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Latin America: International firms

Latin America: International firms > Corporate and M&A > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

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M&A activity was relatively slow in Latin America during 2016, thanks largely to subdued economic growth. Much of this is down to the collapse in commodity prices affecting Latin America’s key oil and gas and natural resources industries. Uncertainty surrounding Mexico’s future trading relationship with the US has also not helped confidence. Currency depreciation though, notably in Argentina and Brazil, has helped attract some foreign investors.

Market liberalisation, notably in Mexico’s energy industry, continues to draw in investment and interest from outside Latin America. So too has Argentina’s re-engagement with the world economy, resulting in the expectation of more foreign direct investment (FDI) and M&A activity, and Argentina’s Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne announced in February 2017 that the nation expected FDI to double from 2016 levels during the year. Although Brazil’s economy remained depressed in 2016, expectations of an increase in FDI and transactional activity are rising due to President Michel Temer’s pro-business reform agenda to deal with long-term structural issues.

The cross-border M&A sector in Latin America is still dominated to a large extent by Wall Street law firms such as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Strong across the region’, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP’s illustrious status in Latin America consistently attracts a broad variety of M&A engagements, across the region and most notably in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina where it represents a number of major energy and natural resources clients. As one of only a handful of international firms with an established office in Buenos Aires, the firm is universally regarded as a market leader in Argentina. The firm ‘is top of the list’, has a ‘fabulous practice’ with ‘great lawyers and great clients’ and is the ‘market leader for Latin America work without a doubt’. The Latin America group has experienced a notable uptick in engagements from regional corporates, including those divesting of and/or acquiring assets outside Latin America. At the same time, it frequently advises international clients on their investments and acquisitions within the region and is increasingly active on behalf of major private equity and sovereign wealth funds that are looking to develop their interests in the region. Clients include Vale, Fintech, Vitro, General Mills, Ontex, First Reserve, Pluspetrol, CNP Assurances, Grupo Clarín and Votorantim. Highlight transactions include advising Vitro, the leading glass producer in Mexico, on its $310m acquisition of Pittsburgh Glass Works’ original equipment automotive glass business from LKQ Corporation and its $750m acquisition of the business assets of the flat glass manufacturing and glass coating operations of US Fortune 500 company, PPG Industries. In Brazil the firm has a longstanding connection to global mining giant Vale, and advised on its $2.5bn stock purchase agreement with New York-listed The Mosaic Company, to sell Vale’s fertilizer business (excluding its nitrogen and phosphate assets in Cubatão). Further illustrating the firm’s standing among Latin American clients, the team advised major Argentine media player, Grupo Clarín, on its $178m acquisition of a 51% interest in Nextel Communications Argentina from NII Holdings. Jeffrey Lewis is very much recognised as a ‘pure M&A guy’ and ‘an excellent lawyer’ with tremendous experience in Latin America for clients such as Vale and Pluspetrol. Chantal Kordula has emerged as a leading player in Mexico-related transactions, as evidenced by her advice to Vitro on its acquisitions in the US. São Paulo’s Juan Giráldez is a ‘special lawyer who really understands the client’s needs’ and Francesca Odell is making a strong impression in private equity transactions and continues to be strongly associated with Brazil-related deals; she also advised General Mills on the recent sale of its Venezuelan branch. Buenos Aires-based Andrés de la Cruz is a dominant figure in Argentina and São Paulo’s Francisco Cestero is also recommended. All partners are New York based unless stated otherwise.

