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It was a story of two halves for capital markets in 2015. The first six months saw a continuation of the strong activity that had characterised trading on exchanges across the world, while the second half of the year saw concerns over the Chinese economy and the drop in commodity prices, fuelling a drop in activity. This downward trend continued into 2016 and the UK markets were particularly affected by investor concerns surrounding the EU referendum. There were, however, a few noteworthy offerings during this period, such as Motorpoint’s £240m AIM flotation.

Global macro-economic and political headwinds also contributed to a slowdown in M&A deals in the first quarter of 2016. This represents a notable contrast to 2015, which had been a blockbuster year for global M&A: more than $5tn of deals were announced throughout 2015, surpassing the $4.6tn record set in 2007. Pharmaceuticals, financial services and TMT have been active sectors, and plenty of distressed M&A has been seen in the energy space following continually low oil prices. On the competition side, more merger control enforcement from the CMA and sector regulators has been a notable trend, and state aid work is becoming a larger part of firms’ remit.

The OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project really came to the fore for tax lawyers, with clients increasingly seeking advice on its implementation and compliance requirements. This has resulted in the tax practices of City firms seeing a rise in standalone instructions, particularly as M&A support work has dipped. These practices are also increasingly diversifying, adding indirect tax as well as litigation capabilities, which are now of greater concern to clients.

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