ASHURST

Ashurst grows Australia with double hire

Ashurst has grown its government and public sector capability with two partner hires from Norton Rose Fulbright and HWL Ebsworth.

Norton Rose dispute resolution partner Melanie McKean and HWL Ebsworth TMT partner Angela Summersby will join the firm’s Canberra office.

McKean acts for governments, corporate and private clients and has experience conducting major investigations for the Australian Government.

Summersby’s practice focuses on Australian Government contracting, information and communications technology contracts, intellectual property, privacy and business process outsourcing.

This is the fourth partner exit for Norton Rose since its merger with Henry Davis York in December 2017. The first of these, Sydney financial institutions head, Chris Redden, exited the firm to join Ashurst two weeks before the merger went live.

Norton Rose corporate partners Anthony Latimer joined Bird & Bird and Iain Laughland joined local firm Mills Oakley.

These are the first hires for Ashurst in Australia this year, as the firm focused instead on bulking up its Asia banking practice. The firm hired a banking duo from Allen & Overy and Fangda earlier this month and launched in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. The firm also hired White & Case partner Damien Whitehead to join as a local partner in its finance practice.

john lewis

John Lewis recruits Smiths Group GC as new head of legal

Retail giant creates new partnership secretary role to supersede general counsel post.

The John Lewis Partnership has appointed a new legal head, following the departure of general counsel Keith Hubber.

 

Bracewell former London head exits for Akin Gump

Bracewell’s former London managing partner Julian Nichol is joining Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s City office, Leaders in Law has learned.

Linklaters to open it’s fifth office in Hamburg

Linklaters will open its fifth office in Hamburg in the first quarter of this year to capitalise on an increase in banking work for German clients.

The firm has made no lateral hires with the launch, instead transferring two existing partners from Frankfurt and Dusseldorf.

The partner from Frankfurt is tax lawyer Jens Blumenberg, while the partner from Dusseldorf is Wolfgang Sturm, who specialises in corporate law. They will be joined by six associates from the two offices.

The news was first reported in Juve.

Linklaters said it had decided to launch in Hamburg on the strength of the work it has won from clients in its existing jurisdictions. The firm has recently advised on projects for Hamburg-based clients including HSH Nordbank, Hapag Lloyd, Beiersdorf and Berenberg Bank.

A Linklaters spokesperson said: “For several years, we have been increasingly working with many Hamburg-based clients – we would like to further expand that work and are, therefore, very much looking forward to opening an office in Hamburg next spring.”

The new office adds to the four offices that the firm currently has in Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Berlin and Munich. The office in Frankfurt has a particular focus on real estate, while the Munich office is focused on media and telecommunications and the Berlin office on regulation.

Exits for Freshfields as firm shrinks Germany partnership

Three senior Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Germany partners are leaving the firm to establish a public law boutique with offices in Berlin and Duesseldorf.

The three partners are Berlin public affairs head Wolf Spieth, Duesseldorf environment and regulatory partner Herbert Posser and Berlin disputes partner Benedikt Wolfers.

A&0 New York finance heavyweight joins Mayer Brown

Allen & Overy (A&O) global leveraged finance co-head Scott Zemser has left the firm to join Mayer Brown’s New York office.

Zemser joined the magic circle firm in the US less than two years ago from White & Case.

He joined the magic circle firm alongside two other White & Case partners, Alan Rockwell and Judah Frogel.

A&O broke its lockstep to recruit some of the team, which the firm hoped would be a turning point for its US offering and its global finance practice.

Speaking to Legal Week shortly after the hires, A&O’s global co-head of banking Philip Bowden described the moves as a “game changer” for the firm’s finance practice. In total the firm hired five lawyers at the time, including the three White & Case partners, Proskauer Rose banking finance partner Rajani Gupta and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy associate Todd Koretzky, who joined as a partner.

With the exception of Zemser, they all remain at the firm.

Later that year, A&O’s New York office was hit by the departure of a trio of real estate partners, including the firm’s former US practice leader, to Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy.

However, it boosted its presence with a three-partner finance and securities team from Paul Hastings in February last year.

Zemser joins Mayer Brown’s New York office this week.

Mayer Brown global banking and finance co-head Paul Jorissen said: “Scott is highly regarded as a market-leading leveraged finance and restructuring lawyer.”

