Legal Business

Aviation: Further consolidation predicted as Aegean acquisition of Olympic approved

Aviation: Further consolidation predicted as Aegean acquisition of Olympic approved

Aviation lawyers expect further consolidation within the airline industry as Aegean Airlines was on Wednesday (9 October) given the all clear to buy troubled Olympic Air, led by White & Case and Baker & McKenzie.

The European Commission (EC) took the first-time step of reversing its earlier decision to block an acquisition attempt in 2011, approving the buyout from investment group Marfin.

Aegean was represented by White & Case led by Brussels-based competition partners Mark Powell and Assimakis Komninos. Baker’s competition partner Gavin Bushell, also based in Brussels, assisted Aegean on the transaction.

Komninos said: ‘The decision is very welcome news for the Greek airline sector and for Greek passengers as it will permit badly needed consolidation that will allow Aegean to compete more aggressively on the European stage.’

One aviation partner at a top City firm added: ‘The Olympic Air saga was a Greek tragedy. The EC had ruled [in 2002] that the airline had received illegal state aid that must be paid back. With Greece on its knees Olympic collapsed into insolvency.’

The EC’s decision to reverse its 2011 ruling was largely based on the fact that if Aegean was not permitted to acquire Olympic, it would cease trading. As reported by Reuters, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said: ‘It is clear that, due to the ongoing Greek crisis and given Olympic’s own very difficult financial situation, Olympic would be forced to leave the market soon in any event,’ adding that the merger would have no additional negative effect on competition.

The move comes as aviation lawyers predict further consolidation at the smaller end of the market, with one aviation partner commenting: ‘People are still making money in aviation, although it is a difficult period for the industry. I fully expect some airlines to go bust this winter.’

This situation is in stark contrast with the proposed $11bn merger between dominant American Airlines and US Airways, which was blocked by the US Justice Department this summer. The deal, which would have created the world’s biggest airline, saw a clutch of leading US firms secure roles including Latham & Watkins, Weil Gotshal & Manges, Paul Hastings, Debevoise & Plimpton and K&L Gates.

Legal Business

Financial results 2013: Bakers reveals double-digit profit growth against global turnover increase of 5%

Financial results 2013: Bakers reveals double-digit profit growth against global turnover increase of 5%

Baker & McKenzie has revealed above average financial performance for 2012/13, with a global revenue increase of 5% to $2.419bn and profits per equity partner up by 10% to $1.2m. This growth comes in above the Legal Business Global 100 average of 4% increase in turnover and flat profits for the past financial year.

Over the last year Bakers, which has a financial year end of 30 June, has taken on 60 lateral partners, pushing its headcount up to over 4,100, an increase of 2% on last year’s figure of 4,000. These latest results see a return to 2011 profit levels for the 74-office firm after heavy investment saw its PEP dip to $1,090m in 2012.

The past year has seen Bakers continue to invest in new offices in Casablanca, Lima and Seoul and revenue is now almost equally divided between the global regions: Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) accounts for 37% of turnover, Asia Pacific 28% and the Americas 35%.

Latin America, where the firm stands out for having offices across Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, has seen the most growth, together with North America and Asia Pacific. Chairman of the executive committee Eduardo Leite told Legal Business: ‘There is growth in the investment and trade within the emerging world from China to Africa, from Japan to South Africa, from Indonesia to South Africa. I think Asia for us is an engine of growth not a challenge of return on investment.’

‘Clients need to go to the growth markets and they feel very comfortable when they go to Turkey or South Africa or Colombia or Japan that we have partners who are Turkish, South African, Colombian or Japanese, not expats but second or third generation Bakers partners,’ Leite added.

Notable multi-jurisdictional transactions the firm has acted on during the last 12 months include Carlsberg Group’s $1.2bn public offer to buy Baltika Breweries; Toyota Tsusho’s agreement with PPR to expand its automotive business in Africa; and Mizuho Corporate Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Deutsche Bank’s $19.6bn debt financing of Softbank’s acquisition of a 70% interest in Sprint.

Legal Business

Asia round-up: Bakers ushers in new Singapore head as MoFo and Taylor Wessing plot regional growth

Asia round-up: Bakers ushers in new Singapore head as MoFo and Taylor Wessing plot regional growth

Aside from the big Asia Pacific news this week of SJ Berwin’s tie-up with King & Wood Mallesons, other major players are expanding in the region or re-freshing their leadership teams.

