KWM China bail out fails and EUME arm moots merger rescue plan

King & Wood Mallesons’ Chinese rescue deal has failed, The Lawyer has learned.

It is understood the Chinese and Australian arms of the verein were willing to consider providing financial support on the basis the EUME partnership would put in a chunk of capital to the firm.

A spokesperson said this cash “was not forthcoming”.

It is also understood not enough partners agreed to other terms of the deal including to being locked-in for a year.

The firm released a statement today (22 November) saying the EUME arm has failed to secure financial backing from other parts of the verein.

It continued: “Regrettably, insufficient value of new capital was committed” following the well-publicised China bail-out plan.

It then revealed the firm was “considering a range of strategic options, including mergers, in conjunction with the firm’s bankers and financial advisers”.

When asked how the bank was involved in negotiating the future of the firm, a KWM spokesperson said: “It is entirely normal in a situation such as this that a business would seek to work alongside its bank to seek to establish a solution in the interests of all parties.”

When asked if the legacy SJ Berwin business would be able to secure a new merger, the spokesperson added: “It’s too soon to say, we’re considering all of our strategic options.”

Sources close to the firm said there was “no confidence” that management would be able to secure another rescue deal.

Consensus among the staff is that they are “fully expecting KWM to collapse” as a result of today’s announcement, according to a source close to the firm.

The China rescue deal followed KWM’s previous plan to recapitalise the firm failing due to “revenue implications”.

Olswang loses another senior partner ahead of three-way merger

Olswang technology partner and former Asia head Rob Bratby is set to join Arnold & Porter’s London office ahead of the UK firm’s planned three-way tie-up with CMS and Nabarro.

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Bratby, whose practice focuses on corporate work in the telecoms, media and technology sector, was Olswang’s Asia managing partner from 2011 until earlier this year, when he returned to London from Singapore.

PH, Wachtell lead on Samsung’s $8 bln Harman buy

Paul Hastings has advised South Korean electronics major Samsung Electronics on its $8 billion acquisition of U.S. automotive tech company Harman International Industries, which was represented by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

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According to Reuters, the transaction marks the biggest overseas acquisition ever by a South Korean company. The transaction highlights Samsung’s efforts to break into the high-barrier automotive industry where it has little track record and also marks a strategic shift for the electronics company, which has previously shunned big acquisitions.

The Paul Hastings team was led by the firm’s global M&A practice chair Carl Sanchez and Daniel Kim, head of the firm’s Korea corporate practice.Paul Hastings has also advised on previous Samsung deals including the acquisition of luxury appliance brand Dacor, and Corning’s fiber optics business.

Australia law firm bosses say Brexit will benefit their businesses

Australian law firms believe they will significantly benefit from Britain leaving the EU, a survey has found.

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Around 55 per cent of managing partners of Australians firms said they viewed the UK’s historic decision as either “positive or an opportunity” for their firms.

Of that number, around 15 per cent expected Australian firms to benefit from large corporates looking to invest outside of Europe as a result of Brexit.

One senior respondent to the survey, carried out by Eaton Capital Partners, said Brexit will benefit Australian law firms as it “distracts the fully-merged firms of Herbert Smith Freehills and Ashurst”, both of which earned a large presence in the country through local combinations.

However, another 40 per cent of the 20 managing partners surveyed believed Brexit could have a negligible impact on their businesses and clients.

“If you’re a global firm the negative impact of a ‘black swan’ event in a single country should be offset by the pick-up in other legal markets: bye Canary Wharf, bonjour la Défense,” said one respondent.

Only 5 per cent said Brexit would have a negative impact on the British component of their work, which is a significant chunk of their practice.

Eaton Capital Partners surveyed country managing partners from firms including Allen & Overy, Clyde & Co and Herbert Smith Freehills, US firms Hogan Lovells and Jones Day, Asia Pacific-based King & Wood Mallesons, global player Baker & McKenzie, accountancy giant PWC Legal, and independent firms such as Clayton Utz and Gilbert & Tobin.

