Legal Business

Comment: There’s value in CMS’ purchase and one big hurdle ahead

Comment: There’s value in CMS’ purchase and one big hurdle ahead

In the wake of the eye-catching tie-up of CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang, Legal Business noted last year that the gnomic messages around the union made it a hard one to judge. And even after a detailed assessment of the largest UK legal merger ever, as we undertake for this month’s cover feature, it’s not easy to put the pieces together.

In part that is because CMS Cameron McKenna as the firm driving the effective takeover has become a difficult player to judge or benchmark against peers. While the CMS network has grown robustly in recent years, Camerons itself has often shed revenues since the banking crisis.

The insistence on positioning the CMS network as a fully-fledged entity to the point of providing financial benchmarks on a group-wide basis only further muddies the water. Personally I would say it has been counter-productive in branding terms as neither fish nor fowl but I will not labour the matter here.

What is apparent on closer observation is that Camerons has been a proactively managed businesses in the New Normal era, keeping an increasingly tight grip on its partnership, back office and costs.

Such operational rigour helped the firm pull off its 2014 takeover of Dundas & Wilson with considerable success and further strengthened the hand of the leadership team of Penelope Warne and Stephen Millar. And the Olswang and Nabarro takeover has more than shades of the Dundas deal, providing a chance for Camerons to pick up assets marked down after a periods of drift and strategic impasses.

That hint of distress – particularly notable with Olswang – hardly bodes ill. The history of legal mergers has seen plenty of productive unions in which a weaker partner backed themselves into a corner.

Knowing who is calling the shots brings clarity to the transaction, and putting assets up for sale provides the chance for the acquirer to realise value. And Olswang and Nabarro bring something substantive to the table. Combining the three to create a £430m practice with muscular industry coverage across energy, media, tech, financial services and real estate with economies of scale and a decent balance sheet is hard to query, even before you consider its huge international reach. Even the ex-partners, peers and mourning Olswang veterans with a sentimental view of a firm that was always a stronger brand than business do not question the logic of the union.

The biggest issue hanging over the merger has to be over the ability to focus three partnerships that have collectively failed to build revenues in recent years.

Even allowing for a low-growth environment, this trio have leaked market share, damaging in an era in which many mid-pack players are not just surviving, they are thriving. Camerons’ equity partner/fee-earner ratio is already eye-wateringly high for a major law firm. The danger is that rigorous operational management morphs into outright financial engineering and scale just allows the giant to sustainably fail for longer.

Providing CMS UK is alive to that very real risk, it has a huge opportunity to seize, bigger than you could imagine any of the three firms having independently. In the face of an uncertain legal market, it has taken the bold step. Audacity does not take you all the way, but it goes pretty far.

Read more in: ‘Sale of the century – Has Camerons picked up a bargain with Olswang and Nabarro?’

Legal Business

CMS ends Slovakia alliance and sets sights on Bratislava opening

CMS ends Slovakia alliance and sets sights on Bratislava opening

CMS‘ UK and Austrian member firms have called time on their alliance with Slovakian law firm Ruzicka Csekes, with plans to open a Bratislava office later this year.

The Slovakian firm of 40 lawyers had been in association with CMS Cameron McKenna and Austrian member firm CMS Reich-Rohrwig Hainz for five years, but now CMS is planning to launch its own fully integrated office in the country.

The alliance will end on 31 May 2017 and Camerons and Reich-Rohrwig Hainz aim to have an office in place by the summer with a newly created Slovak team of lawyers.

The firms have not decided whether the new office will be a joint venture, similar to the offices run by CMS in Russia or Istanbul, or a standalone office managed under the Camerons LLP or by Reich-Rohrwig Hainz.

A new office in Bratislava would bring the CMS group total to 66 worldwide. CMS operates as a European Economic Interest Group of firms, which includes 10 European members.

According to the firm’s latest LLP accounts, the share of joint venture turnover attributable to Camerons UK business was around £4m for the financial year ending 2016, up from £3.7m the previous year.

The UK business also operates further Central and Eastern European offices. Expansion in the region was originally led by executive partner Duncan Weston, prior to his appointment as managing partner in 2008. Camerons currently has offices in the region in Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.

