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Norton Rose Fulbright eyes greater US depth through late-stage merger talks with Chadbourne

In what would be its second North American merger in two years, Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) is understood to be close to sealing a deal with $250m New York firm Chadbourne & Parke.

The deal would add to NRF’s $1.7bn top line and take the firm up to almost $2bn in total revenue worldwide.

The firm only recently sealed a merger with Canadian firm Bull, Housser & Tupper late last year, expanding its North American presence into Vancouver. NRF operates as a verein structure with business in Europe, Canada, South Africa, Australia and the US.

The merger comes four years after NRF first entered the US with its combination with Texas practice Fulbright & Jaworski. A tie-up with a struggling Chadbourne would make sense strategically in the US, giving NRF greater strength on the east coast of the US with the added attraction of its trophy project finance practice, which would complement NRF’s wider focus on energy and infrastructure.

Chadbourne is centred in New York, with a presence in Washington DC, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Moscow, Istanbul, Dubai and Johannesburg. It has a small insurance-focused offering in London.

Chadbourne has been on the merger hunt before, entering into talks with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in 2015, before talks ultimately fell through later that year.

NRF has also sought expansion in Asia recently, entering into discussions with Henry Davis York in Australia and opening an office in Papau New Guinea, while European expansion has seen a new office in Monaco.

However, the firm has failed to capitalise on its 2013 transatlantic tie-up with Fulbright, with global turnover at the firm struggling. Revenues fell around 3% in 2015.

NRF was unavailable for comment. Chadbourne & Parke refused to comment.

For more on Norton Rose Fulbright, read ‘On the bus – Inside the Norton Rose Fulbright masterplan’