SJ Berwin agrees $1bn merger with King & Wood Mallesons

Legal anoraks, now really is the time to squeal, “Oh my, a merger”. The partners at the perennial bride-to-be SJ Berwin have finally given the thumbs up to a tie-up. And one with Asia-Pacific giant King & Wood Mallesons (KWM), no less.

For those not in the know – shame on you – this ain’t just any old hook up. It is the first-ever merger between a major UK and Asia-Pacific firm and, arguably, the boldest international merger yet by a UK outfit, at least since Norton Rose’s Canada-South Africa double in June 2011.

The Lawyer first broke the news of the potential merger in November 2012. But hold on a second? SJ Berwin’s initial focus was on the US, with potential tie-ups with the likes of Proskauer Rose, Orrick and Mayer Brown having been on the cards over recent years. So why the shift east?

“More of the partners are looking east rather than west,” one partner told us last year. “Most of the firm were interested in the Far East and the emerging markets.”

Fair enough, but this deal is also being pegged as a precursor to a US merger, with the KWM venture giving both firms a better stab at a higher-ranking American suitor than they would manage alone.

With a US deal almost inevitably on the cards in the future, merger mania is far from over yet.

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