Commercial, corporate and M&A in South Africa
Bowmans continues to impress in cross-border transactions, most notably for foreign multinationals, and is at the forefront of major corporate restructurings. It advised Datatec on its $830m disposal of a majority stake in its Westcon-Comstor business to Synnex. The firm also assisted Trinitas Private Equity Partnership with its acquisition of a $300m majority stake in AutoX from Powertech Industries. The 'approachable and friendly' team 'performs with speed and accuracy' and 'helps make the deal happen'. Ezra Davids is a hugely experienced M&A practitioner and Charles Douglas is 'pragmatic and clever' and is particularly noted for big-ticket cross border deals. John Bellew is a leader in private equity transactions and Charles Young is recommended for mining sector M&A. Ashleigh Hale is noted for black economic empowerment (BEE) matters. Ian Kirkman is 'detail driven while remaining entirely commercial and focused on the best outcome'. Robert Cohen is 'a very clever lawyer', 'a good negotiator' and 'a lateral thinker'.
Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr continues to be at the forefront of listed company transactions in South Africa with strong teams in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. It is also building its presence in private equity deals, is 'accessible and has a wide range of skills'. Clients include Abraaj Group, Anglo American, Arcelormittal South Africa, Burger King, Dell, FirstRand and Heineken. It advised Sinopec, the Chinese oil giant, on its acquisition of 75% of Chevron’s downstream oil assets in South Africa and Botswana. Willem Jacobs is 'practical, solutions oriented and cost conscious' and David Pinnock is 'personable', 'gets the job done' and is recommended for private equity transactions. Johan Latsky, Peter Hesseling and Lilia Franca are also highly rated.
ENSafrica's sheer size, depth of senior resources and commitment to Africa coverage makes it a go-to firm for domestic and cross-border deals. The team 'combines outstanding technical expertise and experience with a highly responsive attitude', and senior members are 'very experienced, with excellent technical skills and seasoned judgement'. A group led by Julius Oosthuizen advised Sanlam Emerging Markets on Sanlam General Insurance Uganda's proposed acquisition of Lion Assurance, the Ugandan Insurer. 'Real gentleman' Michael Katz has virtually unrivalled connections in South Africa and Ian Hayes is another premier dealmaker. Doron Joffe and Cape Town's Koos Pretorius are also top practitioners, while Lydia Shadrach-Razzino is a key name for private equity transactions. Former director Gary Felthun has joined White & Case LLP.
Webber Wentzel has a large team with top-level professionals at senior and junior level. It has a virtually unrivalled client base of blue-chip domestic and multinational corporates, and financial sponsors. The firm is making a further impression in renewables secondary deals, equity offerings, real estate acquisitions and 'is streets ahead in private equity'. Clients include Anglo American, African Rainbow Capital Investments, Murray & Roberts, Uber Technologies and Gold Fields. Led by Charl Jonker, it advised Old Mutual on its landmark managed separation, including the unbundling of some 33% of its shareholding in Nedbank Group, the acquisition by Old Mutual Limited of Old Mutual plc by scheme of arrangement and the listing of Old Mutual Limited on the Johannesburg, Malawi, Namibian and Zimbabwean stock exchanges. Other key partners include senior partner Christo Els and Gareth Driver, who is 'superb' and 'one of the top M&A practitioners in South Africa'. Mark Phillips, Colin du Toit, Safiyya Patel, Ziyanda Ntshona, capital markets expert Jesse Watson, who is 'versatile and very experienced', and 'outstanding' private equity leader Sally Hutton are all highly rated. Warren Drue was a new arrival from Hogan Lovells (South Africa) in February 2019.
Baker McKenzie Johannesburg has one of the most established corporate practices among the international firms. It leads the way in cross-border deals, mining and resources transactions, and has a growing presence in private equity. It advised regular client Bidvest Group on its £2.7bn acquisition of UK-based Noonan Services from Alchemy Partners. Morné van der Merwe is 'a very impressive lawyer', especially in the mining sector, while Marc Yudaken, Mike van Rensburg and private equity specialist Scott Nelson are also senior names.