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP leverages its core Latin America group along with its high-ranking M&A practice in New York to advise on some of the biggest ticket deals in the region; this includes a rich mix of inbound, outbound and intra-regional transactions. The firm’s commitment to the region, which involves a high-volume of engagements from Latin American corporates on their capital markets offerings, has led to a number of cemented corporate relationships and a range of headline M&A transactions. Clients include Arancia, Arcos Dorados, Banco Santander and its Latin American subsidiaries, Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN), Vivo Participaçõe Cosan, Gafisa, GP Investments, Millicom, Odebrecht and Telefónica. The firm advised Brazilian energy giant Petrobras on its $892m sale of an indirect 67% stake in Petrobras Argentina to Argentine energy company Pampa Energía. It also advised Heineken on its €664m acquisition of Brasil Kirin from Japanese beverages company Kirin Holdings. In another substantial transaction, the firm represented the special committee of Brazilian retailer Via Varejo in the $647m acquisition of Cnova Brazil from Dutch e-commerce company, Cnova. Of the core Latin America team, Manuel Garciadiaz, who splits his time between São Paulo and New York, is widely praised as multi-skilled; with a large number of Latin American clients, he has worked on a multitude of headline M&A transactions in the region. He is supported by a various M&A partners in New York who frequently advise on Latin America deals, including Oliver Smith, William Aaronson and Louis Goldberg. John Amorosi is another key name on Latin America transactions, including those undertaken by private equity investors.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP has strong regional coverage and has built relationships with a range of Latin American corporates, most notably in Chile, Colombia and Argentina; this is thanks in part to the New York-based Latin America practice head David Williams, who has had a long-term focus on these jurisdictions. This commitment has led to a multitude of engagements in intra-regional transactions, particularly driven by capital rich Chilean companies. The firm remains a global leader in private equity and is increasingly active on behalf of private equity clients in Latin America, such as cornerstone international private equity houses like KKR, but also sponsors that turn to the firm more specifically for its Latin America expertise. This includes Carlyle Peru Fund, which the firm advised on its acquisition of a 75% stake in Gastronomía y Negocios, the largest franchisor of quick service restaurants in Chile. Still in the private equity segment, the firm advised Riverwood Capital on its investment in “99”, one of the leading Brazil-based ride-hail and on-demand taxi service providers. In substantial cross-border corporate transactions, the firm advised The Mosaic Company, a leading US-based producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate and potash crop nutrients, on its $2.5bn acquisition of Vale Fertilizantes from Vale, the Brazil-headquartered global mining giant. In yet another headline deal, it represented Localiza Rent a Car, a major car and fleet rental company in Brazil, on its acquisition of Hertz’s operations in Brazil. Williams’ pivotal role, built on his regional connections and market experience, saw him advise Compañía de Petróleos de Chile Copec, a fully owned subsidiary of Empresas Copec, on its acquisition of ExxonMobil’s fuels and lubricants distribution business in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. São Paolo and New York partner Todd Crider is a key name on Brazil-related transactions and has built a strong record in private equity deals across the region; a ‘great lawyer’, he’s ‘commercial’, a ‘good negotiator’ and is ‘not abrasive and gets things done’. Crider is co-head of the São Paulo office along with Jaime Mercado, who also splits his time between there and New York, and is in addition recommended for deals in Central America and the Caribbean; he is another key name in private equity investments in Latin America. São Paolo’s Grenfel Calheiros and Juan Francisco Méndez are also recommended.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP’s international standing in M&A is far from diluted by its Latin America practice, where it has an exceptional record in Mexico, Brazil and throughout the region. Its strong São Paulo office and a formidable group of New York-based M&A lawyers with a strong focus on Latin America mean that it is frequently engaged on big-ticket and headline deals in multiple jurisdictions. Highlight engagements include advising Brazilian brewer AmBev on the transfer of its businesses in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador to Anheuser-Busch InBev, in exchange for SABMiller’s operations in Panama. It also advised Banco BTG Pactual (Brazil) on the sale of BSI (Switzerland) to EFG International (Switzerland), and on the $1.6bn spin-off of a section of its commodity-trading unit (to be renamed as Engelhart Commodities Partners). The firm is a growing presence in private equity and represented Carlyle on its equity investment in Brazilian hospital operator Rede D'Or São Luiz; this was the first investment by an international firm in the Brazilian hospital/facility sector following legislation that opened the market up to foreign investors. Paul Schnell is a highly acclaimed M&A specialist with a formidable record in Latin America, particularly in Brazil. He leads the Latin America practice alongside Paola Lozano, who also heads the Spanish language corporate practice and has particularly impressive experience in financial-sector M&As. Mathias von Bernuth heads the São Paulo office, where Filipe Areno is also highly recommended. Michael Civale is also a regular adviser on Latin America M&A deals. All partners are New York-based unless stated otherwise.

High-class law firmSullivan & Cromwell LLP has many years’ experience in Latin America and a strong knowledge of the local legal environment in most jurisdictions, according to clients. A relatively small practice group it is tightly integrated with the rest of the firm, enabling the team to leverage specific expertise and knowledge in a range of transactions. It consistently delivers this high level of service to a large number of Latin American companies, multi-latinas and foreign multinationals with interests in the region. The team is ‘very responsive’, ‘understands the business of the client’ and delivers ‘high quality work’. It demonstrates ‘excellent legal expertise and keen business judgment’, ‘anticipates risks’, provides ‘constructive advice’ and is ‘undoubtedly superior and a leader in this practice area compared to its peers’ according to one client. The firm is also at the forefront of Asian investment into the region, particularly by Chinese state-owned entities (SOEs). It advised State Grid International Development, a subsidiary of State Grid Corporation of China, on its $4.53bn acquisition of a 55% interest in CPFL Energia, the largest electricity distribution company and third-largest power generation company in Brazil, from Camargo Corrêa and five Brazilian pension funds; under Brazilian law, State Grid is expected to make a cash tender offer for the remaining shares it did not already own. As a global M&A powerhouse, the firm advised Anheuser-Busch InBev on its $123bn merger with SABMiller; this involved SABMiller’s brewing and beverage operations in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and Peru, where it was the number one brewer by market share. In yet another landmark deal involving a Latin American client, the firm advised Cementos Argos on Argos USA’s $660m agreement with HeidelbergCement to acquire its Martinsburg cement plant and eight related terminals in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York. Head of the Latin America practice Sergio Galvis impresses with his ‘keen business judgment’, ‘rich legal practice experience and excellent leadership’, and his ability to ‘swiftly and accurately spot the issues’ in complex transactions and give ‘constructive advice’. Christopher Mann is ‘excellent’ and has huge experience in Latin America and Werner Ahlers is ‘very dedicated’ and ‘very experienced’.

Clifford Chance’s ‘global footprint enhances the practice adding depth that is unmatched by any other firm’, according to one client. Moreover, its São Paulo team – almost uniquely among international firms there – has a strong focus on M&A, led by office managing partner Anthony Oldfield who has an impressive background in M&A and capital markets transactions. In 2016, he continued to lead the team advising Banco Bradesco on its $5.2bn acquisition of HSBC assets in Brazil. He also led the group advising Kellogg Company on its $429m acquisition of Ritmo Investimentos, the controlling shareholder of Parati, a leading Brazilian food group; the deal was Kellogg’s largest ever acquisition in the region. The wider Latin America team, which includes a number of M&A partners in New York and Madrid, has an impressive record in financial services, energy and infrastructure deals, although is active across most industry sectors. It advised The Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola FEMSA, the second largest Coca-Cola bottler in the world, on their $580m joint acquisition of South American soy-based beverage business, AdeS Alimentos de Soja, from Unilever. In the energy field, the team advised AEI on its disposition of Fenix Power Perú, the owner of a 570MW combined cycle power plant in the district of Chilca, southern Lima, to a consortium led by Colbún. It also advised Actis and Mesoamerica on the sale of their respective ownership stakes in Globeleq Mesoamerica Energy to Corporación Multi Inversiones. The Latin America team continues to be praised for its responsiveness with its ‘totally service oriented’ lawyers ‘always available and ready to do what it takes to respond to clients’ needs’. Team members ‘give practical, business-oriented advice and have strong energy sector knowledge, experience in the Latin American markets’ as well as ‘extensive knowledge regarding current market practice’. The group is ‘creative, knowledgeable and focused on achieving business objectives’. Other key members of the team include David Brinton, the head of the firm’s US and Americas corporate practice and a leader in energy sector transactions. Providing an ‘excellent level of service’, the ‘extremely responsive’, Brinton ‘has in-depth M&A experience and extensive knowledge about the energy sector’; moreover, he ‘is a commercial and business-oriented lawyer’, who ‘understands the business and commercial needs’ of his clients and ‘focuses on identifying the issues that matter’. Madrid partner Javier Amantegui advises a number of Spanish clients with interests in Latin America.

