15/04/2019 - 14:15

Corporate lawyers busy as M&A deals on the rise

15/04/2019 - 14:15

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A flurry of hostile takeover deals has provided a boost for corporate lawyers, with an expectation there are more on the way.

Bryn Hardcastle says several prospective deals are yet to see the light of day. Photo: Attila Csaszar

A flurry of hostile takeover deals has provided a boost for corporate lawyers, with an expectation there are more on the way.

Herbert Smith Freehills is advising Wesfarmers on the largest deal in Western Australia this year – an indicative $1.5 billion acquisition of rare earths producer Lynas Corporation.

With Lynas fiercely defending its independence, and the deal attracting political controversy, it’s likely to keep Wesfarmers and its advisers busy for some time yet.

Another hostile takeover is the $635 million bid for Automotive Holdings Group by Brisbane-based competitor AP Eagers.

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Automotive Holdings is being advised by Ashurst, which is also advising Sydney-based Riversdale Resources on the defence of Hancock Prospecting’s $599 million takeover bid.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth is advising Hancock, which has won the backing of several Riversdale directors but is yet to win over Perth-based Resource Capital Funds, which is the largest shareholder in the aspiring coal miner.

The performance of law firms is tracked in the BNiQ deals database.

Gilbert + Tobin is ranked number one, after advising on 11 merger and acquisition deals valued at $6.9 billion over the past 12 months.

It advised on several big transactions last year, including Santos buying Quadrant Energy, BGH Capital bidding for Navitas, and Albermarle buying half of the Wodgina lithium project.

Among 2019 deals, G+T is advising China’s Chengtun Mining Group on its $109 million acquisition of Africa-focused Nzuri Copper.

In terms of deal numbers, the market leader over the past year was Herbert Smith Freehills.

It advised on 13 M&A transactions worth $5.9 billion.

The league table is very different for equity capital markets deals, with Allen & Overy advising on five transactions worth $951 million over the past 12 months.

This includes a Fortescue Metals Group share buyback and a capital raising by international client EMR Cayman, which is serviced by A&O’s Perth team.

Allen & Overy is ahead of two firms with deep penetration among small to mid-cap WA companies.

Steinepreis Paganin worked on 56 capital raisings worth $376 million while Bellanhouse Lawyers worked on 37 transactions worth $315 million.

They lead the league table for 2019, which is a period characterised by a distinct lack of capital raising activity.

Against this backdrop, both firms have achieved some success broadening their business into the M&A space.

Bellanhouse has advised on three M&A transactions this year, including the Nzuri Copper deal.

Partner Bryn Hardcastle said his firm was doing a lot more M&A work this year, with several prospective deals yet to see the light of day.

“Our business model is to do both the ECM and M&A deals, I think they go hand in hand,” he said.

“We’ve got a small but experienced team, we know what we’re doing across the space.”

Mr Hardcastle said as well as public company takeover deals, he had seen a lot of interest from companies seeking to buy or sell assets that hadn’t had capital applied to them.

He believes Bellanhouse’s recent experience stood it in good stead to win more work.

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