Gomez-Acebo steps up South American strategy

Top Spanish firm Gomez-Acebo & Pombo has tightened its grip in South America by entering a formal alliance with Brazil's largest law firm, Pinheiro Neto Advogados.

The 20-partner Madrid firm announced last year it was abandoning an expansion strategy in Europe in favour of alliances in South America.

Spain is the second largest foreign investor in Brazil, but differences in standards and work practices have often hindered legal tie-ups.

The deal between Gomez-Acebo and Sao Paulo-based Pinheiro Neto follows the signing of a joint working agreement last month between Gomez-Acebo and Lisbon-based Vieira de Almeida.

The firms have signed up jointly to the Brazilian venture. If all goes well a tripartite exp-ansion into Argentina and ev-entually New York is planned.

Fernando de las Cuevas, Gomez-Acebo's managing partner, says the Pinheiro Neto alliance is the best possible. “We are looking to provide a seamless service for our Spanish and Portuguese clients in South America, and this is the best way to achieve that.

“The idea is not a full merger but to get independent firms of high quality in their own respective markets,” de las Cuevas says.

Gomez-Acebo undertakes corporate, banking and investment work. Its client base is split between Spanish and foreign companies, including BT, NatWest and Credit Lyonnais.

Pinheiro Neto has offices in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, the capital.

The firm is recognised in Brazil for its overall quality and bench strength. Its banking practice is particularly respected.

Pinheiro Neto advised BBV on its acquitision of Banco Excel, acted on Astra/Zeneca disposals and corporate acquisitions for BASF in Brazil. Other clients include Philip Morris, Shell, Lloyd's and Rolls-Royce.

South America is a growth market for European legal services. Last year, Spanish firm Uria & Menendez signalled its intention to unite its allied firms in South America under one name and Freshfields announced it was seeking allies on the continent.