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Eversheds in talks with Singapore boutique as UK firms target Asia hub

Fresh from failed merger talks with US firm Foley & Lardner, Eversheds is in talks with Harry Elias Partnership in a bid for a Singapore tie-up.

Eversheds has been open about its desire to secure international expansion, and has had a office in Singapore since 2009. The outpost is currently led by managing director Oommen Mathew.

Harry Elias, which has about 60 lawyers, is led by managing partner Philip Fong. The full service law firm is well-regarded for its strong dispute resolution practice which includes expertise in international arbitration, and its formidable matrimonial and family law practice.

A spokesperson at Eversheds would not confirm the talks with Harry Elias until ‘such time as there is something tangible to report’.

‘Growth in Asia is a key part of our global strategy and we will continue to look at opportunities with potential partners including firms with whom we have a strong existing relationship.’

Last November merger discussions between Eversheds and Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner ended, just over a week after reports Eversheds had identified the US firm as the primary candidate for a tie-up.

International expansion has loomed large in Eversheds’ thinking since the mid-2000s when it became increasingly evident that the firm had to rapidly upgrade its international offering. This was further reinforced in the firm’s 2020 Vision, a three-year strategy put forward by Hughes in 2012, which emphasised global aspirations.

At the time of the failed talks, Eversheds said in a statement: ‘We have made our position clear, whilst we appreciate that there will be speculation on our progress, a number of options remain open to us.’

If Eversheds secures full integration with Harry Elias, the merger will allow the firm to gain access to Singapore’s legal market without being subject to local licensing requirements that only allow firms to practise Singapore law in ‘permitted areas’ and are subject to renewals. A full merger would need approval from Singapore’s Ministry of Law.

Eversheds posted 2015 profits of £123m up from £121.9m the year before, after turnover fell in the UK to £336.5m from £337.5m and in the rest of Europe to 17m from £17.7m. The firm’s profit per equity partner (PEP) nudged up 2% to £740,000, and net cash position saw an improvement to £23m.