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Burges Salmon LLP attracts praise for its ‘extensive commercial and industry knowledge’. The department has been increasingly active in deals with US and Asian funders, especially those from Singapore and Malaysia, and continues to see substantial instructions emanating from Europe. Jonathan Eves assisted Netherlands-based Maas Capital with a large-scale joint venture agreement with Solarplicity for a rooftop solar panel installation, which will provide energy to 800,000 housing association tenants across the UK. Though the majority of its clients are based outside of the South West, the team does win significant regional instructions. For instance, Dominic Davis advised the founding shareholders of Bristol’s Pukka Herbs on its acquisition by Unilever. Mark Shepherd and Richard Spink ‘ensure positive outcomes for their clients’ and specialise in private equity transactions. In addition to its M&A work, the corporate group also has experience in equity capital markets and funds transactions, which are relatively unique to the region. Chris Godfrey has experience advising issuers and brokers in equity capital markets transactions, while Jeremy Bell , who specialises in structuring private investment funds, joined the team from Ashurst in 2017. Camilla Usher-Clark has been involved in a number of significant energy transactions, and Rupert Weston is another key figure in the department.

Osborne Clarke is noted for its ‘excellent strength in depth’ and has continued to expand its team through a number of promotions and junior-level hires, in part to keep pace with its rapidly increasing work flows in 2017-2018. The practice's sector expertise spans digital business, corporate real estate, infrastructure, and investment funds; one of the team’s most unique features is its capability across the spectrum of funds-related mandates, from fund-backed M&A to fund formation. Alisdair Livingstone advised Lloyds Development Capital and the senior management of A-Gas on the sale of A-Gas International to KKR, while the team assisted Deutsche Alternative Asset Management with the structuring and establishment of the Europe II Fund, which achieved €588m at its first close. Helen Parsonage is another key contact in the funds team. The practice is also able to devise flexible payment schemes for promising start-ups and early-stage businesses. The ‘professional and reliable’ Simon Jones acted for Prodigy Finance, a fintech start-up, in a financing round involving venture capital funders Index Ventures, Balderton Capital, and AlphaCode. Mark Wesker assisted Actual Experience with a bookbuilding exercise through a new ordinary share placement, and Matthew Lewis has been involved in high-value cross-border disposals in the energy industry. Conrad Davies, Simon Spooner and David Ferris are additional contacts.

TLT fields distinct corporate and commercial groups which ‘regularly outperform many of their regional counterparts’. An ‘excellent communicator and a known deal-maker’, John Wood heads the corporate department and advised Convivality on its £30m acquisition of certain business operations and assets owned by WS Retail, which was funded through a placement of new ordinary shares. A testament to the firm’s commercial expertise, the commercial group, which is headed by Perran Jervis, sits on the Crown Commercial Services’ tier one panel. Indeed, acting across the table from one of London’s Magic Cirle firms, Jervis counselled Sainsbury’s on a strategic collaborative agreement with the owners of a national chain of petrol station forecourt convenience stores. Bill Hull leads the firm’s commercial services group, and Alice Gardner helped secure a joint venture agreement for one of the department’s major ongoing clients, Greene King. Jon Gill has experience of fund-backed transactions and Kay Hobbs is active in the renewables sector. Moreover, the department has enviable clients across a variety of industry sectors, such as WHSmith, Dyson and Lloyds Development Capital.

Ashfords LLP is well placed to leverage the South West’s position as a tech and start-up hub; the firm's corporate team is accordingly one of the most active in  the UK venture capital space by deal volume. Headed by Andrew Betteridge, the corporate team stands out for its experience in M&A, MBOs, corporate restructurings and other corporate governance exercises demand extensive cross-border experience. Indeed, Betteridge advised Dynmark International and its sister company Donky Networks on the £11m sale of its entire issued share capital – included Dynmark’s Polish and US subisidiaries – to DotDigital Group plc. Chris Dyson leads the firm’s technology sector team and is noted for ‘blending excellent commercial acumen and legal expertise’. Dyson acted for multiple funders including Atlas Venture Funds VIII and Xange Private Equity in a £20m series D investment round for Currency Cloud Group. Additionally, Rory Suggett has assisted growth companies and private investors in numerous fundraising rounds. The department made two major lateral hires in 2017, bringing in corporate tax expert Nicola Manclark from Burges Salmon LLP, and Andrew Braithwaite who specialises in IP and tech and joined from Thrings LLP.

Clarke Willmott LLP provides ‘sensible, practical, and fit-for-purpose advice’ to mid-market corporates, owner-managed businesses and early-stage companies, for which it handles serial acquisition strategies and venture capital and private equity-backed transactions. The department also has extensive experience in cross-border deals and has been increasingly involved in inbound investment transactions since the 2016 referendum. In 2017, Simon Smith assisted Addnode Group with its strategic expansion into the UK market through two parallel acquisitions: the £23m acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Intrinsys, and the £22m purchase of the entire issued share capital of Service Works Group. Notably, the group has a dedicated China desk, which is peopled by Mandarin-speakers and is managed by corporate department head Simon Thomas. Thomas advised Charlo Carabott and Wai Keung Lam on the multimillion-pound sale of their shareholding in Ventura Telecom Holdings to Hong Kong-based EcoAsia Technologies Holding. Robert Ridd was promoted to partner and has been involved in multiple European cross-border transactions in 2017.

