DLA Piper’s international push triggers AIM bonanza

DLA Piper’s international push triggers AIM bonanza” />DLA Piper is the adviser of choice for clients on AIM, dominating the latest
rankings released today by Hemscott.

The firm managed to secure a place in the charts of the top 10 firms by number of AIM clients, by the market capitalisation of these clients and by their profitability, making it the only firm to score so highly in all three categories.

It continued to top the rankings by number of AIM clients, scoring six new clients this quarter. Head of corporate finance Alex Tamlyn says: “The results are extremely fortifying. We never planned to target the most profitable clients, it’s just the way the cookie crumbles.”

Tamlyn points to DLA Piper’s evolution from a national to an international firm over the past few years as the reason for the firm’s success in the AIM rankings. “There are many mid-market companies all over the world that are now looking to list in London. The firm can offer advice at a local level, but can also give capital markets advice in London,” he says.

An example was last year’s flotation of Hutchison China Meditech, which needed DLA Piper lawyers both in China and London.

Although the members of the top five firms ranked by client numbers remained unchanged from the last quarter, there was a shuffling of their placings.

Also bringing six new clients to AIM this quarter was Norton Rose, which was enough to boost it into second place behind DLA Piper. Pinsent Masons improved similarly, while the only upset in the top five came by way of Eversheds, which increased its haul of clients by three but dropped two places to fourth on its ranking for the last quarter.

Eversheds corporate partner Neil Matthews says: “There’s been commentary that AIM is becoming an increasingly tough market, and that’s true, although we’re still working on lots of mandates. A number of IPOs we were working on before Christmas were aborted because of poor valuations and anti-AIM sentiment, which is obviously disappointing.”

Some clients have also been taken over, says Matthews, including internet provider PlusNet, which was acquired by BT for £66.7m.

As a trend, Matthews says companies coming to AIM have become more international, such as Australian pharmaceutical company Peptech, which Eversheds brought to market last December.

The biggest trawl of new clients was achieved by Hammonds, with eight. This pushed the firm into the top 10.

Hammonds head of corporate William Downs says: “Hammonds has had a sustained push in the public equity sphere in general recently. I think this last quarter is fairly indicative of the amount of work we’ve been doing. We did 18 AIM transactions in 2006 and 24 the year before.”

Downs points to head of public equity Simon Gordon and corporate partners Nick Williams and Giles Distin as particularly busy. Downs also points to demand from abroad, including South African company Cosmedia, which the firm brought to AIM last December.

The ranking of firms by profit of their AIM clients was particularly volatile. SJ Berwin jumped an impressive 10 places to net first place, while Arthur Cox came out of nowhere as a new entry to follow closely behind.

DLA Piper’s Tamlyn says: “If you’ve been doing a lot of IPOs then you’d expect to be near, but not at, the top of the profit charts – unless you’ve been lucky enough to concentrate on an exceptionally successful sector.”

The chart was awash with international and offshore firms, with no fewer than eight of the top 20 listed outside the UK. Most notably Niles Barton & Wilmer, whose 35 lawyers are all based in Baltimore, managed to claim second place. Its only UK-listed client is Fyffes, which interestingly also uses numbers one and two in the chart, SJ Berwin and Arthur Cox respectively. Fyffes spun off its general produce and distribution business Total Produce and then listed it on AIM and Ireland’s IEX in January.