Spanish firm Garrigues has merged with local player DLP in Colombia, and has named Argentina and Chile as its next targets for expansion.

Garrigues Latin America head Javier Ybañez said that the firm would add 15 fee earners and four partners to its Colombia office through the deal with local practice DLP, expanding the team to a total of 40 fee-earners.

“DLP will provide us with experience and people with skillsets in litigation and finance, which fit well within our organisation,” Ybañez told The Lawyer

“We didn’t have a previous relationship with DLP. We knew each other in Colombia and we started talking in June 2015.”

The firm opened its first Latin American office in Colombia in 2013, and is now looking to improve its presence in the region through a long-standing expansion strategy.

“We said this was the right strategy and that other firms would follow us,” Ybañez said. ”We still believe this is a strategic objective for Garrigues. We see it as fundamental for the firm and we will continue to consolidate other operations. Chile is our next objective and Argentina will also happen in the short term.”

This merger follows the firm’s decision to open an office in Beijing last month, growing its international network to 33 offices in 12 countries.

Garrigues’ Beijing and Shanghai offices form the nucleus of the integrated legal services offered by Garrigues in Asia, with a team of over 20 lawyers targeting international clients interested in entering the Chinese market, as well as to Chinese investors whose sights are set on other continents.

The firm sees the China offices as a gateway through which Chinese traders can enter the Latin American market and feed into Garrigues’ offices in Colombia, Mexico, Peru and an international law office in Brazil.

Last year, Garrigues posted 0.2 per cent growth in turnover to €332.5m, signalling a general recovery in the Spanish market after two years of decline. The results preceded a change in the firm’s fiscal year, from one ending 31 August to a calendar year.

Latin America has been the focus for growth for other Spanish firms: Uría Menéndez formed a tripartite merger with a Chilean and a Colombian firm to form Philippi Prietocarrizosa & Uría last year; and earlier this year Pérez-Llorca opened an office in New York to act as a hub and gateway to Latin America.