Providing ‘extremely high levels of service’ and ‘high quality M&A legal advice’, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP displays ‘high level business acumen and industry knowledge’ and ‘in depth knowledge of its clients’; it is particularly recognised for its transactional record in the beverages, healthcare and financial institutions sectors. The firm has developed an especially strong record in Brazil-related M&A transactions, restructurings and issues surrounding distressed assets, along with white-collar crime, compliance and sanctions. Highlight transactions include its representation of Brookfield Business Partners and institutional clients of Brookfield Asset Management in their $768m acquisition of a 70% controlling stake in Odebrecht Ambiental, Brazil’s largest private water distribution, collection and treatment company. The firm has an especially strong global private equity practice and advised Evercore on the transfer of Evercore Mexico Capital Partners (EMCP) to Glisco Partners, a new entity created by EMCP principals; this involves Glisco assuming all responsibility for the management of existing EMCP funds, which manage some $266m of invested capital. In another landmark private equity engagement, the firm advised Latin America’s largest private equity firm, GP Investments, on the creation of a joint venture with a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to acquire a controlling stake in BR Properties, a Brazilian real estate company that GP founded in 2006 and exited in 2010. Co-head of the Latin America group Maurizio Levi-Minzi is closely associated with the region and has a fine record in private equity and infrastructure transactions. Colombian born partner David Grosgold is praised for his financial services M&A experience, his abilities on cross-border M&A involving Latin American entities, and his ‘insurance industry expertise’. Clients also appreciate his ‘strong command of both the legal aspects of transactions coupled with business acumen’. Michael Gillespie is recommended for TMT deals and is widely recognised for his long-term association with Brazilian media group Globo Comunicação e Participações. Gregory Gooding is another key member of the team, particularly in relation to private equity deals. All partners are based in New York.

The team at Latham & Watkins LLP has an impressive M&A record, particularly in Mexico, and displays, ‘outstanding industry and transactional experience’; with ‘excellent level of service’ and ‘short response times’, it is always ‘helpful and readily available’. The practice group is praised for its private equity expertise in Latin America, which accounts for roughly half of its Latin America M&A practice, and is also noted for its M&A experience in the oil-and-gas and energy sectors. Clients include Andes Mining & Energy, Ashmore Management, Carlyle, Fermaca Global, GE Capital, Grupo Aval, Linzor Capital Partners, Oaktree Capital, Repsol and Sempra Energy. Recent highlights include advising Linzor Capital Partners on its $1.1bn acquisition of the Mexican equipment lending and leasing business of General Electric; it was Linzor’s largest transaction to date. The team also advised First Reserve on its acquisition from -and subsequent leaseback to- Pemex Transformacion Industrial, of the ultra-low sulphur gasoline assets attached to Pemex’s refinery in Madero, Mexico. Other key mandates included representing Infraestructura Energética Nova (IEnova) in its $852m acquisition of the equity interests in the Ventika I and Ventika II wind generation facilities, which comprise the largest wind farm in Mexico. Latin America-practice co-chair Antonio Del Pino has ‘strong knowledge of Latin America’ and ‘excellent experience in M&A’. Christopher Cross is co-chair of the energy, oil and gas industry group and has a fine record in Mexico-related transactions. Thomas Malone is another core member of the team, particularly in relation to Mexico where he is closely associated with Fermaca Global. Madrid partner Ignacio Pallarés represents a number of Spanish clients in Latin America. All partners are New York-based unless stated otherwise.

White & Case LLP is a global leader in M&A and this is very much in evidence in Latin America. Its large regional team –primarily based in Miami, São Paulo, Mexico City, New York and Washington DC– has deep connections in the region, not least in São Paulo where Donald Baker, head of the Latin America practice, has built unrivalled connections with local and regional corporates since launching the office in 1997. Although deal flow in Brazil has been slow due to recent economic and political crises, the practice group has been actively engaged in high-value restructurings of major Brazilian corporates. The substantial Mexico team is frequently engaged in both inbound and outbound deals featuring Mexican entities, and the wider Latin America group has experienced a notable uptick in private equity deals in line with the firm’s global focus on private equity and the rise in private equity activity in the region. Highlight deals include advising the Altán consortium on its $7bn winning bid to build and operate a mobile 4G network that will cover more than 92% of Mexico’s population. In addition to the highly acclaimed Baker, the firm has a number of senior Latin America M&A specialists including Miami partner Fernando de La Hoz, who has an impressive record in cross-border deals, including investments and acquisitions by Asian entities, and major restructuring transactions in Brazil. New York’s Oliver Brahmst is co-head of the global private equity practice and has a strong focus on Latin America for both strategic buyers and private equity houses. Miami’s Christian Hansen is recommended for energy sector acquisitions and joint-ventures in Latin America.

