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AZB Mumbai promotes Hufriz Wadia and Suharsh Sinha as partners

AZB & Partners has promoted banking counsel Hufriz Wadia and insolvency consultant Suharsh Sinha as partners in its Mumbai office.

Wadia had joined AZB around a year ago as a counsel from Kochhar & Co in Chennai.

The 2002 KC Law College graduate had worked in Dubai as a banking lawyer at law firm Al Tamimi & Co for five years, before returning to India, joining Juris Corp in Chennai. In January 2014, she had joined Kochhar in Chennai.

Sinha has been with AZB as a consultant since September 2016, having joined from the Reserve Bank of India and the Bankruptcy Law Reform Committee (BLRC), for both of which he’d been working as a consultant for a year.

The NLSIU Bangalore graduate, who also holds a masters in in law and finance from Oxford University (2014-15), an Wharton Business and Law LLM from the University of Pennsylvania (2011-12), and has completed an Indian School of bridge programme in business (2008).

Between 2008 and 2009, he had worked at McKinsey & Co as a business analyst, followed by more than five years at Linklaters in London until 2014.

Their promotions took effect on 1 October 2018.

In April, AZB’s Delhi partnership promoted five to partner, while in March 2018, AZB Mumbai promoted a total of four.

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Q1 rankings see resurgence of UK firms, as Freshfields rises up tables

UK law firms have returned to dominance in the Q1 M&A tables after playing second fiddle to the US elite last year, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer rising up the rankings following a busy quarter for the firm.

Figures from Mergermarket show Freshfields topped the European deal value ranking for the first quarter of the year, after acting on 37 deals worth a total of $121bn (£86bn).

While last year the Q1 European M&A rankings were dominated by US firms, this year the top five spots were taken by four magic circle firms and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF).

Freshfields’ strong showing also saw the firm rise to second in the global M&A rankings, up from ninth last year, after acting on 45 global deals worth a total of $141bn (£100bn).

Skadden topped the global and US deal value tables for Q1, after advising on 47 global deals worth a total of $194bn (£137bn) and 39 US deals worth $170bn (£121bn).

Slaughter and May came top for UK M&A by value, having acted on 12 deals worth a total of $37bn (£26bn), with Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) second and Clifford Chance (CC) third.

Meanwhile, DLA Piper took the top spot for European deal volumes, acting on 50 deals worth a total of $52bn (£37bn). Kirkland & Ellis took first place for global deal count, acting on 112 deals worth $67bn (£47.5bn) during the quarter, with CMS top for UK volumes with roles on 21 deals.

Total global deal value increased by 18% on Q1 last year to $891bn (£632bn), although global deal volume dropped 19% to 3,774, the lowest quarterly figure since Q3 2013.

Deal count in Europe also fell by 22% year on year to 1,409, the least active quarter since Q1 2013. Despite the fall in deal numbers, total deal value across the continent rose to $256bn (£182bn), a 22% increase on last year’s Q1 total of $211bn (£148bn).

The same trend was seen in the UK, with a fall in the total number of deals coming against an increase in deal value. UK deal numbers for Q1 fell 31% year on year from 386 to 266, alongside a 41% increase in total deal value across the same period to $59bn (£42bn), up from $42bn (£20bn).

HSF M&A partner Caroline Rae said: “Several of the issues we faced in Q1 2017, including Brexit, remain unresolved, but many UK corporates now have the confidence to plough on and execute their M&A strategies despite the ongoing uncertainty.

“One of the key trends in 2018 will be technology as an important factor for M&A strategy. Technology is having an impact across sectors and we are seeing a lot of clients who are looking at how they are going to keep up with their competitors. They are looking to M&A as a way to acquire technology.”

Allen & Overy (A&O) global co-head of corporate Richard Browne added: “The market is strong across a broad base, and we are not seeing any sign of it slowing up. Quite a lot of significant deals have been announced in the quarter, including a lot of good-sized private M&A deals. There are a lot of political macro events out there that can affect the market, but the fundamental dealmaking environment is still strong.”

The rankings are notable for the resurgence of UK firms in the top 10 European advisers by value, with six making the top 10.