Another key finding of the survey was that 75 per cent of respondents agreed that large accountancy firms are a real threat to their firms’ market share.

Around 35 per cent of Australian managing partners say the accountancy firms’ extensive international network and mix of advisory and consultancy services makes them attractive to clients, while 40 per cent of them hold the view that they are different from a traditional law firm and that appears to some clients and lawyers.

Only a quarter, or five managing partners, disagreed with the notion. Four regarded the accountancy rivals as not having the depth or leverage to act on major pieces of work. However, one partner believed the Big Four had tried and failed to crack the legal market before and nothing would change this time around.

“Top tier law firms still have a major advantage in attracting the best legal talent, and are adapting their own model to increasingly offer a broader range of advisory services,” a managing partner commented.

Earlier this month, The Lawyer reported PwC Legal’s latest expansion in Australia that saw the accountancy firm’s legal arm add six new partners in Sydney and Melbourne. Clifford Chance Australia co-founder Mark Pistilli and DLA Piper’s former Australia chief Tony Holland were among the new recruits.

PwC Legal’s recruitment drive pushed its Australian lawyer headcount to over 70, including 18 partners, just two years after it first launched its Australian legal services arm in 2014 with former King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) partners Tony O’Malley and Tim Blue.

The survey also highlighted that, similar to their UK counterparts, Australian firms are facing growing pressure from disruptive factors such as technologies and NewLaw models.

Around 50 per cent of the managing partners said “technological change challenging and undermining the traditional large law firm model” as the biggest change in the Australian legal landscape in five years’ time.

The other half of the participants saw domination of the market by global firms (20 per cent) and boutique and specialist firms taking work away from larger full-service firms (30 per cent) as two other major changes to come.

Dentons poised to enter Central America through local merger

Dentons is set to merge with Pan-Central American law firm Muñoz Global, in a deal that would make it the second international firm in Central America.

Arias & Muñoz founders José Antonio Muñoz and Pedro Muñoz today confirmed their plans to break away from their firm to launch Muñoz Global and merge with Dentons, subject to a partner vote.

The new firm would have the Costa Rican offices of Arias & Muñoz, alongside additional offices in Panama and Nicaragua.

The combination with the newly established law firm Muñoz Global would give Dentons offices in three out of seven Central American countries –  Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. 

The only other global firm with an international presence in Central America is Littler Mendelson, which has offices in Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Honduras.

The proposed combination follows the launch of Dentons López Velarde in Mexico and Dentons Cardenas & Cardenas in Colombia earlier this year.

It marks the next step in Dentons’ strategy to grow its presence in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Elliott Portnoy, Dentons global CEO said: “Since our launch in Mexico and Colombia earlier this year, cross-border work into and out of the region has grown rapidly, demonstrating that clients see a great advantage to being served by a global firm that can offer the best locally informed legal counsel and business advice anywhere they operate.

“Given the interconnectedness of the economies of Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua, we see real opportunities to serve clients further through more intra-region work as well.”

In Europe, Dentons opened its third German office in Munich with the hire of three partners from Norton Rose Fulbright, and two offices in Italy, first in Milan and then in Rome following a two-year strategic plan to build a full-service firm in the country.

Fieldfisher merges with Beijing’s JS Partners

Fieldfisher has pulled off its third merger in six months after tying the knot with Chinese firm JS Partners.

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As part of the deal the 12 partner firm will change its name to FeiShi and adopt the Fieldfisher brand.

The Beijing firm specialises in antitrust and competition, capital markets, corporate, dispute resolution, employment and intellectual property work. The firm works across the TMT sector as well as in retail, logistics, manufacturing, energy and infrastructure.

It is the second time Fieldfisher has tied up with a Chinese firm after Field Fisher Waterhouse partnered with Shanghai’s Ryser & Associates in 2013.

Fieldfisher managing partner Michael Chissick said: “This is the third merger in the last six months that we’ve had as a firm. Our merger with JS Partners gives a great platform for growth in China.

