Rabins snubs UK law firms to sell to investment bank

A second South African law firm has been bought by an investment bank after snubbing merger offers from international law firms.

Rabin Van Den Berg & Pelkowitz is a 14-lawyer Johannesburg-based practice which split from top South African firm Werksmans five years ago to concentrate on international mergers and acquisitions work.

The five-partner practice has been bought by investment and merchant bank Brait SA.

The firm has acted for clients including Italian car giant Fiat and film group Warner Brothers, and represents 25 companies listed on the Johannesburg stock exchange.

Partner Derek Rabin says the firm decided to link up with a bank after being courted by a number of UK and US firms in the past few years.

Rabin says: “We do work for a number of the major firms and some of the major New York City firms. We felt that there was an availability of additional skills for our clients’ businesses from a link-up with Brait’s other disciplines.

“We haven’t considered linking with a UK firm, although there were certain opportunities.”

Slaughter and May, Berwin Leighton, Mishcon de Reya and US firm Shearman & Sterling have all referred work to the firm in the past, says Rabin.

He adds: “Any link with a UK firm would benefit the UK firm far more than it would benefit us because it would result in our other link-ups in the UK falling by the wayside.

“I think that’s why there have not been any link-ups over here with

UK firms. There have been talks but none of them have come to fruition.”

Rabin says the financial gains of selling out to an international bank are also attractive to South African firms.

Antony Ball, chief executive officer at Brait, says: “The acquisition of top level commercial legal skills allows us to develop a competitive edge in providing investment banking services.”

At the end of last year, top South African firm Edward Nathan & Friedland turned its back on merger talks with Linklaters and Clifford Chance and sold out for £40m to investment bank Nedcor (The Lawyer, 1 November 1999).