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CMS, Nabarro and Olswang confirm discussions about potential merger

After much speculation, CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang have confirmed they are in merger talks.

A statement released by Camerons on behalf of all three firms said they are in discussions for a potential combination.

It said: ‘The leadership consider this combination would create a differentiated, modern firm that would combine scale with an exceptional depth of sector expertise.’

‘The combined firm would provide clients with a stronger and more global platform served by 65 offices across 36 countries, underpinned by a 250 year City heritage. There should be no assumption as to the outcome of these discussions and we will update in due course.’

Yesterday (29 September) it was revealed that Camerons has been in discussions with Olswang after news leaked of Nabarro’s involvement talks with the latter. The combination of Camerons, Olswang and Nabarro would create a UK practice with core revenues of around £500m, rising to more than £950m if you include the wider CMS network.

Known to clients and peer firms for several weeks, negotiations are said to have been ‘fraught’ particularly from Nabarro’s side – where the real estate team have been jostling for positions given the wide overlap between the firm and CMS.

One former partner Olswang partner said: ‘It has been fraught negotiations. Olswang is not in a great shape. And that put a few people off. And there is going to be some likely fall out from partners not wanting to stay or being asked to go. In Nabarro, it is likely to be the real estate side.’

A former Camerons partner said: ‘CMS would be more interested in bits and bobs of Olswang. The triple merger doesn’t make too much sense for them, however taking the best parts would be a really exciting move for CMS to get, but it would be a shame to lose Olswang from the market as it was once a really strong firm.’

A managing partner at a rival firm said: ‘It’s all for different reasons isn’t it? Obviously Olswang is because of the state it’s in, CMS is desperate to bulk up; I don’t think it is that bothered about whether or not it fits a particular strategy. It is a desire to get bigger. And Nabarro has been leaking a lot of people. And I suspect it’s just looking for a safe place to try and get a bit of a strategy – because it hasn’t really got one.’

Camerons has been expanding under new managing partner Stephen Millar with the firm focusing on its energy, life sciences and financial services sector strengths. The firm is in the second year of its merger with Scots firm Dundas &Wilson.

Nabarro, meanwhile, saw a modest rise to its turnover of 3.5% to £130.4m this past financial year, but struggled with profits per equity partner (PEP) as it fell by 7% to £585,000.

Olswang’s turnover tumbled by 11% to £112.5m for the financial year 2015/16 while firm PEP remained steady at £490,000. The firm placed blame on the firm’s ‘decoupling’ from its 50 lawyer, 14 partner Berlin office which was acquired by Greenberg Traurig last year.