Leveraging the continued expansion of the firm’s global network, DAC Beachcroft LLP's Bristol-based corporate team  is handling a growing workload on behalf of US-backed companies and European investors. Jonathan White (who was promoted to partner in 2017) advised a third-party administrator on the regulatory and commercial aspects of its strategic acquisition of a UK-based solicitors firm, and has also handled multi-jurisdictional transactions in the private healthcare sector. In an illustration of the latter, James Reed advised Elysium Healthcare on two strategic acquisitions: its £45m acquisition of Lighthouse Healthcare, and, separately, its £35m acquisition of Raphael Healthcare. Other key figures include department head John Williams and Michael Pearce, who acts for a number of wealth and asset managers, such as St. James’s Place, for which the team handles regular corporate governance work and cross-border M&A.

Employing ‘flexible fee-structures’ and known for ‘working in true partnership with its clients’, Roxburgh Milkins LLP specifically targets private equity-backed companies, promising start-ups and other owner-managed businesses in the south west, and has been called ‘an ideal firm for SMEs’. Charles van der Lande is often instructed by early-stage and growth companies and acted for Blu Wireless in a multimillion-pound funding round led by ARM Holdings. As an illustration of the group’s comprehensive client-relationships, Ian Grimley has counselled Blu Wireless on commercial agreements and IP protection, while the firm has also been able to assist the client with commercial work in Hong Kong and India through its informal network of international contacts. The department’s work regularly has international elements, and Bruce Roxburgh advised Trio Motion Technology – a company with US, Chinese and Indian subsidiaries – on its £15.5m sale to China’s Etsun Automation. Richard Hopkins is rated for his ‘calm in the face of challenging situations’, and Jason Milkins and Philip Edmonds are also recommended.

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP’s corporate team often works alongside the firm’s energy and real estate departments and provides ‘high-level service’ in M&A and upstream and midstream oil and gas transactions. The department also has considerable experience in private equity transactions. In 2017, Tom Fitzpatrick assisted Rockpool Investments with its multimillion-pound investment in House of Hackney Group. Similarly, department head Simon Hewes advised Piper PE on a number of UK investments including its £10m investment in Flat Iron Restaurants, which marked the first investment of the client’s sixth fund. In the oil and gas space, the team is instructed by international energy groups in relation to increasingly cross-border mandates. Indeed, Hewes assisted a European global commodity group with the establishment of a joint venture in western Africa for the acquisition and operation of an African oil terminal. Following Bond Dickinson’s 2017 merger with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, the Bristol-based corporate group has benefited from the firm’s expanded cross-border service, which has attracted instructions from US-based corporates, particularly in the energy sector.

Foot Anstey has supplemented its Bristol-based department with a number of promotions, lateral hires and significant internal reshuffles, which brought corporate capabilities to its existing commercial team. Noted for its ‘quick responses and fast turnarounds without a reduction in quality’, the team is increasingly targeting large multinational clients, but has maintained its local and regional work in sectors such as leisure, food and drink, infrastructure and property. Newly promoted partner Emily Settle advised a Middle East-based manufacturing company on its purchase of the entire issued share capital of a group of companies from institutional and individual sellers. Martin Cuell leads the commercial group and supported Egress Software Technologies’ international expansion through the establishment of certain arrangements in Australia. Jonathan Oddy is another key figure in the commercial team and specialises in the media and telecoms sector. Chris Worrell heads the department and senior associate Alexandra Leonidou ‘stands out for her insightful tech and privacy advice’.

Thrings LLP has extensive experience of mid-market M&A, equity investment transactions and corporate restructuring, and is particularly active in the retail, food and drink, health and tech sectors. Mike Tomlin is a key contact in the Bristol office and advised TrueSpeed Communications on multiple investment rounds with angel and institutional investors; a mandate that involved debt and equity investments. Elaine Meyrick acted for Charon Holdings and the company’s shareholders in relation to the sale of Paul Davis Freight Services to Channel Island Lines. Acting alongside John Richardson, who relocated to Bristol from the firm’s London office, Meyrick also advised a real estate services franchisee on multimillion-pound convertible note investment from an Asian jurisdiction. In an example of the team’s buy-side instructions, Jane Oakland counselled Fundamentals on its acquisition of Ferranti Tapchangers and Ferranti Engineering. Solicitor Lizzie King joined the team from Burges Salmon LLP in 2017.

VWV (Veale Wasbrough Vizards)’ clients praise the corporate and commercial group’s ‘straightforward pricing’ and ‘sound industry knowledge’, but note in particular the ‘feeling of comfort and trust in the firm’s advice’. Fielding dedicated corporate and commercial teams headed by Robert Collier and Doug Locke, respectively, the group has been increasingly active for start-up and tech businesses and has been involved in a number of transactions with inbound foreign investors. In one of the group’s highlight transactions, Nathan Guest advised the shareholders of an internationally active technology company on the £55m sale of their shareholding. Solicitor Katie Hanson acted for Bath-based e-commerce company Prezola in relation to a £3m investment by the Business Growth Fund. The team remains active in the education and healthcare sectors and Edward Rimmell assists North Somerset Council with its outsourcing of statutory and non-statutory education services. Oliver Pool and Andrew Gallie were made partners in the commercial team, and Jos Moule is a recommended corporate partner.

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