Freshfields, Linklaters, CC, A&O and HSF ranked first to fifth respectively, with DLA Piper in eighth. For 2017, the Q1 rankings saw just three UK firms make the top 10 European and UK advisers by value.

The largest UK deal of the quarter was GlaxoSmithKline’s $13bn (£9bn) purchase of a 36.5% stake in its consumer health joint venture with pharma giant Novartis. Freshfields advised Novartis while Slaughters represented GSK.

Slaughters also won a role on the second largest UK deal, representing FTSE 100 engineering business GKN on its bitterly contested takeover by Melrose. Its initial £7bn bid was rejected, but Melrose won support of more than half of GKN’s investors and its subsequent $12.1bn (£8.6bn) bid was accepted last week (29 March).

Meanwhile, the biggest European deal this quarter was E.ON’s €46.6bn (£33bn) deal to acquire a controlling stake in renewable energy business Innogy from German rival RWE. That deal handed key roles to Freshfields for RWE, Linklaters for E.ON and Hengler Mueller for Innogy.

Going forward, partners believe activity levels will continue to hold up, despite Brexit looming on the horizon.

Skadden M&A partner Scott Simpson says: “Everyone saw a slowdown of M&A activity during the time of the Brexit vote and thereafter, but M&A activity has returned. It doesn’t mean the uncertainty is behind us, but people are getting on with their plans and probably concluding Brexit is not going to disturb their long-term investment plan for Europe.”

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Linklaters bows to pressure and restates gender pay gap figures

Linklaters has revealed the gender pay gap within its partnership, amid growing calls for law firms to be more transparent about pay disparities among their senior ranks.

The firm, which last month became the first of the magic circle to file its gender pay gap report, revealing a pay gap of 23% for non-partner employees, has now announced that when including partners, the overall gender pay gap for all employees and lawyers rises to 60.3%.

However, when looking at partners in isolation, the pay gap is just 2.2% in favour of men.

The move comes after fellow magic circle firm Clifford Chance (CC) became the first magic circle firm to include partners in its pay gap reporting earlier this week, while Allen & Overy (A&O) is among a number of other firms now considering restating their figures to include partners.

In a statement, Linklaters said: “We appreciate the need to be as transparent as possible. Ensuring gender equality and achieving gender balance is a global strategic priority. It is embedded in our strategy and reinforced by our gender targets, which this year we exceeded, in appointing 37% new female partners. We will work hard to keep up the momentum on achieving this, and our other diversity goals.”

Linklaters’ decision to issue revised pay gap figures comes after CC revealed that the mean gender pay gap for the whole of its London workforce, including all partners and employees, is 66.3% in favour of men. The firm said that it hoped that other firms would ”demonstrate their commitment to addressing gender issues by adopting an equally transparent approach”.

Of the other magic circle firms, both Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Slaughter and May have told Advisory Excellence they will not release partner data.

Pinsent Masons also recently restated its figures to include partners, and said that it would be “engaging with the Law Society and other City law firms to seek their support in making representations to government to make changes” to what law firms are required to disclose.

Linklaters’ initial pay gap report was published in early February, and, like many of the other law firms to report early, did not include partner data. The report revealed that male staff received on average 58% more in bonuses than women, although marginally more women (78%) than men (76%) received a bonus in the year to April 2017.

There is no statutory requirement for law firms to include partners in their gender pay gap reporting, but a growing number have now made the decision to, including Dentons, Eversheds Sutherland, Reed Smith, Irwin Mitchell and Norton Rose Fulbright.

A&O and CMS have confirmed to Advisory Excellence that they are also considering issuing revised figured.

The big four accounting firms led the way by restating their figures to include partner earnings following criticism from high-profile figures such as Conservative MP Nicky Morgan, who said that by not including partners, firms were “taking advantage of a loophole” and “abiding by the letter of the law, but not the spirit”.

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Credit Suisse finalises new global legal panel with four firms winning spots

Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse has finalised its new global legal panel, with four firms winning places on the roster.

Ashurst, Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Latham & Watkins have all been appointed to the line-up, which replaces its EMEA and UK panels.

