Webber Wentzel to incorporate Linklaters name when alliance goes live

Linklaters’ new South African alliance partner Webber Wentzel is set to incorporate the Linklaters name into its own and take on the UK firm’s branding, it has emerged.

The Johannesburg-based firm will retain its name when the tie-up goes live on 1 February next year but adopt its ally’s brand alongside its own.

The news follows confirmation of the two firms’ exclusive alliance earlier this week following months of discussions between the pair (3 December 2012).

The South African leader will also use Linklaters’ branding in a similar switch made by Australia’s Allens Arthur Robinson (now Allens) when it formed an alliance with the magic circle outfit earlier this year (23 April 2012).

Allens now uses the Linklaters name in its own logo, with the Australian firm’s name in an almost identical font.

The exact form for the South African firm is unclear, but the likely branding is Webber Wentzel in association with Linklaters, or a similar formulation.

The alliance will be subject to occasional reviews and is not currently intended to lead to a merger, although the firms plan to strengthen their relationship.

London-based global mining co-head Andrew Jones, who was part of Linklaters’ negotiation team for the deal, said: “We’ve agreed to review it periodically. There are definite measures for making sure it works. There’s no merger contemplated, but the idea is to grow closer over time.”

He added: “It’s about 18 months or a year ago that we formulated that strategy [of forming alliances]. It suits a place like South Africa quite well – we do as much projects work as we do M&A work, banking, capital markets, litigation. That range of work couldn’t be covered with a small office of our own.”

The joint venture will be overseen on the Linklaters side by Jones, London-based EEMEA managing partner Sandeep Katwala and City capital markets partner Patrick Sheil, with Katwala in overall charge.

The trio was also the firm’s negotiation team during talks over the alliance, which followed a period of more than a year in which Linklaters has considered entering Africa.

Jones said: “We’ve been looking at our Africa strategy for a while. We have a very strong Africa practice in terms of being able to cover all the main legal systems out of Paris, Lisbon and London with specialists across Asia and other emerging markets, and our clients wanted us to have more on-the-ground presence. We’ve always done lots but we wanted to stay where we were [in the market]. Webber Wentzel was an obvious choice.”