Firms gear up for boom as South African business targets City

CITY firms say they are gearing up for a boom in business as increasing numbers of South African companies snub European markets for the London Stock Exchange.

South African Breweries is to raise £150m in the next two weeks when it embarks on its primary listing from Johannesburg to the London Stock Exchange.

Other major companies to have recently listed in London include mining group Billiton and insurance company Old Mutual.

Linklaters' South African Business Group employs more than 30 partners and assistants. Partner Mark Stamp says: “It is no surprise that the larger companies in South Africa choose London for historical reasons.”

James Croock, another partner in the group, comments: “Clearly, there is an increasing trend for major South African corporations and financial institutions to increase their international profile and fundraising capabilities.

“For lawyers, this generates particularly attractive work in structuring, tax and fundraising, and allows them to utilise their specialist skills in a number of areas.”

Croock says one of the advantages of primary listings in London is that they form part of the FTSE index, which attracts major investors.

Richard Bond, head of the corporate department at Herbert Smith, says: “The trend is very good news as it presents opportunities for international law firms to advise on these transactions.”

Slaughter and May corporate partner Christopher Saul adds: “London is the most comfortable European centre for a South African company to base itself in – and London is a major market.

“The areas of work likely to see a substantial growth are financing and mergers and acquisitions.”