He added: “His extensive knowledge of both US and global leveraged finance markets, exceptional reputation representing financial institutions as lenders in leveraged finance and acquisition finance transactions and restructuring, and deep relationships in the financial community, will enhance our cross-office, cross-border and cross-practice finance offerings.”

A&O US senior partner Tim House said: “We would like to thank Scott for the contribution he made during his time here and wish him all the best for the future. Our US finance and corporate practices experienced substantial growth in 2017, and we expect that trend to continue this year.”

Brexit-shattered-glass

‘There is a pre-Brexit window to aim for’

London capital markets partners are anticipating a flurry of initial public offerings (IPOs) this year, ahead of the UK’s exit from the European Union in 2019.

Partners says there is an impetus to start IPO processes early in order to avoid any uncertainty in the run-up to Brexit, scheduled for 29 March next year.

Clifford Chance (CC) global capital markets head Adrian Cartwright (pictured above) comments: “Most companies are looking to get IPOs away in 2018, as the first half of 2019 will be overshadowed by Brexit. You really need to be getting a process underway in the next two to three months to hit an execution window in the second half of 2018.”

White & Case partner Jonathan Parry (pictured right) adds: “There is definitely a pre-Brexit window to aim for. A number of IPOs are expected to hit the early summer window.”

With Brexit looming, partners say the volume of deals will at least match 2017. Last year, there were 106 IPOs raising a total of £15bn in London, a three-year high – a strong increase on 2016, which saw 65 IPOs raise £5.7bn.

 

If you haven’t got a deal done by the end of the third quarter, you will be getting into a nervous period

Key IPOs in 2017 include the Irish Government’s May flotation of a 25% stake in Allied Irish Bank, which valued the group at €12bn (£10.5bn). The dual-listing in London and Dublin threw up roles for Linklaters, Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills.

Meanwhile, in November, Russian aluminium company EN+ floated in London and Moscow, giving the overall business a value of $8bn (£5.6bn). It was the first major primary listing by a Russian company in London since sanctions were imposed on Moscow. White & Case acted for EN+ and Linklaters advised the banks.

In April, logistics company Eddie Stobart raised £393m on AIM, the largest AIM IPO since 2005. King & Spalding acted for Eddie Stobart while Hogan Lovells advised the banks.

Ashurst partner Nicholas Holmes comments: “I think 2018 could be broadly comparable to 2017, but my suspicion is that activity in 2018 will be compressed into three rather than four quarters. If you haven’t got a deal done by the end of the third quarter, you will be getting into a nervous period as Brexit becomes more imminent.”

Parry adds: “Overall volumes could be higher this year. Last year, volumes in the first half were pretty low in terms of premium listing IPOs and it was a very sluggish market. There was a change post-summer – the IPO pipeline picked up considerably in Q3, and as a result overall volumes for the 2017 were fairly high.”

At the same time, some companies may opt to take their chances in a less crowded market in early 2019, comments Allen & Overy partner James Roe (pictured right). “There’s an impetus to get transactions done before October 2018, but equally if the market is crowded as a consequence there may be opportunities towards the end of this year or the first quarter of 2019 for a prepared company to IPO.”

By region, partners say the London listings are expected to come from a range of locations including Turkey – spurred on by general elections in the country scheduled for November 2019 – Greece and the Middle East.

Cartwright comments: “There is activity across a whole mix of jurisdictions, including the UK, continental Europe, Turkey, and Russia is also back, despite the threat of further sanctions. The Middle East is also busy.”

Herbert Smith Freehills equity capital markets head Charles Howarth adds: “There are some UK IPOs of non-UK companies, but much of the IPOs are from the far end of the Mediterranean, Turkish and Greek. There is a burgeoning pipeline of Turkish IPOs, both domestic and London, driven in part by uncertainty over the elections due late next year.”

Much talk in the market is dominated by the potentially record-breaking Saudi Aramco IPO, which could value the company at as much as $2.5trn (£1.7trn). It is understood the company has shortlisted London, New York and Hong Kong for the international portion of the listing. White & Case is acting for Saudi Aramco, but further legal advisers have yet to be appointed.

