Legal Business Blogs

European expansion – A&O launches in Barcelona with hire of Freshfields partner

Allen & Overy (A&O) has pointed to the growth and profitability of its Madrid office and the recovery of the Spanish economy for its decision to launch in Barcelona, with the hire of local corporate partner Antoni Valverde from rival firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, announced today (4 February).

Valverde, who made partner at Freshfields in 1997 and became co-head of the firm’s private M&A group from 2001 to 2009 and the leader of the Spanish corporate group from 2007 to 2010, focuses on private M&A and has acted for some of the key Spanish players on outbound M&A, including acting for Barcelona-based infrastructure operator Abertis on the €1.5bn acquisition of OHL Brazil in August 2012.

Valverde’s hire comes following a period of growth for the Magic Circle firm’s Madrid office over the past six years, including opening a litigation department with the appointment of Clifford Chance (CC) partner Antonio Vázquez-Guillén in 2008; hiring Antonio Martinez from Uria Menendez as a partner and head of the antitrust practice in 2009; and taking on Pablo Mayor also from CC to the corporate group in 2010 to further expand A&O’s public law offering.

Recent deals for the Spanish office include advising on Iberdrola’s sale of its 50% stake in British nuclear consortium NuGen to Japan’s Toshiba and on the €2bn equity investment made by Qatar Holding; as well as Bridgepoint Capital on the acquisition of a portfolio of wind energy assets from listed Spanish construction company ACS.

A&O’s Madrid managing partner Andrew Clark told Legal Business that the new office will be integrated with the firm’s existing office in Madrid and managed as one practice, with an aim to grow headcount across both offices in the next two years. The Madrid office currently has ten partners across its finance, corporate, litigation and tax offering.

The launch comes as recent figures suggest that M&A activity in Spain is picking up both in volume and value, with A&O’s own M&A index last month stating: ‘Excluding deals in the financial sector, driven by the restructuring of the Spanish banking system, the number of deals still increased by 24% in 2013 while deal value was up by over 50%.’ Firms including Magic Circle rivals CC and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have an office in Barcelona.

A&O global managing partner Wim Dejonghe said: ‘Spain’s economy grew at its fastest pace in almost six years in the final quarter of 2013 and this is reflected in the success and profitability of our Madrid office. Today’s news underlines the belief that there is a significant opportunity for us to further expand in Spain.’

Iñigo Gómez-Jordana, senior partner of A&O Spain added: ‘Spain’s latest M&A figures point towards recovery and new opportunities lie ahead for both our Madrid and Barcelona offices for all our practice areas. We look forward to Toni’s contribution, which will further strengthen our Spanish and international corporate offering, a strategic priority for the firm.’