Linklaters usurps Ashursts at SNC

LINKLATERS & Paines' reward for ground-breaking legal work on Merrill Lynch's takeover of top UK market-maker Smith New Court (SNC) is expected to yield a business windfall after SNC is integrated into the US giant.

Ashurst Morris Crisp which, after many years of advising SNC, including on the Merrill Lynch £526 million acquisition, is likely to lose the SNC work after US integration.

City lawyers say Linklaters' strong regulatory department will welcome the back-office compliance work stemming from SNC's market-making business. Ashursts should not be badly dented by the loss, although SNC is likely to be one of its bigger clients and has 20 per cent of the market.

Linklaters has been London legal adviser to Merrill Lynch for a number of years. As adviser in the SNC takeover, the firm is now working on the offer document after the deal was finalised a week ago.

Linklaters had a group of seven partners leading a team of 20 lawyers on the job.

Corporate partner Richard Godden, heading the Linklaters team says: “The deal raised interesting questions under Brussels merger regulations. There has never been a takeover of a pure securities business of this nature to which merger regulations might apply.”

Ashurst's team of 10-plus lawyers is headed by corporate partners David Macfarlane and Adrian Clark. Because SNC is a “people business”, legal work focused heavily on employee benefits matters, says Clark.

Linklaters' team includes corporate partners Alex Trotter and John Bonham and competition partner Alec Burnside.