Allen & Overy LLP has impressed in the M&A sector through a series of major engagements for multinationals in Europe and North America. The firm is notably active in transactions involving energy and infrastructure assets, and advises a number of infrastructure funds, pension funds and other corporates on major infrastructure transactions. It is also noted for its connections to sizeable Brazilian corporates through its respected São Paulo office. Headline deals include advising Alberta Investment Management Corporation on the €948m sale of its 50% stake in its toll road infrastructure asset, Autopista Central de Chile, to Abertis Infraestructuras; the Autopista Central concession has the highest average daily traffic in the country and the transaction represents one of the largest private equity deals of 2016 in Latin America. The firm also advised North Haven Infrastructure Partners on its winning bid for the $7bn Red Compartida telecommunications project in Mexico. It continues to be active on behalf of Brazilian corporates such as the mining giant Vale, which it represented in connection with the renegotiation of Mitsui & Co’s $1bn investment in the Moatize coal mine in Mozambique and the Nacala rail-and-port project in Mozambique and Malawi; the firm first advised Vale on Mitsui’s investment in 2014. São Paulo partner Bruno Soares has deep connections to Brazilian corporates (such as Vale), and New York partner Peter Harwich is increasingly engaged in Latin America-related work. New York’s Kent Rowey is another active player in the region, particularly on behalf of financial sponsors in the energy and infrastructure sectors; the same is true for Stephen Lloyd in London. New York’s Dorina Yessios is another key member of the Latin America practice and Washington DC partner Sami Mir is noted for equity investments by financial institutions such as IFC.

A ‘wonderful firm with a stellar reputation’, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP is ‘“go-to” for bet-the-company and big ticket M&A’; considered a true market leader in cross-border M&A, it has considerable experience advising on major transactions involving Latin America. Recent mandates saw the team advise Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) on its asset swap with Ambev (involving AB InBev transferring SABMiller’s Panamanian business to Ambev, and Ambev transferring its businesses in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador to AB InBev); this is linked to the headline $123bn merger of AB InBev and SABMiller in 2016 in which the firm also advised AB InBev. The team also advised Banco Santander Rio on its acquisition of the on-shore consumer credit card, consumer brokerage and retail banking businesses of Citigroup in Argentina; and assisted Grupo México’s transportation business unit, GMéxico Transportes, with its acquisition of Florida East Coast Railway Holdings. London partner David Mercado is a true Latin America specialist and has decades of experience in the region; while in New York, senior M&A partners including Richard Hall, Craig Arcella, Robert Townsend and Scott Bennett all have significant experience of Latin America transactions, as does Joel Herold in London.

Greenberg Traurig LLP has a flourishing Latin America practice with considerable strength in financial-sector and telecoms M&A and a growing exposure to energy, pharmaceuticals, retail and food transactions. It has also experienced notable growth in private equity deals. The firm’s substantial Latin America-focused teams in Mexico City, Miami and New York provide it with genuine bench strength. While Mexico remains its primary market, the practice has a lengthy history of working in Central America and is increasingly active in Colombia and Argentina. It also continues to be at the forefront of cross-border transactions involving Spanish businesses; clients include Grupo Assa, Grupo Terra, Browley International, Cardinal Compania de Seguros and Grupo Patio. In recent matters, the team advised ASSA Compañía Tenedora, and ASSA Compañía de Seguros, on the acquisition of American International Group’s operations in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. It also represented Grupo Terra on its $158m acquisition of the credit card, insurance and consumer banking operations of Citibank El Salvador. Patricia Menéndez-Cambó is vice-chair of the firm and has a strong focus on Latin America, especially regulated sectors such as telecoms, energy and banking. Miami partners Randy Bullard and Emilio Alvarez-Farré are also pivotal members of the team, while New York partner Marc Rossell provides additional capital markets-related expertise. The ‘sharpManuel Rajunov who splits his time between the firm’s Dallas and Mexico offices, is also highlighted.

An ‘excellent’, ‘top flight firm’, the ‘highly responsive’, Jones Day has ‘great international reach and depth of bench’ and a ‘deep understanding of the local markets’; according to one client it is also ‘much more detail-oriented than others’. The firm has sizeable teams in São Paulo and Mexico City that enable it a healthy market share of cross-border transactions in both jurisdictions. In 2016, the practice group advised Verizon on its $3.6bn sale of 24 data centre sites in the US and Latin America to Equinix. The Mexico team also advised Blackstone subsidiary Fisterra Energy on the Mexico law aspects of its $852m sale of the Ventika wind farm, to IEnova; and in addition, represented Atlas Holdings on its acquisition of the interactive printer solutions division of NCR Corporation, involving manufacturing facilities in Chile and Mexico as well as other operational assets in the region. Restructuring and distressed M&A is another key feature of the Latin America practice. A ‘specialist on Latin America matters’, Miami partner Nicholas Rodriguez is ‘culturally sensitive’, ‘extremely helpful’ and has a ‘vast amount of experience in cross-border work’. Another ‘very good lawyer’, New York and São Paulo-based Wade Angus is ‘very reliable’, a ‘great negotiator and has an amazing depth and breadth of M&A knowledge’. São Paulo partner Marcello Hallake is ‘terrific’ and Miami’s Enrique Martin is also recommended by clients. Luis Riesgo leads the Latin America practice from São Paulo and spends considerable time in Mexico and Miami. New York’s María Luisa Cánovas and Michael McGuinness are also key names.

