South African giants gain merger clearance

The South African Competition Commission has given the merger between leading South African firms Edward Nathan and Sonnenberg Hoffmann Galombik (SHG) the green light.

The 100-lawyer Edward Nathan and 190-lawyer SHG announced their intention to merge in June, in a move that will create the largest firm in Africa by size, as first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (6 June).

The firms said in a joint statement: “The merger will be a perfect match for our clients because the two firms complement each other not only geographically but also in terms of skills and expertise.”

The two firms signed a letter of intent after just two weeks of negotiations. The merger will take effect from 1 October.

The merged firm, which will be known as Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, will boast considerable presence in South Africa’s two largest business centres – Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The combined firm will have around 275 lawyers and 115 partners. It will be managed jointly by the respective heads of the two firms, Michael Katz of Edward Nathan and SHG’s Piet Faber.

The merged firm will boast 100 black lawyers, the largest concentration of black lawyers of any firm in South Africa. The firm said that skills transfer to, and the development of, black lawyers is going to be a priority.

This is not the first time Edward Nathan has been involved in a high-profile link-up. The firm was bought by South African investment bank Nedcor in a landmark transaction in 1999. At the time it was seen as a move that could be replicated by other firms.

However, five years later the bank sold the firm back to its partners for R50m (£3.7m) – an eighth of the original purchase cost.