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WINNER: Linklaters

There could be little debate about the winner in this category. Glencore's multi-billion pound merger with mining peer Xstrata was the standout corporate deal of the year in Europe, if not globally, and one of the biggest resources transactions ever. City corporate partner Charlie Jacobs led the Linklaters team for Glencore, following his role on previous deals for the longstanding client, including its high-profile IPO in 2011 and a string of bond issues and acquisitions. Others in Linklaters' team were corporate partner Nick Rumsby and associates Tracey Lochhead, Ian Hunter, Kay Moon and Nick Reid.

The deal was made more complex by the almost day-by-day media coverage of potential blocks to the transaction, which went through various remakes as it progressed. As one judge commented: “This was the standout deal for 2012 not only because of deal size but also the impacts on the mining industry and the complexities and tensions involving shareholders and other parties. Linklaters clearly played a critical role in bringing this deal togethe,r which could easily have failed at many stages.”

The all-share merger between two FTSE 100 giants was also the biggest UK public M&A deal by legal fees since the new Takeover Code came in almost two years ago requiring disclosure on legal spend. Fees were estimated at nearly £39m, including almost £18m paid by Glencore, mostly to Linklaters, and just over £20m by Xstrata.

About Bener Law Office

Bener Law Office is proud to sponsor The Lawyer Awards M&A Team of the Year.

Having successfully completed more M&A transactions than any other firm in Turkey last year, we know what it takes to be on top of your game. As the current European Awards ‘Law Firm of the Year: Turkey’ we also understand the level of consideration given to nominees by the judging panels. We therefore sincerely congratulate all of the shortlisted firms for their achievements.

Bener Law Office has grown based on strong ethics, technical excellence and a business minded approach. Around 70% of our clients today are leading multi-nationals. Whilst we handle a wide variety of work for a diverse client base, Bener has particular strength in Corporate and M&A, Banking and Finance, Capital Markets, Dispute Resolution, Energy and Mining, Construction and Real Estate as well as enjoying market leading position in Corporate Retainer, Employment and Immigration instructions.

2ND: Norton Rose Fulbright

Legacy Norton Rose’s move into South Africa in 2011 paid off with a key mandate from Barclays on its £1.3bn sale of its African operations to South African bank Absa. Clifford Chance advised Barclays on its original investment in Absa in 2005 through its relationship with South African firm Deneys Reitz, which later merged with Norton Rose. Partly thanks to this combination, Norton Rose partner Alan Bainbridge won the role for Barclays on the latest deal. The deal was a standout one in 2012 for Norton Rose, which merged with US firm Fulbright & Jaworski on 3 June to form Norton Rose Fulbright. One judge wrote: “This transaction was challenging and required testing legislative regimes in South Africa and Mauritius. It was delivered against a very tight timeline for a transaction of this complexity.” The deal capped a year that saw legacy Norton Rose advise on more than £3bn of financial, M&A and IPO deals.

3RD: Lawrence Graham

Thai group PTT Exploration and Production's (PTTEP) £1.22bn takeover of AIM-listed Cove Energy was a key deal enabling the company to enter the promising East Africa hydrocarbon area and bolster Mozambique’s natural gas economy. But Cove needed a sound team of legal advisers. For this it turned to Lawrence Graham (LG), not the biggest name in M&A but a strong outfit for AIM work and adviser to Cove since 2009. Corporate head Geoff Gouriet led for Cove alongside partner John Reed. A judge commented: “This is an example of LG holding on to a start-up client through to its involvement in a significant M&A transaction by focus on client service. This was a large deal in the context of the 2012 market with LG managing significant novel elements.” LG's involvement on this deal — opposite PTTEP adviser Slaughter and May — stands out for its presence as a smaller firm capable of handling a major global M&A transaction under close media scrutiny and with several zeroes in the deal value.