CMS seals Iberian link-up with former Lovells suitor Albinana

CMS has at last signed an Iberian member after scooping one of Spain’s few remaining independent firms, Lovells’ former prospective merger partner Albinana Suarez de Lezo (ASL).

The Spanish corporate and finance firm, with offices in Madrid, Seville and Marbella, formally acceded to the CMS alliance late last month. It will practise under the CMS banner from 1 January 2005.

Talks between Lovells and ASL, formerly known as Melchor de las Heras, fizzled out in 2002 after the firms completed their due diligence. It is understood that senior ASL partners were reluctant to relinquish financial control to the top 10 UK firm. Lovells subsequently opted to handpick its own Madrid office with this year’s hire of Cuatrecasas’s head of corporate Jose Maria Balana de Eguia.

The CMS deal offers the perfect compromise for ASL, promising the benefits of an international network without the problems of full financial integration. It also resolves CMS’s Spanish problem, which has seen talks with several firms, including Roca Junyent, fail.

The deal leaves Spain with just a handful of independent firms available to UK suitors. Gómez-Acebo & Pombo and Mullerat are among the few Iberian independents remaining in the market. Market commentators consider Garrigues, with its unwieldy and wide geographical coverage, too large a task for most UK firms to contemplate.

The ASL deal links CMS with Spain’s fifth largest law firm with established footholds in corporate and finance and clients including Heineken, Barclays and Deutsche Bank.

CMS now has coverage in nine European countries – Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK.

CMS executive partner Robert Derry-Evans said: “Spain was an obvious gap in CMS, but we didn’t want to rush in. It’s taken us a while, but we’ve found the right firm.”