Olswang wins AIM adviser contract

Olswang has been instructed by leading Alternative Investment Market (AIM)-nominated adviser Smith & Williamson for the first time.

The appointment is a direct result of private equity partner Chris Mackie’s decision to quit Berwin Leighton for Olswang late last year.

Smith & Williamson’s head of corporate finance Robert Kidson says the corporate finance house uses a specific number of firms for its AIM work, including Hammond Suddards Edge, Memery Crystal and Clyde & Co.

But he adds: “We work with Berwin Leighton, but we’ve also worked with Olswang for the first time. The reason for that is the chap we were close to at Berwin Leighton moved to Olswang. So we went with him.”

To float on AIM, all issuers must have a nominated adviser (nomad). The London Stock Exchange provides a list of approved corporate finance houses. Approved nomad Smith & Williamson has worked on a range of AIM IPOs over the last 18 months.

Olswang’s first piece of corporate finance work for Smith & Williamson came in the summer, when it advised property investment and development company Basepoint on its £8.04m AIM flotation.

Although Smith & Williamson will continue to use Berwin Leighton, Kidson expects to continue the fledgling relationship with Olswang. Smith & Williamson and Olswang are already working together again on a Basepoint acquisition.

In equity capital markets work, the majority of instructions are won through individual relationships between partners and bankers at corporate finance houses.

Mackie has had a long-running relationship with Smith & Williamson, as well as with the issuer, Basepoint, which he has represented since 1989. He introduced the issuer to its nominated adviser at the time of the float.

Mackie is a private equity partner, but he also does some corporate finance work. He says: “I’ve worked with Smith & Williamson for years, although this was not a piece of work that originated at Berwin Leighton. I got the instruction here at Olswang.”

AIM is specifically designed for small-cap companies. It has undergone a resurgence in recent months, with companies often floating instead of going through second or third-round funding.

Firms with strong private equity practices and corporate finance departments, therefore, can be ideally placed to cash in on the recent initial public offering (IPO) boom.

Mackie joined Olswang, along with fellow private equity partner Fabrizio Carpanini, after nearly six years with Berwin Leighton. At the time, Olswang chief executive Jonathan Goldstein said that they had brought “mainstream credibility” to the firm (The Lawyer, 22 November).

Fee levels for firms working on AIM flotations can range from £30,000 up to £150,000 for extremely complex transactions.

Olswang has also been adding to its equity capital markets practice. In the summer it launched a technology-focused corporate finance house, LongAcre Partners, in conjunction with US investment bank JP Morgan (The Lawyer, 3 July).

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