Having been speculated over for some time, Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy (A&O) has, today (8 August), announced its entrance into South Africa with the launch of an office in Johannesburg, and hired a seven-strong banking and finance team from local firm Bowman Gilfillan.
The office will be led by former Bowman Gilfillan banking head Lionel Shawe, and A&O partner Michael Duncan, who will be relocating to Johannesburg.
Set to open on 20 October, the firm anticipates the office will house around 40 lawyers in 2015. For the launch, Shawe and Duncan will be joined by a group of banking and finance lawyers from Bowman Gilfillan, including Khurshid Fazel, Lisa Botha, Sibusiso Zungu, Lindani Mthembu, and Alistair Collins. The firm added that finance lawyer Anthony Colegrave will join the team later in the year.
In early September the firm was reported to be getting closer to launching a South Africa base following the hire of Shawe from Bowman Gilfillan. The launch makes A&O the first Magic Circle firm to officially set up shop in the South African market without an association with a local firm, although Linklaters was the first of the group to enter the region in 2012 when it formed an alliance with local firm Webber Wentzel.
Explaining the move, A&O global managing partner Wim Dejonghe said: ‘Johannesburg has become a key hub for local and international banks, development institutions, institutional investors and funds looking at investment and finance opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Building on the success of our launch in Casablanca, Johannesburg is a continuation of our carefully targeted investment in Africa and emerging markets more generally. It offers a fantastic opportunity to take our Africa platform to the next level’.
Tim Scales, head of Allen & Overy’s Africa group, said: ‘This opens an exciting new chapter for A&O’s Africa Group. Lionel, the foremost banking and finance lawyer in South Africa and Mike, one of the leading lights in A&O’s global banking practice, are a powerful combination and we are very excited by the depth, quality and energy of the wider team. This will give us a unique platform to pursue opportunities in the banking, finance, projects, energy, infrastructure and mining sectors both in South Africa and elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa’.
Scales added the firm was seeing increasing interest in Africa from clients across its network, which was a key driver for the launch.
He added: ‘With the opening of our office in Johannesburg, we will now be able to offer clients a seamless service across sectors, combining a global presence and specialisation with a premium local team. This also provides our team in South Africa with access to an unrivalled international platform and the opportunity to advise companies that are world leaders on some of the most significant transactions in the region’.