M&A accounts for a substantial portion of Linklaters LLP’s impressive Latin America practice which provides ‘state of the art legal services’ and ‘work that is always well coordinated and organised’. Moreover, clients report ‘teams assembled to maximize responsiveness and specialized advice, including from a multi-jurisdictional approach,’ and which are ‘very business-oriented’ and ‘focused on creating value for the client’. New York and São Paulo partner Alberto Luzárraga is recognised as one of few senior Latin America M&A specialists. Luzárraga, an Argentine, has helped the practice to develop an especially strong record in the Southern Cone region and the firm has been at the forefront of deals fuelled by Argentina’s economic rehabilitation. It is also recognised for its record in cross-border deals involving Europe and Asia, especially for multinationals outside of the region and a number of prominent multi-latinas. Clients include PointState, Enagas, Deutsche Post DHL, HSBC, Glencore, Falabella, Pampa Energía, Banco Macro and ENAP. Financial services and natural resources are both key industry sectors for the practice; recent mandates in the latter include advising Anglo American on the $1.5bn sale of its niobium and phosphates businesses in Brazil to China Molybdenum; and assisting Argentine energy group Pampa Energía with its $1.3bn acquisition of Petrobras Argentina. Other key members of the Latin America M&A practice include Peter Cohen-Millstein, who is increasingly involved in the region, especially in Argentina and Brazil. Matthew Poulter is better known for capital markets and finance work, but is nonetheless a key member of the M&A team and has a number of important client relationships. Senior associate Gabriel Silva and counsel Eamon Nolan have extensive Latin America M&A experience and are ‘highly motivated’, focused on the ‘quality of output’ and ‘bridge the gap between local and international counsel’. Silva in particular has a ‘deep understanding of the Brazilian environment, focuses on the right problems and can quickly spot issues and provide solutions’. All team members are New York located unless otherwise noted.

In the wake of its merger with Chadbourne & Parke LLP, Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP has inherited a fine reputation for strategic M&A and private equity transactions in Latin America. Former co-head of the legacy firm’s Latin America practice Talbert Navia is widely recognised for his corporate connections in the region, especially in Argentina, as well as for his background in private equity. The firm has been active in Argentina since the early 1990s and Navia previously established two private equity funds before returning to the legal profession. Chile and Colombia (where the firm has an increasingly well-positioned local office), are also especially active markets for the firm, which is also known for its energy M&A experience in Mexico. The firm now advises a range of Latin America focused private equity houses on fund formation and investments in the region, with key clients including Enel Américas, I Squared Capital Advisors, Southern Cross Latin America Private Equity Funds, Vale, Americas Energy Fund, Quivest and Sigma Q. In recent work, the team continued to advise Enel Américas (formerly Enersis) on its landmark $22bn corporate reorganisation, involving two simultaneous spin-off demergers and the creation of four NYSE listed companies. The practice also advised I Squared Capital Advisors on its $1.2bn acquisition of a portfolio of hydroelectric and natural gas generation plants, transmission infrastructure and natural gas processing facilities totalling 2,300MW in Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador and Argentina, from Duke Energy. In addition, it represented Southern Cross on its acquisition of the Chilean gas station, fuel distribution and related business assets, from Petrobras; and its acquisition of Getronics LATAM from OpenGate Capital. Other key partners include Morton Grosz and Kevin Smith who have worked on several deals for Southern Cross in Latin America. The ‘very thoughtful’ and ‘level headed’ Allen Miller, who ‘brings calm to the most difficult and heated negotiations’ is head of the firm’s corporate department and is frequently engaged in Latin America transactions, including the Enel Américas reorganisation.

Providing ‘excellent service in all areas’, the ‘extremely hands on’ lawyers at Proskauer Rose LLPalways show deep legal and business knowledge, and their extensive track record is always useful when facing obstacles and solving problems along the way’. The substantial Latin America practice group is based primarily in the firm’s New York and São Paulo offices, and has deep connections with local and regional corporates and multinationals with interests in the region. It has a particularly impressive record in Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Central America, and 2016 saw the team advise long-term client, Canadian oil & gas company Pacific Exploration & Production, on its sale to Catalyst Group and former creditors of Pacific Exploration & Production; the debt-to-equity transaction was part of a restructuring process involving bankruptcy proceedings in Canada, the US and Colombia. In another substantial transaction, the team advised El Salvador-based Quantum Energy on its $800m joint venture with renewable energy company, Invenergy. The Latin American team ‘excels at providing a truly personal and tailored service’, is ‘very responsive’ and ‘knows how to get the deal done’. Latin America practice head Carlos Martinezknows how Latin American culture works’, which ‘enables him to be ahead of the game’ and make him a strong choice for ‘deals that involve US law and more than one Latin American jurisdiction’. Colombian-born Daniel Ganitsky is an ‘M&A star’, and a ‘great negotiator’ who ‘knows everything there is to know about getting an M&A deal done’. In São Paulo, partner Antonio Piccirillo has a ‘calm demeanour’, is ‘knowledgeable’ and is ‘great at identifying which battles are worth fighting’; while his office colleague, Fábio Yamada, is ‘completely devoted to his clients’, has ‘unparalleled response times’ and ‘is the perfect lawyer to take clients by the hand and walk them through every step of a transaction’.

Shearman & Sterling LLP is building its presence in Latin America M&A and promoted São Paulo M&A specialist Jonathan Kellner to partner in 2016. The firm has an established record in US outbound transactions into the region and has an especially strong record on deals in the energy sector. Recent mandates saw the team advise Liberty Global on its $8.2bn acquisition of Cable & Wireless Communications as part of the media and telecom group’s strategy to expand its operations in Latin America and the Caribbean; and in another substantial regional transaction, advise ExxonMobil on its $747m sale of its midstream and downstream lubricant and fuels assets in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, to Chilean industrial conglomerate Empresas Copec. While the firm’s esteemed Latin America practice is better known for its record in banking and finance, projects and energy and capital markets, it also includes a range of US-based M&A partners who have extensive experience of Latin America transactions, including global head of M&A George Casey; Latin America regional head Antonia Stolper who has deep connections in the region and who is ‘at the forefront of transactional practice’; and Manuel Orillac in New York, who has a fine record in M&A, corporate advisory and compliance matters.