CMS recently added three new member firms from Chile, Peru and Columbia to its international group – increasing the total number of member firms in CMS to 13 earlier this month.

Legal Business

CMS continues international growth with addition of three South American firms

CMS continues international growth with addition of three South American firms

CMS has added three new member firms from Chile, Peru and Columbia to its international group – bringing the total number of member firms in CMS to 13 and leaving the combined firm with 65 offices worldwide.

The three firms will join as CMS Carey & Allende in Chile, CMS Grau in Peru and CMS Rodríguez Azuero Contexto Legal Abogados in Columbia. The move adds to CMS’s Latin American presence in Brazil and Mexico.

The new additions leave CMS with 65 offices in 38 countries and will bring the firm’s headcount to more than 6,000 staff and 880 partners.

The three firms join as members of the original ten-firm European grouping, which includes CMS Cameron McKenna in the UK and CMS Hasche Sigle in Germany. CMS Carey & Allende will add a 45 lawyers in Santiago to CMS’s South American presence, while Peruvian firm CMS Grau will add 100 lawyers in Lima and CMS Rodríguez will add a 65-strong team in Bogotá and Medellin.

CMS executive partner for global development Duncan Weston said: ‘Our aim is to integrate leading firms that share our strategic vision, which is based on a client-centric approach – in-depth knowledge of our clients’ businesses and an understanding of their specific needs. With our combined expertise, we will offer our clients high-quality service, across all sectors and around the world.’

The new firms are only the latest additions to CMS’ international presence. The group launched a new joint office in Hong Kong that will feature partners from both the German and UK firms last year, as well as a new office in Iran at the start of 2016. Additionally, CMS Cameron McKenna’s upcoming merger with Nabarro and Olswang will add an international office in Singapore.

The CMS group reported more than €1bn in turnover last year, which the firm said represented a turnover increase of 8% on the previous year.

Legal Business

CMS returns to Hong Kong to enhance Asia disputes practice

CMS returns to Hong Kong to enhance Asia disputes practice

wiegand, nicolas_(small)CMS opened in Hong Kong in September through its German branch CMS Hasche Sigle, re-entering the city as part of an international arbitration push.

The initial focus of the office will see the development of a dispute resolution practice by arbitration partner Nicolas Wiegand (pictured) who relocates from Munich.

Legal Business

‘Huge opportunities’: CMS launches in Hong Kong in Asia arbitration play

‘Huge opportunities’: CMS launches in Hong Kong in Asia arbitration play

International law firm grouping CMS has today (1 September) opened in Hong Kong through its German arm CMS Hasche Sigle, strengthening its presence in Asia to three offices.

The office will initially focus on dispute resolution and M&A under Hasche Sigle international arbitration partner Nicholas Wiegand. CMS plans to extend its service offerings in the new office and establish a banking and finance practice in the office in 2017 through UK-based firm CMS Cameron McKenna.

CMS has had a presence in China since the 1990s and already has two offices of around 30 lawyers each in Shanghai and Beijing. CMS Cameron McKenna also previously had a Hong Kong office which wound down in 2003. 

Wiegand becomes the head of the new office having previously been based in Munich. He has experience working on arbitrations relating to Hong Kong, China, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan, and also sits on arbitration panels in Hong Kong, Shenzen and Dubai.

CMS executive chairman Cornelius Brandi said: ‘We look for markets that offer the greatest business potential for us. Geographic expansion is often part of our client´s growth strategy. So, we move primarily into regions where we expect that there will be future opportunities for them.’

The new office follows the firm’s most recent venture into Iran, with the firm becoming the first international law firm to launch a dedicated office in Tehran. The office is also led by partners of CMS’s German branch.

Hasche Sigle managing partner Hubertus Kolster said: ‘We see huge opportunities for the future throughout the entire South-East Asia region. Hong Kong itself, and especially China and of course the entire Asia-Pacific region have very dynamic economies and are a focal point for international investors.’

