Big ticket deals earn Kenyan lawyers global recognition


GT Bank Kenya chairman Dhann Chandaria (right) with MD Segun Agbaje during the brand unveiling in Nairobi following its acquisition of Fina Bank. Photo/FILE

Kenya’s elite law firms bagged most of the big-ticket mergers and acquisition deals (M&As) last year to maintain their stranglehold on the multi-billion-shilling corporate legal advisory services business and ward off competition from upcoming rivals, according to a newly released global ranking of lawyers.

Chambers and Partners, the London-based research company that ranks law firms globally based on the value of the deals they handled in the past year, says the select group of deep-rooted law firms beat their rivals to 2013’s most lucrative deals involving M&As, public listings, corporate restructuring and commercial dispute resolution to stay at the top.

Chambers and Partners says political stability and growth opportunities in sectors such as oil and gas, mining, infrastructure, real estate and financial services were the main drivers of M&A deals that the premier law firms rode on to remain in the elite club.

“Economic expansion has been boosted by increased government investment in infrastructure and agriculture, the rapid growth of the micro-economic subsector, a dynamic and stable private sector, and continual innovations in the ICT sector, on-going discoveries of petroleum reserves and developments in regional integration,” Chambers & Partners said in a statement.

Chambers and Partners’ 2014 list shows that Anjarwalla & Khanna, Coulson Harney and Kaplan & Stratton maintained their standing as the cream of Kenya’s commercial law firms that occupy the coveted Band One of the rankings.  

Hamilton Harrison & Mathews, Iseme, Kamau & Maema Advocates (IKM) and Walker Kontos also maintained their presence in the deals market to stay in Band Two of the rankings.

Kenya’s oldest law firm Daly and Figgis finished in Band 3 ahead of Mboya Wangong’u & Waiyaki Advocates, who broke into the league of leading law firms with a place in Band 4 of the rankings alongside Muthaura Mugambi Ayugi & Njonjo Advocates.

READ: Kenyan lawyers beat rivals in race for big corporate deals

The annual Chambers and Partners rankings are a key barometer of performance in the world of corporate advisory services that is often used as a reference tool for multinationals looking for advice in markets where advertising of legal services is restricted.

Anjarwalla & Khanna earned its place in the top tier of rankings for its handling of a number of multi-billion-shilling deals including the signing of Kenya’s first coal concession for Kitui’s Mui Basin.

The agreement between the Kenya government and Chinese firm Fenxi was completed in December last year. The coal deposits are estimated to be worth more than Sh3.4 trillion.

The law firm, founded in 1958 in Mombasa, also advised German and French private equity firms DEG and PROPARCO on the reverse takeover involving the exchange of shares in I&M Bank for shares in City Trust (now I&M Holdings) – which listed on the Nairobi bourse last year.

City Trust and I&M Bank were represented in the Sh40 billion transaction by Kaplan & Stratton.

The Coulson Harney partly stayed in the roll of top law firms for its handling of London-based media agency WPP’s acquisition of a bigger stake in media services firm Scangroup through a cash and share swap transaction that was valued at Sh8.21 billion.

The deal saw WPP raise its stake in the Kenyan firm to 50.1 per cent from 31.3 per cent.

Daly & Figgis’ role in listed firm Britam’s acquisition of a 99 per cent stake in underwriter Real Insurance helped it maintain its place in the club of elite law firms. The cash and share swap deal was priced at Sh1.4 billion.

Hamilton Harrison & Mathews advised Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Pacific Wildcat on its acquisition of a 70 per cent stake in Cortec Mining Kenya — the company at the centre of a licensing row with Mining minister Najib Balala.

Iseme Kamau & Maema Advocates was partly propelled into the list of leading law firms for their handling of Dubai-based Al-Futaim’s Sh7.5 billion acquisition of troubled motor dealer CMC Holdings.

Mboya Wangong’u & Waiyaki Advocates’ debut in the ranking came after it handled Chase Bank’s corporate reorganisation and the entry of PE funds into the lender’s list of shareholders.

The Chambers Global report shows that Oliver Fowler who handled the Base Titanium’s $170 million syndicated finance, the reverse take-over of City Trust Limited (now I&M Holdings Limited) and the Sh1 billion Junction property development finance is Kenya’s top lawyer.

He is followed by a group of lawyers who made it to tier two of the individual rankings lead by Michael Kontos, a managing partner at Walker Kontos, who handled Fina Bank’s sale of 70 per cent stake to Nigeria’s Guaranty Trust Bank.

The deal, which was Kenya’s biggest in 2013, was valued at $100 million (Sh8.6 billion). 

Philip Coulson, a partner and co-founder of Coulson Harney, made it to the top tier of lawyers for his handling of mega deals such as advising Dimension Data’s acquisition of AccessKenya at a price of Sh3.05 billion. The transaction saw AccessKenya delist from the NSE.

Mr Coulson together with partners Alex Njage and Joyce Karanja-Ng’ang’a handled Centum and Cassia Capital Partners on their acquisition of a 45 per cent stake in micro-lender Platcorp Holdings in January last year.

Mahesh Acharya, a partner at Kaplan & Stratton, also made it to the top lawyers’ list for his role in managing French cosmetics company L’Oréal’s acquisition of a Kenyan personal care products maker InterConsumer in April last year. The deal was estimated to be worth Sh3 billion.

The HH&M team consisting of Andrew Mugambi, Richard Omwela and Adil Khawaja in September last year assisted IFC and Kenyatta University to structure Kenya’s first public-private partnership (PPP) deal for the development of student housing on a build, own, operate, transfer (BOOT) model.