Linklaters deals forge links in SA

Linklaters is stepping up its South African venture with a series of deals alongside Johannesburg firm Webber Wentzel Bowens.

Insiders speculate the three high-profile deals signify a proposed merger with South African firm Edward Nathan & Friedland is “dead”.

One deal is the privatisation of South African Airways, for which Linklaters has been appointed lead attorney.

Webber Wentzel and local firm Maponya prepared the ground for the move to privatisation and Linklaters will advise on preparations for the bidding process.

Webber Wentzel's Murray Thompson described the deal as “a long time coming”. The privatisation had been put on hold in August but is now back on track, he adds.

Linklaters is also working with Webber Wentzel on a potential merger between British Aerospace (BAe) and Marconi in South Africa. Linklaters is acting as BAe's UK counsel, while Webber Wentzel is advising on South African competition law.

Thompson says South African competition law is still in its infancy, as tariff barriers gradually break down.

The third deal is yet to be finalised. Webber Wentzel is acting for BAe in its bid to win a potential 20 per cent stake in the state-owned aerospace and arms company Denel. Webber Wentzel partner David Lancaster, who is involved in all three transactions, says Linklaters is likely to be involved.

Linklaters remains tight-lipped about possible mergers in South Africa.