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"Strong and stable" may be the shibboleth guiding the UK in the midst of an impending, finalised Brexit, but, unfortunately, this has not been the mantra embraced by business participants, which may be better characterised by the more cautious "wait and see". Though some large M&A deals have come to fruition, these have primarily been in the form of inbound investments, which have been spurred on by a precipitous drop in sterling. Indeed, Japanese telecoms company SoftBank Group completed the largest-ever acquisition of a European technology business, with its £23.4bn acquisition of UK-based ARM Holdings. Similarly, US corporates and funds have shown an increasingly insatiable appetite for UK companies, with a particular interest in the technology, media, healthcare and life sciences sectors. Despite the tepid resurgence in activity in the third and fourth quarters of 2016, the market remains plagued by ongoing concerns over uncertain trading conditions.

On the capital markets front, market volatility shows almost no signs of reprieve. Small and fast deals have been the focal point in London, and many large, Main Market transactions have been postponed or aborted. Only one of the top-ten European IPOs of 2016 showed up on the London Stock Exchange – ConvaTec Group’s IPO, which raised roughly £1.46bn, excluding greenshoe options – and Q1 2017 recorded a 61% decrease in proceeds over 12 months for both the London Main Market (a 61% drop) and AIM (a 62% drop). This is striking given the fact that the first quarter of 2017 was a success for almost every other global financial hub. In the face of stagnant domestic markets, firms will look to showcase their capabilities on other European bourses, and those firms with specialisms in emerging market jurisdictions may see some opportunities arise from the Middle East, Africa and the CIS.

FIRMS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Vanderpump & Sykes

Vanderpump & Sykes LLP is a practice in Enfield, Middlesex with a high profile in the area, where it has been established since 1899. There are presently five equity partners, and three salaried partners with 16 solicitors in all. We converted to LLP status on 1st May 2011 in order to take best advantage of the opportunities arising from the new regulations and to enable us to operate under a modern corporate structure. The firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and is a member of The Law Society.

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The City’s tax practices have, in some ways, been business as usual now that everyone has had some time to adjust to the BEPS initiative. With the decline of the traditional transaction support practices, many firms have continued to downsize their tax departments. Those firms that have invested in tax have tended toward heightened emphasis on the accountants and economists in the teams, which speaks to the evolving skill-sets needed to overcome some of the hurdles posed by the OECD’s stringent, new-born global tax initiative. In terms of UK-specific work, the fate of cross-border taxation and EU competition are in a state of limbo until some headway is made in EU negotiations, but spectators should expect a whirlwind of activity after the divorce is finalised.

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