In addition to the global panel, which is expected to handle the bulk of the bank’s work, Credit Suisse has also appointed a number of firms to sub-panels covering practices such as employment, litigation, M&A and securities work. It also has a separate panel for Switzerland, and countries in Asia where it may require specific local expertise.

Credit Suisse’s Zurich-based corporate general counsel Julian Gooding led the review, with the global panel expected to run for two to three years.

The move to a global panel structure is in line with wider organisational changes at Credit Suisse, with the bank moving away from regional divisions in 2016.

A spokesperson for Credit Suisse said: “The driving principle of how we now run our panels is to manage our firm relationships in a holistic way more consistent with our organisational strcture. We’re happy that what we’ve put in place is a more coherent way of managing firms – we want to make sure all parties get the most out of the relationships by managing them globally.”

The bank’s review had been delayed by several months, with firms initially hoping to have heard if they had been successful in August last year.

Confirmation of Credit Suisse’s panel comes after fellow banks Societe Generale and Santander recently completed their international legal panels.

Societe Generale appointed DLA Piper, Norton Rose Fulbright and Mayer Brown among its ‘preferred’ advisers.

The French bank’s panel comprises 12 full-service firms – split into eight ‘preferred’ firms and four ‘selected’ firms – alongside six others appointed specifically to handle large litigation and tax advice.

Santander, meanwhile, has agreed terms with 46 firms, understood to include global firms DLA Piper, Baker McKenzie and Dentons, and US firms including Latham & Watkins and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

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Exclusive: Linklaters opens fifth German office to chase banking work

Linklaters will open its fifth office in Hamburg in the first quarter of this year to capitalise on an increase in banking work for German clients.

The firm has made no lateral hires with the launch, instead transferring two existing partners from Frankfurt and Dusseldorf.

Linklaters LLP is a multinational law firm headquartered in London. Founded in 1838, it is a member of the “Magic Circle” of elite British law firms. It currently employs over 2,000 lawyers across 29 offices in 20 countries.

In 2016, Linklaters achieved revenues of £1.31 billion ($1.97 billion) and profits per equity partner of £1.45 million ($2.2 million), making it the world’s fourth highest-grossing law firm, and the most profitable member of the Magic Circle. In the UK, the firm has top-tier rankings across many practice areas, including corporate/M&A, capital markets, litigation, banking and finance, restructuring and insolvency, antitrust and tax. Linklaters counts more FTSE 100 companies among its clients than any other law firm. For direct deals by institutional investors in the first half of 2016, Linklaters tied for first place. In the 2012 Global Elite Brand Index, Linklaters was named the third strongest global law firm brand.

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Weil strengthens relationship with second M&A deal in a week

Weil Gotshal & Manges has acted on a second major M&A transaction in a week for client Sanofi, as the pharma giant returns to the acquisition trail.

The US firm won the top role for Sanofi, which today revealed it would buy Ablynx for just under €4bn (£3.5bn).

The announcement comes just a week after Weil acted for Sanofi on its $11.6bn deal with Bioverativ, with both transactions expanding Sanofi’s capabilities for treating blood disorders.

US-based corporate chair Michael Aiello led the deal team from Weil Gotshal, alongside partner Matthew Gilroy.

Partner Adé Heyliger also advised from the public company advisory group in Washington DC, while partner Jeffery Osterman worked on IP matters and partner John Scribner advised on antitrust with counsel Michael Naughton. Partners Olivier Jauffret and Daneil Dokos supported on banking and finance in Paris and New York respectively.

NautaDutilh advised Sanofi on Belgian law matters.

Sanofi fought off stiff competition for Ablynx from Novo Nordisk, with the latter having turned to Davis Polk & Wardwell for support. Novo Nordisk’s offer was much lower at €2.6bn.

Linklaters advised the target Ablynx, acting as co-counsel with Goodwin Procter.

Magic circle corporate partners Arnaud Coibion and Philippe Remels advised Ablynx on Belgian law aspects of the deal from Brussels. They were supported by counsel Filip Lecoutre, who is based in Antwerp.

Goodwin advised on US law aspects, with life sciences chair Mitch Bloom leading the team for Ablynx from Boston.

The teal also included Boston corporate partners Jim Matarese and Blake Liggio, while Eubelius offered further support in Belgium.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2018.