Ogier gets Asia presence with WSmiths merger

Offshore giant Ogier is focusing on growth in Asia following last week’s announcement of its merger with British Virgin Islands-based (BVI) best friend WSmiths.

As first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (5 October), the Cayman and Channel Island-focused giant is to merge with WSmiths (formerly Walker Smiths) in order to gain expertise in BVI law and a presence in Asia.

The merged entity, which goes live on 1 February under the Ogier name, will create a global offshore firm with 31 partners and more than 600 staff. Its network of nine offices will include the BVI, the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jersey, London, New Zealand and Uruguay.

Ogier chairman Jonathan White told The Lawyer that the firm had instigated merger talks with WSmiths six months ago following the success of a best-friend arrangement that has been in place for the past 18 months.

White said that WSmiths’ Hong Kong office had been a key driver behind the merger, as Ogier had identified that it “really needed to establish an Asia presence”.

Ogier has already begun searching for a Cayman-qualified partner to join the Hong Kong office in order to expand on its current BVI law offering.

White said: “We’re seeing the development of different types of offshore practices and those that are dominating are those with multi-jurisdictional presences.”

A slew of offshore firms have grown through merger in recent months, including Appleby Spurling Hunter and Bailhache Labesse’s tie-up in June.

Ogier itself has a history of mergers, most notably having combined with Boxalls in 2003, the first transatlantic merger of offshore firms.

White will remain chairman of the combined firm, while WSmiths managing partner Duncan Smith will become managing partner of the Hong Kong and BVI offices. Smith will also join the firm’s group strategy board.