Other IPOs that could launch this year include UK cinema chain Vue Cinema International, which would reportedly value the group at at least £1.6bn, while its rival Odeon is also looking at a listing of a similar value.

Overall, companies and investors seem more likely to take their chances sooner rather than later.

Parry concludes: “There is still very little clarity as to what is going to happen in March 2019. At the moment, with investor sentiment and stock market valuations where they are, there does seem to be an open window that issuers and investment banks are looking to take advantage of.”

Singapore

A&O loses banking duo to Mayer Brown in Singapore

Allen & Overy (A&O) partner Kayal Sachi and counsel Ian Roebuck have exited the firm to join Mayer Brown JSM in Singapore as partners.

The new hires will focus on acquisition and leveraged finance, corporate lending and restructuring in South East Asia and India.

Sachi was a partner at A&O for over 14 years, having joined from Clifford Chance in 2003. Sachi became a partner in 1997 at Clifford Chance, and worked in both Singapore and London for over 15 years.

Roebuck joined Allen & Overy as a trainee in 2001, and has been made a partner through this move.

Mayer Brown has invested in its Asia offering in recent months, hiring former Tokyo managing partner Rupert Burrows from Ashurst to launch its first office in Japan.

In Singapore, its most recent joiners include Angelia Chia and Ben Sandstad in Singapore, who were both global heads of legal at Standard Chartered Bank in the region.

City of London

Vinson & Elkins hires Paul Simcock from Jones Day’s London base

Vinson & Elkins has hired acquisition and leveraged finance partner Paul Simcock from Jones Day’s London base.

Simcock, who joined the US firm in 2014 from Berwin Leighton Paisner, was previously a counsel at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, having trained at Allen & Overy.

Last year he was part of the Jones Day team which advised L1 Retail, the retail investment arm of LetterOne, on a £900m financing in connection with the acquisition of Holland & Barrett.

Vinson EMEA corporate head Jeff Eldredge said: “Our corporate team has been growing rapidly, and with the addition of another top-tier hire, we’re positioned to push even further into one of the leading finance capitals of the world.

“Paul is an extremely accomplished lawyer whose strong relationships and energetic approach to client service are exactly what we look for at Vinson.”

Other recent London hires for Vinson include Clifford Chance finance partner John Dawson and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett finance counsel Federico Fruhbeck, who both joined as partners.

Simcock said: “Vinson’s commitment to the continuing expansion of its London team is a big part of what prompted me to make this move. I’ve worked with many members of the team – as a colleague or across the table – and have always been impressed by the firm’s collegial and entrepreneurial culture as well as the sophistication of its attorneys.”

Jones Day saw a number of London partner departures during the 2015-16 financial year, including several practice heads, with tensions around the firm’s lack of transparency over pay and a disconnection between the London office and the rest of the firm blamed by some for the spate of exits.

British Land appoints former Co-op Bank GC to head legal team

The Co-operative Bank’s former general counsel Brona McKeown has joined British Land as GC and company secretary.

McKeown, who was the FTSE 100 company’s first GC, takes over from Elaine Williams who left the property company to join UK logistics company Eddie Stobart after just two years in the role, in November 2017.

McKeown left the Co-op in October 2017, after joining in 2013 as its first legal head. She departed just two months after the company had secured a £700m bailout from hedge funds and other investors. She was replaced by the bank’s regulatory risk director David Bagley.

Before joining the Co-op Bank, McKeown had been interim general counsel at Coventry Building Society for less than a year. Prior to that, she held a number of roles at Barclays, most recently serving as global general counsel of its corporate arm. She joined the bank in 1998 after a six-year stint working for CMS.

Last year, British Land appointed former easyJet group company secretary Bruce James as interim company secretary after Williams left. Previously, James was a consultant at the company for a year, having moved over from easyJet in 2016.

Williams was involved in putting together British Land’s first legal panel in 2015. In January 2017, the company confirmed that Hogan Lovells was to take over KWM’s position on the roster after the firm’s European arm collapsed at the beginning of 2017.

In May that year, British Land sold London’s Leadenhall Building to Chinese investors for £1.15bn. Herbert Smith Freehills, Mayer Brown and Berwin Leighton Paisner picked up key roles acting on the sale of the the building, known as the Cheesegrater.