearly $550 billion raised, up from an $410 billion in 2020, Bloomberg data show. Low interest rates, investor exuberance and a sustained bull market led to an early boom in special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, transactions, followed by a sustained flood of traditional IPOs.
Historically strong mergers and acquisition activity matched the record year in IPOs, resulting in what may be the strongest financial performance for Big Law in over a decade. The flow of public listings is continuing in early 2022.
“The pipeline is strong, and there are a lot of companies preparing for a possible offering later in 2022 and early in 2023,” Schuman said. “Equity capital markets in the U.S. are very mature, and notwithstanding the recent correction anticipating higher rates, valuations are still generally strong.”
Generally, advising companies is the more lucrative side of the IPO business for law firms, which can generate fees in excess of $5 million for company-side work, according to regulatory filings.
Davis Polk & Wardwell last year continued its run atop the underwriters’ market, working on 151 IPOs that raised more than $62 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
The firm nearly doubled its work from 2020, when it worked on 80 deals that raised $34 billion and also led in underwriter equity IPOs. The firm that year advised on almost twice as much in IPO deal value as its next closest competitor.
In 2021, Latham also advised on 107 underwriter-side IPOs that raised more than $45 billion, which ranked second behind Davis Polk, Bloomberg data show.
Davis Polk also advised 64 issuers that raised more than $12.5 billion in 2021, Bloomberg data show.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom advised the underwriters on the Rivian deal, highlighting a strong performance from the firm on both the underwriters’ and issuers’ side of the IPO deal table.
Skadden advised 67 issuers that raised nearly $20 billion last year and it counseled underwriters on 91 deals raising more than $43 billion.
Skadden in 2020 advised 53 issuers that raised more than $17 billion, which was the most behind Maples & Calder, a firm that specializes as local Cayman Islands counsel for SPAC IPOs.
Michael Zeidel, who leads the capital markets group in the Americas for Skadden, said it’s difficult to predict another year as busy as 2021 but that he expects “robust activity.”
“If you talk to most capital markets lawyers, they will tell you they haven’t seen anything like the last 20 months,” Zeidel said.