CMS Cameron McKenna managing partner Stephen Millar earlier this year confirmed to Legal Business that the firm was targeting expansion in Asia, aiming to boost its presence in the region to contribute up to 30% of revenues. Executive partner Duncan Weston is also understood to be examining plans for future associations in South America.

Legal Business

Financials 2015/16: Revenue growth slows at CMS as group posts 8.4% lift

Financials 2015/16: Revenue growth slows at CMS as group posts 8.4% lift

CMS has reported revenue and profit growth for 2015, with turnover increasing 8.4% year-on-year to £735.2m, and profits up 6.8%. The revenue figure includes fees from CMS’s ten member firms which operate under the CMS brand as part of a European Economic Interest Grouping.

Figures released today (10 June) show revenue growth has slowed, as the group last year reported 11% revenue growth and profits up 3% off the back of two mergers in 2014.

CMS UK senior partner Penelope Warne (pictured) said: ‘Although Brexit has presented some challenges and uncertainty in the UK market, we have maintained a strong and successful business.’

She added: ‘We have had significant growth in corporate and banking, where we have achieved double digit growth, and that has been tremendous. I think that each year, more and more, as we work within CMS, we become more integrated.’

Major deals for CMS have included advising AMP Capital on a joint acquisition of a £365m stake in Angel Trains and acting on an international banking consortium led by KfW IPEX-Bank and UniCredit on the €1.2bn refinancing of the bank loans of VTG Aktiengesellschaft.

CMS Cameron McKenna elected its new managing partner Stephen Millar in February this year. The energy partner succeeded long-standing chief Duncan Weston in May, who had been in the role since 2008. Weston has been appointed CMS executive partner for global development, with a mandate to build relationships with potential future partner firms.

CMS has made significant changes in the past few years, focusing in on energy, life sciences and financial services. Millar also recently played a central role in driving through CMS Cameron McKenna’s merger with Scottish firm Dundas & Wilson in 2014. CMS von Erlach Henrici also concluded a merger in 2014, with Swiss law firm ZPG Avocats.

In his election manifesto Millar promised to globalise the business, targeting expansion in the Middle East, Asia and North America. At the start of 2016 CMS Hasche Sigle announced an outpost in Tehran, making it the first international law firm to launch in Iran after sanctions were lifted on the nation.

Millar said: ‘There has been a wide spread acknowledgement that the last six months has been a challenging market, so we are really pleased to see this significant growth – as for what others do we will have to wait and see.’

He added: ‘In terms of Dundas & Wilson the integration has given us a much higher turnover in the UK, and what it’s allowed us to do is pursue a number of very good client opportunities. We’ve really seen that come through with some of the key accounts. That was the aim of the merger and this has started to deliver.’

Other LB100 firms to release results early this season include Fieldfisher which posted a 7% increase in firmwide revenues for 2015/16, up to £121.5m from £113.3m. Osborne Clarke posted a 23% rise in global revenues to €236.3m, while TLT posted a 15% turnover lift to £71.6m in May.


Legal Business

White & Case appoints management as Verrier re-elected while CMS hands Brandi a second term

White & Case appoints management as Verrier re-elected while CMS hands Brandi a second term

Both White & Case and CMS announced yesterday the re-election of their executive chairmen with Hugh Verrier taking the role on for a third time at the US firm while CMS’ Cornelius Brandi was elected for a second term.

Verrier, who was elected to his first term as chairman in 2007, will start another four-year term on 1 September. Having won re-election, the project finance partner also made appointments to the firm’s executive committee, gifting places to London managing partner Oliver Brettle (pictured), São Paulo-based Donald Baker, and banking partner David Koschik in New York. The body is responsible for decision making for the 38-office firm and will see the trio take up their positions on 1 September 2015.

The firm also carried out elections for its other management body, the partnership committee. The eight partners elected to the body comprise: New York partners James Hayden, David Hille, Someera Khokhar and Heather McDevitt, Frankfurt’s Jochen Artzinger-Bolten, Paris-based M&A partner François Leloup, Jacquelyn MacLennan based in Brussels, and Jason Yardley in London. The eight partners will also serve on the Compensation Committee and the New Partners Committee.

