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  1. Corporate and commercial: The West Country
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Who Represents Who

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Ashfords LLP’s ‘approachable and responsive’ corporate and M&A team is recognised for its experience of venture capital and private equity-backed transactions, as well as capital markets transactions. Primarily located in Exeter, but with offices in Taunton and Plymouth, the department operates seamlessly across firm’s West Country offices, as well as offices in Bristol and London. The ‘pragmatic and client-friendly’ Louise Workman leads the corporate practice out of the Exeter office and assisted Flybe Limited with a reduction of capital for the purpose of providing distributable reserves to support the allocation of shares under the company’s employee share schemes. Other highlights for the Exeter team included advising Swallowfield on its £11m purchase of Brand Architekts. Rebecca Dury advised Tavistock Investments on financing arrangements related to the client’s acquisition of Abacus Associates Financial Services. Pauline Bearblock and Zoe Brewer left the firm for in-house roles, while Simon Staples joined Blake Morgan LLP.

Foot Anstey’s Plymouth and Exeter offices have ‘an exceptionally strong corporate team, where clients deal with the principals rather than the assistants’. The cross-office team has specialised partners handling a range of corporate matters, and also works closely with the Bristol-based commercial, banking and restructuring departments. Corporate head Chris Worrell acted for Centrica in relation to the client’s £145m acquisition of ENER-G Cogen International. On the sell side, ‘supportive and pragmatic’ practice head Duncan Sykes acted on the multimillion-pound sale of the entire issued share capital of C3 Resources to Cofely UK. The firm has a very active private equity team led by Matthew Stoate, who advised Chinese private equity house, Sailing Capital, on the high-value acquisition of Astrum Education Group from Sovereign Capital. Stoate also acted for Silvergate Media on an investment into the company by US-based private equity firm Shamrock Capital Advisors. Ken Lewins was made partner in 2016 and leads the entrepreneurial and private company offering in West Devon and Cornwall. James Evans joined Tozers Solicitors LLP and Mark Langford left for gunnercooke LLP in 2016.

Michelmores LLP’s corporate team is among the largest in the region. In an example of the group’s experience of emerging markets related work, Henry Taylor advised African Agricultural Fund on a high-value investment into General Plastics Limited. Taylor also assisted Succession Group with the £10m acquisition of Clay Rogers & Partners. Richard Cobb heads the corporate department and acted for St Austell Brewery in relation to its acquisition of Bath Ales and its portfolio of pubs and restaurants. Cobb was also involved in the management buyout of EMC Advisory Services, working alongside Stephen Morse, who heads the business group. Ian Holyoak heads the commercial department and specialises in the renewable energy sector. Holyoak and newly-promoted partner Alexandra Watson acted for Downing LLP on establishment of a crowdfunding platform and a series of bond issuances, which raised nearly £10m.

Although its focus remains on SMEs in the South West, Stephens Scown LLP now acts for a number of national clients. In an energy sector highlight, David Culshaw acted for Ernesettle Community Solar as borrower in connection with the refinancing of a Plymouth solar project with two separate lenders. Simon Morris led a large team that acted for a German electronics company on a complex multimillion-pound transaction with a UK manufacturer. Robert Brightley is involved in another high-value transaction and corporate restructuring for a UK corporate, which involves a German utilities company. The corporate group is headed by James Keliher, who has experience of sale transactions and exit agreements in a number of jurisdictions. Sally Norcross-Webb is a specialist in mining and mineral matters and acted for Strongbow Exploration on the acquisition of the South Crofty Tin Mine, which required a deal structure allowing the holding company to be released from administration and subsequent share-purchase agreement.

Murrell Associates’s corporate team is known for its ‘detailed legal knowledge’ as well as its ‘professional and competent business advocacy’. The group has been especially active in the energy sector, with department head Chris Wills advising Kronos Solar Projects on the sale of KS SPV 35 Limited, which was the 17th disposal handled for the client over four years. ‘Very responsive and knowledgeable’ associate Henry Maples who has been extremely active in a number of M&A in 2016; highlights included acting for Classic Cottages Limited on its acquisition of Wight Locations Limited. Founding partner Hugh Murrell led a team acting for RIV Holdings, a new client of the firm, on its multimillion-pound acquisition of Rose in Vale Hotel, which included advising on a secured debt financing with NatWest Bank. Noted for her ‘keen eye for detail’, associate Rebecca Anforth has handled a number of commercial contractual issues.

OTB Eveling is well known for acting for regional SMEs, but also has experience of acting for private equity investors and multinationals. In a cross-border highlight, managing partner James Eveling acted for the shareholders of Simpleware Limited on its sale to Synopsis, one of the largest software companies in the US. Eveling also led a team including Rebecca Roberts advising the shareholders of Hentland Limited on ist £7.6m sale to an AIM-listed company. David Gebbie acted for Clearvac group on its restructuring and refinancing and on the acquisition of Ford & Sons (Sidmouth). Emma Thomas is also recommended.

Kitsons LLP’s corporate team is headed by Dominic Hollingsworth, who is an ‘experienced, well-networked operator’. The team has been involved in a number of multimillion-pound share transactions in 2016-2017, and also has experience of refinancing matters. Corri Pedrick is an associate in the corporate team and specialises in commercial drafting, and Graham Forward is a consultant in the department.

Porter Dodson LLP handles a wide-range of corporate matters for a growing regional and national client base. Key figures include Evelyn Adfield and Sarah Young. Highlights included advising a food wholesaler on its corporate restructuring involving JV agreements, a reorganisation of nine group companies and a multimillion-pound refinancing with Lloyds Bank. Adfield led a cross-disciplinary team that advised the shareholders on the sale of a medical services business.

Traditionally a property-focused firm, Solicitors Title LLP has also developed particular experience of commercial and corporate matters in the tech and IP space. The team also works for clients in the automotive and healthcare industries and has expertise in franchising matters, acting for both franchisors and franchisees. Department leader Richard James acts for a range of clients, from entrepreneurs to well-known brands, and has experience of joint venture arrangements, multimillion-pound MBOs, commercial licensing matters and investment structures. Guy Curry is another contact in the group and specialises in corporate finance, banking and funds work.

Tozers Solicitors LLP handles investment and restructuring work and has a niche focus on the mobile home and holiday park industries. The department is headed by James Orpin, whose experience runs the gamut of corporate and commercial law, from M&A to group reorganisations. Orpin acted for an acquiring company in the particularly high-value purchase of the entire share capital of a significant regional business. Amy Laver is an associate in the corporate and commercial group and acted for the sell-side clients in the sale of the share capital of a caravan park.

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Legal Developments in South West for Corporate and commercial: The West Country

  • US rules regarding offshore accounts

    The Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act 2010, enacted on 18 March 2010, imposes a new US withholding tax and reporting regime, known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). The FATCA regime applies generally to payments made after 31 December 2012, except on obligations (to be defined in future guidance) outstanding on 18 March 2012. Substantial effort is required by foreign entities to bring their worldwide operations and policies into compliance with the FATCA rules as of the effective date.

    - Jones Day

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