Baker & McKenzie Wong & Leow, the Singapore arm of Bakers, has appointed a new managing partner. Andy Leck is to replace Edmund Leow, who has been appointed as a Judicial Commissioner in the Supreme Court of Singapore. Leow will leave the global law firm on 31 August to take on his new role.

‘Leow is one of the finest legal minds around, who has practised law with the highest integrity,’ said Wong Kien Keong, chairman of the firm in Singapore

Leck is currently the head of the intellectual property (IP) practice and co-head of the disputes practice in Singapore and has 20 years of experience in contentious and non-contentious IP matters.

Morrison & Foerster, meanwhile, has bulked up its Singapore presence with the hire of corporate partners Jake Robson and Adam Summerly from Norton Rose Fulbright. The firm, which opened in Singapore earlier this year, has landed two Singapore veterans as Robson and Summerly have been in Singapore for eight and 14 years respectively. Both partners’ practices are focused on M&A, private equity, cross-border investment and joint ventures in the banking, insurance, natural resources and telecoms sectors.

‘Jake and Adam, both of whom have extensive M&A experience, bring distinguished track records advising on large and cutting-edge transactions throughout the region,’ said Eric Piesner, Singapore managing partner and firm-wide managing partner for Asia.

Finally, Taylor Wessing‘s Singapore member firm, RHT Law Taylor Wessing, has stated plans to secure formal alliances with local firms in four Southeast Asian markets next month. The firm is looking for tie-ups with firms in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia in the next four months.

Tim Eyles, UK managing partner of Taylor Wessing, commented: ‘Asia is an area of focus for us and we are continuing to develop relationships in Hong Kong and the ASEAN region.’

Legal Business

European movers: Bakers bolsters Madrid office with team of 20 as Hogan Lovells launches in Luxembourg and Wragges takes on Paris team

European movers: Bakers bolsters Madrid office with team of 20 as Hogan Lovells launches in Luxembourg and Wragges takes on Paris team

In many ways it is a curious time to be building up corporate and finance capability in the depressed Spanish market but Baker & McKenzie has significantly bolstered its strength in its largely third-tier Madrid office with the hire a local team of 20 lawyers from Mayer Brown’s former Spanish ally, Ramón y Cajal, including five partners.

Two of the founding members of the Spanish firm; Alberto Ureba, co-head of Ramón y Cajal’s corporate team, and Francisco Bauzá, co-head of the firm’s finance practice, are leaving to join the global behemoth by the end of the month.

Other key partners expected to leave include Guillermo Guerra, Rafael Bazán and Fernando Marroquín, none of whom were able to comment at the time.

Baker & McKenzie confirmed the news, first reported by a Spanish website, although said it did not release the news as the firm waits until lawyers are in place before announcing hires.

Mayer Brown entered into an exclusive alliance with Ramón y Cajal in 2007, although the US firm confirmed that this alliance is now over.

Elsewhere in Europe, Hogan Lovells looks set to open in the Grand Duchy after partners began voting on the move last Friday, with a Luxembourg office expected to launch at the end of the summer.

The top 15 Global 100 firm is planning on taking advantage of Luxemburg’s attractive tax status and world leading investment funds platform to set up a practice in that space. The office is likely to service a number of other practice areas and clients including corporate, real estate, private equity and tax.

‘We have plans to open in the country later this summer as there are a number of attractions for us in that market,’ said a spokesman for the firm.

This is the latest of a series of international plans to come to fruition. The firm recently bolstered its Latin America presence after obtaining a license to practice in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo last week. It also took three partners from Chadbourne & Parke earlier this year, including one based in Mexico, as the firm announced it was exploring the Mexican market.

In Paris, meanwhile, Wragge & Co has come back from the news last week that a seven-lawyer team had departed for local firm Franklin with the announcement that it has hired a four-lawyer Paris real estate team from the local office of leading UK firm Bird & Bird.

Partner Constance de La Hosseraye, who will lead the Paris-based real estate team, has joined together with three associates.