Verrier said: ‘I am grateful for the opportunity to lead White & Case for the next four years. As we move forward, we are focused on smart growth and strengthening our capabilities in key markets, attracting and retaining the best talent, and building relationships with clients to support their evolving needs.’

Meanwhile, CMS re-elected executive chairman Cornelius Brandi for a second four-year term. The role is responsible for the firm’s growth and strategic direction, something which Brandi claimed was given backing by his re-election.

Brandi said: ‘Over the years, CMS has achieved a dominant position in transactional work. Our excellent 2014 financial results, with a year-on-year revenue increase of 11%, reflect this. The results show that we have substantially increased our market share in jurisdictions we want to be in. Additionally, the level and quality of mandates that we receive have continually improved. CMS is on the right track.’

Legal Business

Mergers helps drive 11% revenue growth at CMS with profits up 3%

Mergers helps drive 11% revenue growth at CMS with profits up 3%

With two mergers under its belt in 2014, CMS has unveiled double digit growth in revenue for the financial year ending 31 December 2014 with turnover up by 11% to €934.5m (£753.3m).

Although it constitutes a marked turnaround from revenues the year before, which showed a marginal increase of 1% to €842.1m from €837.7m for the year ending December 2013, it benefits from CMS Cameron McKenna’s merger with Dundas & Wilson and a tie-up with Swiss law firm ZPG Avocats.

The 800-partner firm said today (11 June) its net profits also rose 3.3% during that period although it has not provided exact figures. In the UK, turnover was up 37% to £219.7m for the 2014/15 financial year – up from £159m generated the previous year before its Scottish merger took effect on 1 May 2014. The figure implies UK operations also saw organic growth with the tie-up having previously been pegged to add around £45m to the top line.

CMS’ managing partner Duncan Weston (pictured) said: ‘Our combination with Dundas & Wilson has had excellent client feedback and strengthened our UK sectors, practices and our ability to provide clients with greater choice in service delivery. Our technology and efficiency programmes are bringing benefits to our clients and to our firm. As we move into our contemporary new London HQ at Cannon Place, we look forward to the year ahead.’

With a strategic focus on technology, media and communications, energy, financial services, life sciences and disputes, major mandates for the firm included advising Telefónica Deutschland on a cash capital increase of €3.62bn to finance its acquisition of E-Plus from KPN; advising Spain’s Almirall on the $2.1bn transfer of rights to its respiratory franchise to AstraZeneca; and advising Aldwych International on its €600m investment in the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, to deliver low-cost reliable wind power to the Kenyan national grid.

Executive chair Cornelius Brandi said: ‘We are very pleased with the firm’s excellent revenue growth in 2014, in spite of the geo-political volatility in many regions in which we operate.

‘Even more important to us than the financials are the level and quality of mandates that we receive. We have advised on some of the largest deals in Europe, and we have been ranked number one in Europe by deal count for the fourth time in five years.’

Legal Business

Partner promotions: CMS makes up 39 in international partnership round

Partner promotions: CMS makes up 39 in international partnership round

The CMS international network has this year made up 39 lawyers to partner across Europe and the Middle East, including 10 in the UK and with women accounting for over 46% of total promotions.

The promotions were made across multiple practice areas, with corporate taking the lion’s share with eight promotions, followed by six in real estate and five in disputes, four each in employment and energy, and the remaining spread among banking and finance, commercial, competition & EU, restructuring and insolvency, insurance, maritime, public procurement and tax.

In the UK, real estate was the main focus with four partners being made up in the practice area plus two each in disputes and energy and one in both employment and insurance.

The figures mark a notable increase on last year’s 30-strong round, which included just five in the UK. It nonetheless constitutes a drop on 2012’s number of 50.

The promotions are made within the firm’s sprawling network and regions in this year’s promotions round includes the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

Formed in 1999, the original network group comprised Cameron McKenna, Hasche Sigle in Germany, Derks Star Busmann in the Netherlands, DeBacker in Belgium, Rui Pena & Arnaut in Portugal and Reich-Rohrwig Hainz in Austria – which then quickly expanded to include Swiss practice Von Erlach Klainguti Stettler Wille in 2000; French tax specialist Bureau Francis Lefebvre (BFL) in 2001; Italy’s Adonnino Ascoli & Cavasola Scamoni in 2002; and Albiñana & Suárez de Lezo in Spain in 2005. Cameron McKenna further absorbed beleaguered Scots firm Dundas & Wilson in 2013.