Baker McKenzie LLP has a significant presence in Latin America through its offices in seven jurisdictions, and the regional M&A and private equity practice is led by Liliana Espinosa from Lima. The Latin America team is frequently engaged in inbound acquisitions and investments by North American, European and Asian businesses and also has a fine record in intra-regional deals. 2016 mandates included advising Investimentos e Participações em Infraestrutura (INVEPAR) on the sale of LAMSAC, holder of the Linea Amarilla road concession in Lima, to Vinci Highways. Colombia partner Jaime Trujillo Caicedo is also recommended. Other clients include Advent International, Brookfield Asset Management, Southern Cross Group, Victoria Capital, Nordic Capital, Biotoscana Farma, UBM and Bunge Alimentos.

Covington & Burling LLP is ‘excellent’ and is widely recognised for its expertise in Mexico-related transactions, particularly in the financial services sector. Life sciences, healthcare and beverages are also key industries for the firm and the Latin America practice. The Latin America team is also frequently involved in corporate restructurings and issues related to compliance, regulation and anti-bribery. Mexican native Rubén Kraiem is hugely experienced, heads the Latin America corporate practice and devotes the majority of his time to the region. Up-and-coming partner Gabriel Mesa, who is Colombian-born, is ‘practical, completely bilingual and incredibly effective and intelligent’.

Hogan Lovells US LLP is a truly significant player in Latin America as a result of its offices in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Caracas, Mexico City and Monterrey, as well as teams in Miami, New York and Washington DC that all have a strong emphasis on the region. Clients include Vice Media, Ford, Mitsubishi, Innergex, Bacardi, Hewlett Packard, Western Union, Dell and Onyx Pharmaceuticals. The firm is frequently noted for its expertise in highly-regulated industries and for its record in the insurance, automobile, food and pharmaceutical sectors. While having strong regional coverage and a presence in Latin America’s two biggest economies, Brazil and Mexico, the firm is also active in frontier markets such as Ecuador and Venezuela, where it has strong government and corporate connections. In 2016, the team advised Ron Santa Teresa, Venezuela’s premier rum company, on its international distribution alliance with Bacardi. In Mexico, a local team led by Carlos Ramos Miranda advised Pemex on its hydrocarbon exploration joint venture with BHP Billiton. Mexico City’s Juan Francisco Torres Landa and Federico De Noriega are also recommended, along with Gonzalo Rodriguez-Matos in Caracas, Miami’s José Valdivia and Bruno Ciuffetelli who divides his time between Caracas and Houston.

Hunton & Williams LLP has genuinely broad coverage of the region and an impressive client base of multinationals, Latin American businesses and multilateral agencies making equity investments. Clients include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Fomento de Construcciones y Contractas (FCC), Metropolitan Life Insurance (MetLife), Wasace Cable Company, Banco de Sabadell, Citibank, Banco Santander and ExxonMobil. Much of the corporate and M&A team is centred in Miami, though many of the firm’s US offices also contribute to the success of the Latin America practice. The team’s ‘work is excellent’ and ‘of high value to clients’. The ‘quality of the partners is superb’ and team members are ‘very proactive’ and adept in ‘complex negotiations’. Chairman of the Latin American practice group Fernando Alonso has a ‘depth knowledge and negotiation skills that have proven to be excellent and beneficial’; his fellow Miami partner, Fernando Margarit, is recommended for telecoms and submarine cable systems and is a ‘great help in developing contracts and participating in negotiations’. Atlanta M&A partner David Yates is also a key member of the team, along with Uriel Mendieta in Miami.

Mayer Brown has a strong focus on Latin America M&A from its New York, Washington DC and Houston offices and has a small but significant Mexico City office and a more sizeable presence in Brazil through its alliance firm Tauil & Chequer Advogados in association with Mayer Brown. The firm’s growing Mexico City office has further enabled it to develop its energy sector business in the region, including deals linked to the new electricity sector reforms. Clients include Petroamazonas, Ecopetrol, Pemex, Pluspetrol, Noble Energy, Repsol, Shell, EGE Haina, Colbún and BHP Chile. In 2016 the team represented Chilean state-owned oil company Empresa Nacional del Petroleo (ENAP), in its negotiations with ConocoPhillips to create a joint-venture to explore and exploit natural gas deposits in the remote southern Magallanes region of Chile. The group also advised Invenergy on its acquisition of the Energía del Pacífico Project, a greenfield LNG-to-power project in El Salvador. Houston-based energy sector specialists Pablo Ferrante and Jose Valera (who is praised for his upstream expertise), are both frequently engaged on Latin America transactions.

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP has a huge reputation in Latin America, especially in energy, infrastructure and natural resources. It is increasingly working with private equity and investment funds in connection with their acquisitions and investments in the region. The team advised Borealis Infrastructure, the infrastructure investment manager of OMERS Private Markets, on its $300m acquisition of a 35% stake in Chile’s GNL Quintero; and also represented Peruvian private equity house Nexus, on its acquisition of Peruvian gaming company Intralot. Other matters included assisting InfraRed Infrastructure III General Partner on its purchase –in partnership with Shikun & Binui– of a 50% interest in the $610m Autopista Perimetral de Oriente de Cundinamarca road project near Bogotá, Colombia. Corporate partner John Franchini often works on deals in the region, while core Latin America team members Marcelo Mottesi and Carolina Walther-Meade frequently provide support on corporate deals.

