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Bell Gully advises on the competition law aspects of large mergers and acquisitions and also handles high-profile litigation. Practice head and leading light Torrin Crowther recently obtained Commerce Commission clearance for Tronox in its US$1.67bn acquisition of rival titanium dioxide producer Cristal. Special counsel Glenn Shewan, who is on the board of the Competition Law and Policy Institute, also played a key role in that transaction. Crowther and senior associate Michael Tilley, who recently joined from the Commerce Commission, advised software developer MYOB, on its proposed acquisition of accounting software firm Reckon Limited. Simon Ladd is the key name for contentious matters and alongside Crowther advised US-based investment firm Platinum Equity on its proposed acquisition of business products supplier OfficeMax NZ from Office Depot. Head of litigation Jenny Stevens in Wellington also plays a key role in the practice, particularly for clients in the energy sector.

Chapman Tripp¬†'rates very highly - it can be relied upon to deliver¬†legal advice based on very sound business and industry knowledge'. One client remarks that the advice is 'clear, succinct and business-focused'.¬†The firm advises on merger approvals, abuse of market power, cartel activity and compliance audits. Recently it¬†advised Essilor International and Luxottica Group on the local competition law aspects of their ‚ā¨48bn global merger. Matt Sumpter¬†in Auckland and¬†Neil Anderson¬†in Wellington¬†lead the practice. Clients describe Anderson as 'a great lateral thinker who considers problems from a number of angles'. 'Competition law savant' Sumpter is 'clever, knowledgeable, pragmatic, and has good litigation instincts'.¬†Also recommended in Wellington are consultant Grant David,¬†senior¬†associate Simon Peart¬†(who is 'very smart and provides insightful advice') and newly promoted partner Lucy Cooper.¬†Auckland-based senior associate Colin Fife¬†is a rising star.

At MinterEllisonRuddWatts 'the service is consistently excellent and the business acumen and industry knowledge are superb'. Ross Patterson, former NZ Telecommunications Commissioner and member of the New Zealand Commerce Commission, and Kristel McMeekin in Auckland 'know their subject matter well and have recent, deep and live experience of how the Commerce Commission deals with competition issues, so can provide solid guidance on how best to approach such issues'. Together with special counsel Melanie Tollamache, they advised Complete Office Supplies on an application for an injunction to prevent Platinum Equity from acquiring OfficeMax’s New Zealand business. They also acted for Kraft Heinz in its acquisition of the New Zealand, Australian and Singaporean food and instant coffee business of Cerebos Pacific. Oliver Meech in Wellington acted for GasNet in an investigation into whether its sale of pipeline assets substantially reduced competition in breach of the Commerce Act.

Russell McVeagh's dedicated competition law practice handles the full range of matters for a blue-chip client base. It recently acted for both Fairfax New Zealand and NZME on their NZ$122m merger, which also involved the demerger of NZME's New Zealand and Australian businesses. In Auckland, practice group chair Sarah Keene, who led on that matter, specialises in competition, consumer and regulatory law, as well as litigation, and regularly handles Commerce Commission investigations, prosecutions and merger clearances. Key partner Troy Pilkington has similar areas of expertise and has a track record of high-profile cartel and consumer law investigations, M&A transactions and joint ventures. In Wellington, partner Chris Curran and senior associate Dominic Rowe are also recommended. Curran, Pilkington and Keene all acted for Spark in its application to delay a clearance decision in the proposed merger of Sky TV and Vodafone New Zealand.

Buddle Findlay acts for public sector entities and large corporates in regulatory and merger clearance matters. Competition, overseas investment and economic regulation specialist Susie Kilty and Tony Dellow, whose early career included a stint at the New Zealand Ministry of Commerce, lead the practice from Wellington. They recently advised Toyota on its project to move to a new distribution model, which raised questions about the company's exposure under the Commerce Act and about the stance of the courts on new cartel prohibition regulations. Senior associate Jessica White, who joined from Minter Ellison in Australia, is also recommended. Litigator Laura O’Gorman in Auckland assisted Dellow with the Electricity Authority's proposals to introduce a default distributor agreement in order to promote competition in electricity retail markets. CRV Limited, Sky Television and the Ministry of Health are among the firm's clients.

DLA Piper New Zealand¬†is 'very good - it understands clients' business and meets or exceeds their expectations'. The firm handles¬†market regulation issues, investigations, cartel allegations and merger clearances for local and multinational companies such as Foodstuffs North Island, Expedia, Mondelńďz and General Mills. The practice is led from Auckland by 'highly regarded competition lawyer'¬†Mark Williamson¬†and litigator¬†Iain Thain,¬†who are 'equal to or better than any in this area'. Williamson advises on regulation, trade practices, antitrust matters and compliance strategies. Thain's contentious work includes cases in the courts and before the Commerce Commission. He works closely with special counsel Alicia Murray, who is on the¬†board of the New Zealand Competition Law and Policy Institute. The practice frequently handles the local law aspects of international mergers and acquisitions, and it recently advised facilities management company OCS on a cross-border corporate disposal.

Matthews Law is 'the strongest firm we use in this area by a long shot', according to one client, who remarks that the firm's 'technical knowledge is exceptional and applied with a healthy degree of pragmatism'. It is New Zealand's only competition law boutique and practice head Andrew Matthews 'excels in detailed analysis and his technical knowledge off the cuff is outstanding'. One client says 'his key skill is strategy on when and how to engage with the regulators'. Senior associate Gus Stewart is recommended for his 'great attention to detail and technical skill'. The practice's recent highlights include acting for and the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand Incorporated in the Commerce Commission’s prosecution of real estate agencies. It achieved the only successful defence of an individual in those High Court prosecutions. The team also handled the local law aspects of HP's $1.05bn acquisition of Samsung's global printer business.

Simpson Grierson provides regulatory and competition law advice to corporates and local authorities, which includes analysis of mergers and acquisitions, obtaining Commerce Commission clearances, structuring joint ventures to ensure regulatory compliance, preparing access and supply arrangements, and assisting clients with pricing issues. Its experienced litigators handle investigations and court proceedings relating to alleged restrictive trade practices and other anti-competitive behaviour. The practice in Auckland is led by Anne Callinan, who specialises in cartel litigation and is a former board member of the Competition Law & Policy Institute, and the 'extremely proficient' James Craig. Callinan recently acted for peer-to-peer lending platform Harmoney in a Commerce Commission investigation, which is awaiting a decision from the High Court. For Nelson City Council and Tasman District Council, Craig handled an application for the authorisation of a price-fixing and output restriction arrangement with the Commerce Commission.

Wilson Harle is a specialist litigation boutique based in Auckland that handles high-end commercial, public law and regulatory disputes. A significant amount of its work relates to contentious competition, cartel, fair trading and consumer law matters, which in 2017 included acting for Wilson Parking in the Commerce Commission’s investigation of its acquisition of a carpark building lease in Wellington. Ian Denton led that matter. Key partner Allison Ferguson acted for Vodafone in disputes involving alleged breaches of the Fair Trading Act 1986 arising from the company's marketing of Hybrid Fibre Coaxial cable network services as FibreX. Newly promoted partner Felicity Monteiro also worked on that matter and has a busy practice handling advertising injunctions, telecoms, competition and compliance work for Vodafone, and advising on contracts and joint ventures in the transport sector.

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