Waltzing SJB seeks Matilda

It seems SJ Berwin has an admirer. As we report today, Asia-Pacific giant King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) is well up for a tie-up with the UK firm, which has been in Australia in recent weeks trying to secure a local deal.

Indeed, it’s been a delegation of a rather senior nature that has been travelling Down Under to negotiate a merger of some sort, with sources suggesting KWM is the suitor in question. Senior partner Stephen Kon, still in his first year as firm chief, went on the Antipodean trip alongside the likes of finance head Jeremy Cross and strategy director Rachel Reid.

It would silly to rule out Clayton Utz and Minter Ellison, the remaining independent Australian firms, as possible merger targets for SJ Berwin, but all the indications are that the much-touted deal with KWM could be a step closer.

The synergies are not immediately obvious, but KWM wants to be in the US and the UK and SJ Berwin has pushed its energy and infrastructure practice, central to any Australia strategy. It could be a major, transformational deal.

The news also suggests SJ Berwin has put Asia Pacific ahead of its US merger plans, despite briefly talking to Mayer Brown last year, but this is mere speculation. Whatever the truth in this respect, it clearly feels a combination would be nice. The pain of the termination of talks with US firm Proskauer Rose is wearing off, it seems.

And it might be close to finding that dance partner.


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