Sidley Austin LLP’s long established Latin America practice has excellent connections into the region. The team has particular expertise in Latin America focused funds, including funds formation work and private equity M&A. It also maintains a highly active mid-market corporate M&A practice, driven in part by a raft of Latin America-based clients such as Grupo Popular. The practice also represents a number of prominent family offices in Latin America and is experiencing a notable uptick in energy sector transactions, particularly in Mexico and Central America. Other clients include ACCION International, Altra Investments, Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF), MundoMax Broadcasting and Organización Ardila Lülle. New York partner Alyssa Grikscheit is noted for asset management and funds work, while New York senior counsel Andrew Quale maintains a number of key relationships with Latin American corporates and financial institutions. Houston’s Sergio Pozzerle and Glenn Pinkerton are recommended for energy sector deals, including renewables.

The ‘excellent’ Latin America practice at Brown Rudnick LLP provides a ‘personalised service’, its ‘partners and associates take the time to build strong business relationships’, and clients ‘trust the team’s professionalism and ethics’ and praise its ‘responsive and thorough’ approach. The practice is active throughout Latin America on cross-border transactions, joint ventures, strategic alliances and fund formation; and is noted for representing a number of private equity and venture capital funds in their investments across the region, especially in Argentina; it has also taken key roles in a number of major restructurings. The firm advised ARCAP, the trade association for private equity, venture capital and seed funds operating in Argentina, on its launch in 2016. Dual-qualified in the US and Argentina, Alejandro Fiuza spent 13 years at leading Argentine firm Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal and is an ‘excellent professional’, who ‘always anticipates clients’ needs’ and ‘provides excellent customer service’; his ‘responses are swift and well structured’ and he ‘always aims to find solutions’. Boston-based Adolfo Garcia has worked in Latin America for decades. Since research concluded, the firm has further strengthened its Latin America-oriented transactional practice with the hire of Clara Krivoy, formerly of legacy firm Chadbourne & Parke; based in New York, she will head the firm's Ibero-America private clients practice.

Spanish firm Cuatrecasas has deep ties to the region and has an established office in São Paulo as well as a (currently) smaller presence in Mexico City. It is noted for its experience in cross-border transactions involving the financial institutions, telecoms, energy and transport sectors, and clients include Pemex, Azteca Foods, Empresas Phoenix, Petrobras, Lone Star, Carlyle and Smithfield Foods. The practice recently advised Multitel on its public bid for the construction and operation of the Red-Compartida, a shared telecommunications network in Mexico and the largest telecoms project in the country’s history. Madrid-based head of the corporate practice Javier Villasante has lengthy experience in Latin America, while head of the Latin America practice Alfonso Iglesia and Fernando Bernad are also recommended. Former São Paulo partner Andoni Hernández has joined Brazilian firm Demarest Advogados to head its Iberian desk.

DLA Piper LLP (US)’s strong commitment to Latin America, evidenced by its growing network of offices and associations across the region, is paying considerable dividends. It now advises a range of multinationals on their interests in the region and represents a growing number of Latin American family groups. Recent matters include advising Central America and Caribbean located asset management firm Putney Capital Management, on the sale of a 70% interest in a leading fuel retailer in the Dominican Republic to Total. It also advised Oaktree on the €214m sale of Spanish baking group, Panrico, to Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo. Lead partner on the deal Juan Picón, is global co-chairman of the firm and occupies an integral role in the development of the firm’s Latin America practice; he also advises a range of Spanish clients on their Latin America interests. Also integral to the firm’s regional expansion, Miami-based US head of the Latin America corporate practice, Francisco Cerezo, and New York’s Robert Gruendel, who is global co-chair of Latin America, are also both prominent names in the market. Eduardo Gallástegui and Camilo Martinez are the key names in Mexico City and Bogotá, respectively.

Dechert LLP continues to be heavily involved in Latin America, most notably in relation to major corporate restructurings. It does maintain a number of key corporate relationships and also advised the financial advisers to GMéxico Transportes (GMXT), Grupo México’s transportation business, on the company’s acquisition of Florida East Coast Railway Corp. New York partner Howard Kleinman has longstanding experience in Latin America M&A and capital markets transactions and Allan Brilliant is a leader in restructurings and insolvencies.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP has a well-developed Latin America practice primarily led from its São Paulo and New York offices. Clients include Neustar, CTF Holdings, the Government of Barbados, Companhia de Electricidade do Estado da Bahia, Autopistas Metropolitanas and Heineken. In 2016, the firm advised General Electric on the $1.1bn sale of its Mexican equipment lending and leasing business to Linzor Capital Partners, the Latin American private equity group. Key partners in the team include Latin America practice co-chair Kevin Kelley, New York partner Jose Fernandez and São Paulo’s Lisa Alfaro.

Committed regardless of the size of the transaction’, Herbert Smith Freehills LLPprovides a superior level of service’, good ‘value for money’ and ‘focuses on the main legal and commercial issues’ so as to deliver ‘creative solutions’ in a ‘time efficient’ manner. The Latin America team has a particular focus on energy, infrastructure, financial services, TMT and private equity, and recently advised global fund manager IFM Investors on its sale of Pacific Hydro to China’s State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC); Pacific Hydro has a range of hydropower dam and wind farm assets and projects in Australia, Chile and Brazil. Madrid partners Nicolás Martín and Ignacio Paz are ‘always available’, ‘provide immediate responses’ and are ‘outstanding in their fields’. Juan-José Zentner is a pivotal figure in New York.