Hogan Lovells (South Africa) has continued to expand its senior bench with several new directors, including Sibongile Solombela , who joined from Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, and Vivien Chaplin and Rachel Kelly from ENSafrica. The expanded team is gaining further market recognition and advised Investec Bank on the purchase of its head office in Sandton from Growthpoint Properties. It also assisted AccorHotels with its acquisition of a 50% stake in each of the Mantis Group and Giltedge Group, which own hotels across the African continent. Team members are 'dedicated and understand the needs of clients' and are 'skilled and knowledgeable'. Key names include senior figure Carl Stein, Danielle Magidson and private equity expert Jeff Buckland. Vaughn Harrison is 'an absolute pleasure to work with' and is 'able to interpret contracts with accuracy and detect all risks'. Warren Drue joined Webber Wentzel in February 2019.
Werksmans Attorneys continues to impress in listed-company M&A and JSE listings, cross-border deals, and insolvency and restructuring work. The team is 'very solution driven and focused on the end product', 'incredibly knowledgeable and pleasant to work with' and provides 'great turnaround times'. It advised Datatec on the disposal of its Westcon-Comstor business in the Americas and 10% of Westcon International to SynnexCorp. It remains strong in mining and resources and assisted Samancor with its acquisition of the business and assets of Hernic Ferrochrome (in business rescue). David Gewer and Kevin Trudgeon are big name dealmakers, and Danny Andropoulos and Gerhard Johannes are also highly rated. Senior associate Derek Alexander is recommended.
DLA Piper has assembled a small but high-quality team led by 'real rainmaker' Johannes Gouws and 'good lawyer' Peter Bradshaw. The group is 'making significant inroads into the M&A space', including public M&A. It has an especially strong record in financial services transactions and advised FirstRand on its £1.1bn recommended cash offer for Aldermore Group, the British specialist lender and savings bank. It also handled Distell's acquisition of a 75% stake in Blue Sky Brand Company.
FASKEN remains best known for mining-sector transactions, though it has a growing standing in financial services, energy, life sciences and private equity. The team is 'prompt', 'accessible', 'professional' and 'always goes the extra mile'. Clients include Impala Platinum, Publicis and Medtronic. It advised Main Street 333 on the unbundling of its stake in Exxaro Resources and the implementing of a potential new BEE deal for Exxaro Resources. Dimitri Cavvadas, David Hoffe, Michael Teubes and Tanneke Heersche are key members of the team. Stimela Mokoena is highlighted for mining M&A.
Glyn Marais operates a relatively small but strong practice with an especially proud record in real estate and financial services sector transactions. The 'skilled and knowledgeable' team has extensive experience in listed-company deals, is praised for its 'quality of service', and has an illustrious client base, which includes Sanlam, Naspers, Absa Capital, Growthpoint Properties and Anglo American. It advised Sanlam Life on the acquisition of a 100% share in Absa Consultants and Actuaries. It also assisted Sanlam Investment Holdings with its acquisition of a 30% interest in fintech company, First World Trader. Willem de Villiers has an outstanding reputation, as does senior figure Francois Marais.
PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal (Pty) Limited
White & Case LLP's standing was significantly bolstered by the hire of 'superb lawyer' Gary Felthun, a leader in mining and private equity deals, and a team from ENSafrica. Immediately prior to joining the firm, Felthun advised Imperial Group on its disposal of its Regent Insurance Group business to the Hollard Insurance Group. On joining the global firm, his 'very professional' and 'extremely diligent' team represented The Carlyle Group on its acquisition of a majority shareholding in CMC Networks, Africa’s largest managed connectivity provider. Kabelo Dlothi provides further expertise in BEE transactions, private equity and 'has a thorough understanding of M&A processes and is very professional'.
Allen & Overy (South Africa) LLP
Allen & Overy (South Africa) LLP has made further progress in Africa inbound investments by European and Asian clients. It has also expanded its presence in corporate restructurings by hiring respected senior associate Seraj Haroun from Baker McKenzie Johannesburg. The versatile Lisa Botha has a finance background but is now fully dedicated to corporate work. She worked alongside finance partner Khurshid Fazel to advise Africa Finance Corporation and the Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund on the establishment of a joint venture capable of generating 1,575MW of electricity in a number of African jurisdictions.
Herbert Smith Freehills South Africa LLP
Herbert Smith Freehills South Africa LLP has a small but experienced team in Johannesburg, consisting of South African, English and Francophone lawyers. The team is building its record in cross-border deals across Africa, including in the mining, oil and gas, TMT and financial services sectors. The group handled a series of mining asset disposals and advised Sky on the South African aspects of its proposed takeover by 21st Century Fox. Rudolph du Plessis is hugely experienced and Patrick Leyden is noted for mining and energy deals.