“As we continue to develop our European presence, this merger will allow us to service the growing demand for Chinese clients seeking to invest and do business in Europe, whilst also increasing our ability to service international clients seeking opportunities in China.”

The Chinese merger is structured as a Swiss verein and takes effect from today (15 November).

In November Fieldfisher entered the Birmingham market after it merged with 18-partner outfit Hill Hostetter. The Solihull-based commercial firm has a turnover of £6m and was formed after it spun out of Reed Smith in 2009.

Fieldfisher also opened its doors in Italy over the summer after a merger with Studio Associato Servizi Professionali Integrati (SASPI). The tie-up gave Fieldfisher 170 fee-earners and 21 partners across offices in Milan, Rome, Venice and Turin.

White & Case chairman calls on firm to “come together” after Trump victory

White & Case chairman Hugh Verrier has implored the firm’s staff and lawyers to “come together” after the election of Donald Trump as US president.

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In an all-staff email sent on Friday (11 November), Verrier said the firm must “look forward to moving past a long and bitterly fought campaign”.

He added: “I know the rhetoric of the campaign was divisive and alarming to many of you, and not just in the United States.

“With that in mind, I want to reiterate our commitment to globalism, multiculturalism and diversity.”

To illustrate his point, Verrier quoted the thoughts of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who was asked what one person can do to help the world.

“The basic thing we can do to help the world is to be healthy, solid, loving, and gentle to ourselves,” the passage read.

Verrier is the latest law firm leader to express his thoughts on Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton.

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UK Government confirms it will appeal High Court Brexit ruling

The Supreme Court is set to hear the appeal in ‘early December’, the UK government has confirmed.

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Splendid seven for HHP at ALB Indonesia Law Awards 2016

Hadiputranto Hadinoto & Partners (HHP) has bagged seven awards at the ALB Indonesia Law Awards 2016, including the Indonesia Deal Firm of the Year and the BMW Award for Managing Partner of the Year, which went to Erwandi Hendarta.

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The third annual Indonesia Law Awards, presented at a gala dinner  at the Hotel Indonesia Kempinski on Oct. 27, also saw SSEK Legal Consultants pick up four gongs, including being named Restructuring and Insolvency Law Firm of the Year. Makes & Partners was honoured as the Boutique Law Firm of the Year, while Allen & Overy picked up the International Deal Firm of the Year award.On the in-house side, Gilang Hermawan of Siemens Indonesia was named as the Assegaf Hamzah & Partners In-House Lawyer of the Year, and Microsoft Indonesia picked up the Lubis Ganie Surowidjojo Award for Indonesia In-House Team of the Year.

This year’s awards had five new categories. Of these, the Rising Law Firm of the Year award went to Siahaan Irdamis Andarumi & Rekan, while Leoni Silitonga of Roosdiono & Partners and Fahrul Yusuf of SSEK were named as the Woman Lawyer of the Year and Young Lawyer of the Year, respectively.

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Norton Rose Fulbright to open shipping office in Monaco

Norton Rose Fulbright will open a European shipping and finance base in Monaco early next year, the firm revealed today.

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The office will be led by Greece head Dimitri Sofianopoulos, who will split his time between the two countries.

It will be the firm’s 54th office worldwide and its 13th in Europe. The firm gained permission to open in the principality in September.

Europe, Middle East and Asia managing partner Martin Scott said: “Our shipping and finance practice is widely regarded as a global leader and, as much of its work is derived from businesses located in the principality, it makes sense for us to establish a base there from which to provide an enhanced service to our clients.”

Norton Rose Fulbright joins a small number of international law firms with offices in Monaco. Ince & Co opened in the city in 2011 specialising in shipping, yachts, superyachts and commodities. Gowling WLG’s Monaco offices focuses on private client work, and Hill Dickinson also has an office in the city.

The additional European office signals a renewed period of growth for the firm, which also opened its first base in Vancouver this summer through a merger with local firm Bull Housser & Tupper. The firm also opened in San Francisco this year with a team of 17 lawyers including six partners from Sidley Austin.