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All over: Morton Fraser and MacRoberts call off merger talks

Scottish firms Morton Fraser and MacRoberts have called off merger talks in recent weeks, Legal Business has learned.

The talks, which began last year, are thought to have reached an advanced stage, but according to a source were called off because any merger was ‘financially unworkable.’ It is understood that MacRoberts’ pension deficit and property liabilities were contributing factors in the discussions ending.

A spokesperson for MacRoberts said: ‘At any point we are in conversation with a number of individuals, teams and firms and it would be inappropriate to make any comment on the existence or otherwise of any such conversations.’

Both firms are around the same size, with revenue under the £20m mark and offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow. MacRoberts also has an office in Dundee. If the merger had been successful it would have created the sixth largest Scottish independent firm after Brodies, Burness Paull, Shepherd and Wedderburn, Maclay Murray & Spens and Dickson Minto.

The Scottish legal market is no stranger to mergers, with Addleshaw Goddard the latest firm to vote through a Scottish union with HBJ Gateley by June this year. Addleshaws has long wanted a presence in the Scottish market, with merger talks between the firm and Maclays called off last February.

In 2015 Clyde & Co successfully secured a merger with Scottish firm Simpson & Marwick which added around £30m to the firm’s top line.

The Anglo-Scottish tie-up continues a prolonged incursion by English firms north of the border in the last five years, which also includes McGrigors’ acquisition by Pinsent Masons in 2012 and CMS Cameron McKenna’s acquisition of Dundas & Wilson in 2014.

Read more: ‘Better together? – Those Anglo-Scots unions in focus’