UK firms step in as Italian banks join forces

International law firms in Italy are bracing themselves for a boost in finance work after a series of mergers has left the country with a more aggressive banking sector.

Italian firms scooped the major mandates on the mergers, but Anglo-Saxon firms will be competing for the resulting international M&A work as the banks look abroad for growth.

Clifford Chance banking partner Michele Crisostomo said: “Italian firms have played a key role in the banking mergers, but now the developments are relevant to firms like ours.

“Generally speaking, there will be a lot of work coming out of the mergers. For big banking players the only way to escalate is to expand into international markets.”

Bank of Italy governor Mario Draghi sparked a wave of bank mergers after transferring his merger veto to the Italian antitrust authorities last year.

Chiomenti Studio Legale, Studio Legale Pedersoli e Associati and Pavesi Gitti Verzoni have so far had the most success. This month, Chiomenti advised Capitalia on its e100bn (£67.85bn) merger with rival UniCredit, advised by Grimaldo.

Last year Chiomenti advised Banca Popolare Italiana on its e8.2bn (£5.56bn) merger with Banca Popolare di Verona e Novara, advised by Pavesi Gitti.

Perdersoli and Pavesi Gitti advised Banche Popolari Unite and Banca Lombarda e Piemontese respectively in a e6.2bn (£4.21bn) tie-up last year.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has been the only Anglo-Saxon firm to muscle its way in, advising long-term client San Paolo on its e55bn (£37.32bn) merger with Banca Intesa in August 2006.

Pedersoli acted for Banca Intesa, capitalising on close ties to the bank’s chairman Giovanni Bazoli.

Crisostomo said: “For the most part it’s small boutique firms that are close to the bank’s senior management that are on the mergers.

“But coming out of the merger there are financial adjustments to be made, which is work for us.”