On the promotions, senior partner Penelope Warne said: ‘We are delighted to welcome these talented individuals to the partnership. These promotions were made across a number of areas, and reflect the talent and commitment of our lawyers as we grow the firm internationally. We are proud that seven of the 10 partners in the UK are women, reinforcing our strong commitment to diversity.’

CMS chair Cornelius Brandi added: ‘The naming of 39 new partners is a clear indication that CMS is continuing on its course of growth and expansion. With over 800 lawyers in total in 59 locations, we have a very strong position in the international legal market.’

Others to confirm partner promotions includes Taylor Wessing which yesterday (20 April) announced five lawyers were being made up to partner in its UK round, while Wragge Laurence Graham & Co promoted six.

Partner promotions across CMS for 2015 include:

Banking & International Finance

Marlous de Groot, Netherlands

Cristina Reichmann, Romania


Alexandre Delhaye, France

Anela Musat, CEE

Christian Delgado, Netherlands

Clair Wermers, Netherlands

Clemens Grossmayer, Austria

Jakub Marcinkowski, Poland

John O’Connor, United Arab Emirates

Patrik Przyhoda, Czech Republic


Alexis Hallemans, Belgium

Ellen Gielen, Netherlands

Competition & EU

Claire Vannini, France

Edmon Oude Elferink, Belgium

Dispute Resolution

Alison Gow, UK

Cristina Coto, Spain

Luis Javier Vidal Calvo, Spain

Reto Hunsperger, Switzerland

Sarah Grenfell, UK


Caroline Froger-Michon, France

Daniel Ludwig, Germany

Gillian MacLellan, UK

Sören Langner, Germany

Energy, Environment, Projects and Construction

Ben Ewing, Oman

Christine Worthington, UK

Iga Lis, Poland

Valerie Allan, UK


Zoe Burge, UK


Christoph Zarth, Germany

Public Procurement

Virginie Dor, Belgium

Real Estate

Angus MacRae, UK

Chris Rae, UK

David Abel, UK

Emma Pinkerton, UK

Lukáš Hejduk, Czech Republic

Ursula Steinkemper, Germany

Restructuring & Insolvency

Björn Frisch, Germany

Niklas Lütcke, Germany


Frédéric Gerner, France

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Phones 4u, with £105m profit and ‘cash in the bank’, enters administration with CC, A&O and CMS acting

Dealwatch: Phones 4u, with £105m profit and ‘cash in the bank’, enters administration with CC, A&O and CMS acting

Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance and CMS Cameron McKenna have all landed key roles advising on the administration of high street retailer Phones4u.

With PwC acting as administrator, the company went into administration on Sunday [14 September] after the withdrawal of EE, O2 and Vodafone products from its stores, placing 5,596 jobs and more than 700 outlets at risk.

Owned by pan-European private equity house BC Partners, a statement from the company said on Sunday: ‘Following the decisions of Vodafone and EE, Phones 4u has no option but to seek the appointment of administrators from PwC’.

The statement continued:’Phones 4u is a profitable, well-managed business with 550 standalone stores, employing 5,596 people. The company has a turnover of over £1bn, EBITDA of £105m for 2013 and significant cash in the bank.’

A&O restructuring and corporate insolvency partner Ian Field is leading a team advising Phones4u alongside the firm’s managing partner of the global restructuring and insolvency group Mark Sterling.

Clifford Chance is understood to be advising the lenders of the company’s rolling credit facility on the administration with a team led by finance partner Charles Cochrane.

CMS Cameron McKenna is also advising on the mandate, and is acting for the security trustee, ING Bank, with corporate recovery and restructuring partner Martin Brown advising.

Shortly before the administration, Moody’s downgraded its outlook over the company’s ability to repay its debts following Vodafone’s decision to not renew its network agreement with Phones 4u, which represented more than 20% of the latter’s revenues and gross profit.