Holland & Knight LLP has developed a dedicated and prominent Latin America practice in recent years, with substantial teams in Mexico City and Bogota as well as Latin America-focused practice operating from Miami and New York. In Mexico, the firm has impressed with its work in the real estate sector and recently advised Mexican real estate investment trust Fibra Inn on its acquisition of four hotels in Chihuahua City. Boris Otto, José Antonio Prado and Guillermo Uribe are key names in Mexico City, while Bogota’s José Vicente Zapata has a fine record in energy and natural resources transactions. Miami-based Roberto Pupo leads the Latin America corporate, M&A and securities practice group.

King & Spalding LLP is a major player in the energy sector and has an especially strong record in Mexico, primarily through its substantial Houston office. The firm is widely noted for its M&A and joint venture expertise in midstream oil and gas, including liquefied natural gas (LNG), as well as for its growing record in upstream deals for private equity clients. The team is also developing a prominent name in power and renewables M&A. Recent matters include advising Allen & Shariff on its Mexican joint venture with Mexican construction company Ideurban, to design and build a $500m mixed-use residential, commercial and medical development in Guadalajara. Houston’s Ken Culotta is leader of the global transactions practice and has extensive experience in Latin America energy deals. Houston partner John Crespo is also highly recommended.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP’ substantial Latin America practice has a strong record in energy, telecoms and private equity transactions. The firm recently advised major Caribbean and Latin America telecoms operator, Cable & Wireless, on its $7.4bn sale to Liberty Global. Other mandates included representing Paladin Realty Partners on its acquisition of real estate assets in Latin America, and advising OpenGate Capital on the sale of its Damovo, Getronics, and Sopho IT-services businesses in Brazil to Cimcorp. Houston partners Humberto Padilla Gonzalez and Felipe Alice are recommended for deals in Mexico and Brazil respectively, although both have a strong record across the region. Washington DC-based partner Ulises Pin is a leading telecoms specialist with extensive Latin America experience.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP launched a new Houston office in 2016 with a string of prominent lateral hires, many of which are focused on Latin America. Carlos Treistman and Rodrigo Dominguez, who joined from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, now head the regional practice, and lead a team that leverages the firm’s global strengths in energy, technology and infrastructure. The department advises a range of multinationals, private equity sponsors and major Latin American family offices; and it is especially active in Mexico, particularly in relation to the energy sector reforms and power auctions (it has several Mexico licensed attorneys), as well as in other key jurisdictions such as Chile, Peru and Colombia. The group is known for its record in real estate investments by private equity funds and Latin American family offices (especially Mexican family offices) executing middle market deals in the US. The firm’s Paris office also advised Vinci Airports on the acquisition of the Dominican airport company Aeropuertos Dominicanos Siglo XXI (Aerodom), which has a concession contract to operate six out of the nine airports on the island. William Parish and George Humphrey who joined the Houston office from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and Andrews Kurth Kenyon LLP, respectively, provide further energy sector M&A expertise.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP continues to be a recognised player in Latin America, despite the departure of former San Francisco partner and Latin America practice co-head Eric Save to K&L Gates. The firm remains actively focused on the region, and 2016 mandates saw the team advise Chevron on its formation of a joint venture with Brazilian fuel company Ipiranga, to manufacture and market lubricants in South America. New York’s Peter Baumgaertner heads the Latin America practice.

Top notch firmRopes & Gray LLP impresses clients with its ‘ability to deliver a premier and added-value service at a very reasonable cost’; and with ‘some of the best attorneys around’ it is ‘100% committed to the client’s needs regardless of the complexity of the work’. The Latin America practice is primarily recognised for its corporate investigations work with an emphasis on anti-corruption, international risk and FCPA compliance. It has an especially strong record in Brazil for both international corporates and private equity houses, although it has experience of the entire region. Co-chair of the global anti-corruption and international risks practice Asheesh Goel has wide-ranging experience in Latin America. Ryan Rohlfsen has ‘extensive international legal experience with criminal, transactional, and regulatory matters’ and is ‘very responsive, knowledgeable and energetic –a brilliant lawyer who understands deeply the issues that matter most’. Nicholas Berg has an ‘outstanding understanding of the complexities of investigations spanning multiple jurisdictions’ and pays ‘due regard to local cultural challenges and sensitive areas’. Washington DC’s Colleen Conry is noted for her representation of ‘multinational companies and executives in FCPA and government investigations’. Partners are Chicago-based unless stated otherwise. Since the conclusion of research, Goel has moved to Kirkland & Ellis.

Uría Menéndez has substantial links to the region and is a major presence in Latin America through Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría, a Latin American firm with offices in Chile, Colombia and Peru in which it retains a holding. The Spanish titan has consistently operated at the forefront of emerging and frontier markets and has been increasingly active in Cuba as the nation looks to opens up to foreign investment, and it has also experienced an uptick in outbound investment from Latin America into the Iberian peninsula. Recent mandates include advising Kempinski Hotels on the signing of a Cuban law hotel management agreement with Cuban state-owned group Gaviota to operate the Gran Hotel Kempinski La Habana, a luxury 5-star hotel in Cuba’s capital. Madrid’s Eduardo Rodríguez-Rovira heads the Latin America practice group and Salvador Sánchez-Terán is ‘very professional and available’. Luis Acuña is a key name in São Paulo.

Vinson & Elkins LLP is an oil and gas giant with an impressive record in Latin America. The firm is a leader in midstream and upstream M&A transactions in Mexico and is increasingly active on behalf of private equity funds such as Riverstone. The firm recently advised Key Energy Services on the disposition of its Mexico business unit to Química Apollo. It also represented Riverstone on its initial equity investment in Avant Energy, a Mexican company focused on the development, construction and operation of infrastructure for Mexico's oil, natural gas, refined products and electricity sectors. Houston partner Boyd Carano has an excellent reputation, as does James Fox in New York.

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