Wragge & Co’s Paris joint managing partner, Pierre Appremont, said: “Constance and her team are outstanding lawyers and exciting additions to the firm. Highly regarded in the market-place, Constance has a strong track record advising major French and international institutional investors on the full range of real estate matters.’

La Hosseraye added: ‘Wragge & Co has a compelling full-service offering and a market-leading real estate practice. In the three years since opening, the firm has made a big impact in Paris with its single team approach and ability to provide creative, pragmatic solutions to complex transactions. It’s this reputation which attracted me to join.’

Legal Business

71 new shareholders and a Madrid chief – today on Baker Mac’s intranet

71 new shareholders and a Madrid chief – today on Baker Mac’s intranet

It says something about the evolution of the legal market when a single global law firm makes up more partners annually than the total partnership of a sizeable UK practice like Travers Smith but a handful of players are now in that camp.

Passing that threshold with ease is Baker & McKenzie, which has just promoted 71 partners globally as the firm also today (1 July) announced that leading arbitrator Jose Maria Alonso will take over as managing partner of its Madrid practice just over a year after he joined from Garrigues.

The partner promotions, which take effect today, represent a 13% increase on last year and 19 of the promotions are in the Asia-Pacific region, including five in Bangkok, four in Sydney and three in Hong Kong. Twenty five partners have been appointed in the EMEA region, 18 in North America and nine in Latin America.

The group join a partnership fast closing in on 1,400 globally, roughly the equivalent of 23 Travers Smiths, as it happens.

By practice area, global M&A has benefited most with 20 of the promotions, followed by tax (15) and dispute resolution (9) with the remainder spread across other practice areas. Thirty two percent of new partners are female, an above average performance by the standard of large international law firms.

However, only one partner was elected in London, corporate tax specialist James Wilson, who in 2013 acted for Best Buy on its £500m sale of a 50% stake in Carphone Warehouse Europe to Carphone Warehouse.

Meanwhile, in Madrid the 4,000-lawyer firm has elected high-profile arbitrator and former Garrigues managing partner Alonso as regional managing partner for a three-year period, effective today. He succeeds Luis Briones, who will continue to practise as a partner in the tax team.

Alonso will combine managing the Madrid office with overseeing Bakers’ local litigation and arbitration department. He said: ‘We will work creatively and tirelessly to continue finding legal solutions for our clients and investors in Spain, and to use our unrivalled global coverage to help Spanish companies internationalise.’

You can see how Bakers fits into the international elite on Friday (5 July), when the July edition of Legal Business will reveal this year’s Global 100, assessing the performance of the world’s largest law firms.

Legal Business

Baker & McKenzie secures first UAE merger

Baker & McKenzie secures first UAE merger

Baker & McKenzie has become the first global firm to merge with a leading United Arab Emirates law firm after securing a tie up with Habib Al Mulla.

The merged UAE office will be known as Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla and will advise clients on local and international law across its offices in Dubai and, if it receives regulatory approval, Abu Dhabi.

The team will be jointly led by Habib Al Mulla as chairman and co-managing partner, along with Borys Dackiw, managing partner of the Gulf region.

Habib Al Mulla has been operating in the UAE since 1984 and has a team of over 40 Arabic and internationally qualified lawyers across its offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The merger brings the number of Bakers offices in the Gulf to five, and a total of 73 offices in 45 countries.

Chairman of Baker & McKenzie’s executive committee, Eduardo Leite said: ‘The combination with Habib Al Mulla cements our presence in the UAE as it once again experiences strong economic growth.’

Koen Vanhaerents, chair of Baker & McKenzie’s EMEA region, added: ‘We are committed to investing in high-growth markets, and the UAE has been among the fastest-growing economies in the world in recent years. GDP has more than doubled since 2006.’

Al Mulla was the architect of the Financial Free Zones legal framework, which led to the establishment of the Dubai International Financial Centre as the first Financial Free Zone in the UAE.

Legal Business

Baker & McKenzie becomes first global firm in Peru

Baker & McKenzie has extended its increasing strategic focus on Latin America by becoming the first international law firm to establish in Peru.

The firm announced a new partnership with Estudio Echecopar, a leading Lima-based firm, in October. It is one of the largest firms in Peru, with over 200 staff, and is ranked in the top tier in the current issue of The Legal 500 Latin America for corporate, M&A, disputes, projects and banking and finance.