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City firm Simmons & Simmons is merging with a single-partner firm in Düsseldorf, giving it a German law capability for the first time.
The merger with M&A boutique Kaiser, effective from 2 January, will create a new German operation called Simmons & Simmons Kaiser.
Simmons & Simmons financial markets partner Mark Norris will join name partner Gerhard Kaiser and his six associates at the end of February. Kaiser, who was previously with Droste Killius Triebel (now Lovells Boesebeck Droste), joins Simmons as an equity partner.
The Düsseldorf office will practise M&A, corporate finance, capital markets, initial public offerings (IPOs), tax, project finance, IT and media employment business. The firm plans to expand into Frankfurt before the end of the year.
Kaiser's clients are international banks, big German conglomerates, investment companies, venture capitalist and industrial clients, including Dutch bank ABN Amro and logistics group Krupp Thyssen Nirosta.
The two firms have been working together for the last year, most recently in a cross-border transaction in which Simmons advised GTP Holding on the acquisition of the Diners Club franchise operations in the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Ireland.
Simmons managing partner David Dickinson says the merger was attractive because Kaiser is a good M&A firm and Düsseldorf is the M&A capital of Germany.
"M&A is our starting point," he says. "A lot of corporates are based in the area and there's a lot of cross-border European M&A work. We normally pick up individuals rather than teams. We've usually done things by starting them small and then growing them."
Kaiser says that Düsseldorf and Frankfurt have equal strategic importance in the German legal world. He says: "Düsseldorf is a good place for international legal business. It's the industrial heartland and home to many of the brick and mortar companies and media companies. It's also the second-biggest banking centre in Germany."
He says that Simmons is attractive because it is a truly integrated international law firm. "It's a very harmonious firm with an excellent understanding of all its staff across the board, from secretaries to equity partners," he says.
Kaiser previously had offices in Frankfurt and Berlin, but the contracts binding them together were not renewed at the end of last year. "The other offices weren't keen to link up with Simmons and had no capacity for an international merger," says Kaiser.
Market sources are surprised by the merger. One lawyer says that Kaiser is not the obvious choice for an international merger, although Dickinson says: "The move reflects the firm's philosophy of developing from solid beginnings with the right people."
Simmons also has European offices in Madrid, Rome, Milan, Paris, Brussels and Lisbon.