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Last week, The Lawyer reported that Linklaters is getting closer to Italian ally Gianni Origoni Grippo & Partners. The two firms have pledged to discuss a merger within the next two years as part of a revised joint venture agreement signed earlier this year. Rumours of a second invasion of Anglo-Saxon firms are rife as firms such as Shearman & Sterling and Latham & Watkins eye the rich pickings to be gained from deals such as the merger of Telecom Italia and Olivetti. The Italian government's proactive approach to securitisations, a thriving project finance market and new corporate and tax laws make Italy an attractive market for US and UK firms.
Phil Fletcher, London managing partner, Milbank Tweed Hadley & Wood "We've been doing a lot of M&A and project finance work in Italy. It's a very important market for us, but our approach is to stay with the key relationship firms we've had for years, which include Bonelli, Grimaldi and Macchi Di Cellere e Gangemi. We think that's the best way to serve our clients and compete."
Stefano Sutti, managing partner, Studio Legale Sutti "The firms that were successful in establishing practices in Italy were the ones which merged with established Italian practices such as Chiomenti for Freshfields or Grimaldi for Clifford Chance. Now that Clifford Chance has a foothold in the market it can probably survive the defection of Grimaldi and co. It's not easy to do for someone starting from scratch. Unless the stock exchange trend changes, the remaining areas of interest are privatisations and securitisations. We're in a worse position to compete with international firms. Merchant banks are likely to be based in New York or London and they will instruct their usual counsel - we're not even invited to beauty parade. The problem is that even the fees from that work are not enough to finance the cost of operating a large practice in Italy."
David Kerr, chairman, Bird & Bird "We looked at Italy very carefully [before opening an office there]. It is a very substantial economic market and that is reflected in the size of the deals that go on in Italy. That's one of the reasons we were so interested in it. It is one of the most important markets in Europe and it's natural for any firm that is trying to create a pan-European offering to want to be there. There are a lot of interesting developments in the Italian economy that make it even more attractive and one of them is the increasing privatisations and liberalisation under this government. I think there are all sorts of reasons why Anglo-Saxon firms are interested in cementing relationships in Italy."