03/07/2007 - 22:00

Small legal pool dominates scene in local M&A deals

03/07/2007 - 22:00

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Blake Dawson Waldron, Freehills, and Cochrane Lishman are firmly entrenched as the dominant law firms in Western Australia’s M&A market, having advised on the vast majority of big takeovers in the past financial year.

Blake Dawson Waldron, Freehills, and Cochrane Lishman are firmly entrenched as the dominant law firms in Western Australia’s M&A market, having advised on the vast majority of big takeovers in the past financial year.

 

Among other firms, Allens Arthur Robinson did not advise on many M&A deals but it scored the year’s biggest deal, Wesfarmers’ $22 billion bid for Coles Group.

 

Given the scale of the Wesfarmers deal, Allens had teams in Sydney (led by Ewen Crouch) and Perth (led by Andrew Pascoe) working on the matter.

 

This corresponded with Wesfarmers’ lead corporate adviser, Gresham Advisory Partners, which also had teams in Sydney and Perth working on the takeover.

 

Allens second big M&A mandate did not have the same outcome – it advised Macquarie Bank on its unsuccessful bid for Alinta, with teams in Melbourne and Perth.

 

Clayton Utz was briefly involved in the Alinta bidding when it was named as legal adviser to the short-lived management buy-out group.

 

It had more success on other matters, advising the RCF consortium on its successful acquisition of Sons of Gwalia’s tantalum business.

 

Clayton Utz is also involved in the battle for Consolidated Minerals, as the adviser to one of the bidders, Michael Kiernan’s Territory Resources.

 

Deacons continued to expand its M&A practice, with clients including Australian Fast Foods, Tamaya Resources, takeover target Evans & Tate, fast-growing Automotive Holdings Group, and property developer Aspen Group.

 

Steinepreis Paganin was also involved in several deals at the smaller end of the market, including Cortona Resources, Saracen Minerals Holding and Commoditel.

 

At the big end of town, Blake Dawson Waldron advised on six acquisitions and five takeover defences, delivering what M&A partner Roger Davies called a very busy year.

 

On the acquisitions side, its clients included Wesfarmers, Alinta, Mermaid Marine and IBT Education.

 

On the defence side, its clients included Alinta, uranium explorer Summit Resources, Aztec Resources and Hardman Resources.

 

It is also advising Consolidated Minerals, which is the subject of competing takeover proposals from the Pallinghurst consortium and Territory Resources.

 

A big change facing Blake’s Perth practice is that Alinta, one of its major clients, will shortly disappear, assuming Babcock & Brown and Singapore Power gain shareholder approval for their planned acquisition and break-up of the business.

 

Mr Davies, who leads the M&A practice with managing partner Leigh Warnick and new partner Murray Wheater, acknowledged the M&A work would disappear but said energy partner Jon Carson could expect to continue working for Alinta’s new owners on regulatory matters.

 

With international companies keen to secure future supplies of mineral commodities by investing in Australian miners, he anticipates plenty of other opportunities.

 

“I don’t see any let up in the amount of M&A work,” Mr Davies said.

 

Freehills M&A practice in Perth is led by Justin Mannolini and David Gray, who worked primarily for bidders in takeover battles.

 

Freehills’ biggest transaction last year was advising Babcock & Brown and Singapore Power on their $8 billion Alinta acquisition, with teams in Perth and Sydney.

 

It also advised Paladin Resources on its successful acquisition of Valhalla Uranium, which was a straightforward matter, and Summit Resources, which became a protracted and complex battle.

 

Freehills also advised Mt Gibson Iron on its hotly contested takeover of Aztec Resources.

 

Outside of the contested takeover battles, Freehills advised iron ore miner Murchison Metals Ltd on its joint venture with Mitsubishi Corporation, and the Sons of Gwalia administrator on the sale of its tantalum mining business.

 

Former Mallesons Stephen Jaques partners, Ian Cochrane and Michael Lishman, hit the ground running after establishing their own law firm 18 months ago.

 

Cochrane Lishman advised six takeover targets last financial year, including Summit Resources (jointly with Blake) plus Alinta Infrastructure Holdings and West Australian Newspaper Holdings (both jointly with Mallesons).

 

Other ‘target’ clients included Integrated Group, which negotiated a merger with Programmed Maintenance Services, Ausdrill, and Police & Nurses Credit Society.

 

Apart from advising Alinta Infrastructure, Mallesons has also advised Arc Energy on its Wandoo acquisition and Aquila Resources on the disputed ownership of its iron and coal joint ventures.

 

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