Baker & McKenzie Strengthens African Presence

6 November 2012
Johannesburg, South Africa, 1 November 2012 – Recognizing Africa’s growing importance for clients, global law firm Baker & McKenzie has strengthened its presence on the continent.

The Firm, which is the world’s largest law firm by revenue, is today celebrating the launch of its Johannesburg office. Over 100 clients are attending the celebration at the city’s Westcliff Hotel.

As the continent’s largest economy and main recipient of foreign investment, South Africa is a linchpin for Baker & McKenzie’s expansion plans for Africa and in particular sub-Saharan Africa. In North Africa the firm has been present in Cairo, Egypt for more than 25 years, and opened an office in Casablanca, Morocco in July 2012 to further enhance service to clients in the Maghreb region.

“Over the past few years, Africa has captured the attention of the global business community with its potential for growth in terms of investment and change,” said Eduardo Leite, Baker & McKenzie’s Chairman. “In the past decade, the continent’s GDP growth rate doubled, signifying one of the swiftest expanding economic areas in the world today.”

“Meanwhile, in South Africa Foreign Direct Investment inflows quadrupled last year. Consequently, the majority of our biggest clients are building businesses in Africa, and many are building out their presence from South Africa due to its stability and strong legal framework. Major pan-African companies are also emerging from South Africa, some of which will become global corporations of the future.”

The World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Report ranks South Africa the number one country in the world in respect of the strength of its auditing and reporting standards, legal rights for borrowers and lenders, corporate governance and regulation of securities exchanges, as well as the number two country in the world for the soundness of its banks and protection of minority shareholders.

Natural resources remain a primary draw for many investors, presenting considerable opportunities in the oil, gas and mining market sectors. But as Africa’s population becomes wealthier, the telecommunications, retail, logistics and infrastructure industries are all growing. Furthermore, more than 40% of mergers and acquisitions in Africa since 2004 have been cross-border.

“South Africa has overcome numerous challenges over the years to become the most advanced economy in the region, a status recognized when South Africa last year officially became one of the most influential emerging economies in the world by joining the BRICS group of nations,” said Koen Vanhaerents, Chair of Baker & McKenzie’s EMEA region. “Johannesburg is becoming an influential business hub, not just for South Africa, but for sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. Clients increasingly require sophisticated advice as Africa’s economies evolve, so we are responding to that need with the addition of this highly-regarded team and other initiatives as we aim to become the premier global firm in Africa.”

Baker & McKenzie’s Johannesburg office has market-leading M&A and finance practices with a particular focus on energy, mining and infrastructure, project finance, banking and capital markets, securitization and private equity. The office is led by co-managing partners Wildu du Plessis, one of South Africa’s leading banking and finance lawyers and Scott Brodsky, a leading projects lawyer.

“We are delighted to be part of Baker & McKenzie, enabling us to offer clients a unique combination of unrivalled international depth and breadth combined with expert local knowledge around the globe,” Du Plessis said.

The full team of Johannesburg partners comprises:

Astrid Berman (Banking & Finance, Infrastructure)
Scott Brodsky (Projects)
Wildu du Plessis (Banking & Finance, Capital Markets)
Amelia Heeger (Banking & Finance, Capital Markets)
Chris Moraitis (Projects, Banking & Finance)
Muhammad Sader (Banking & Finance, Capital Markets)
Morné van der Merwe (M&A, Mining)
Mike van Rensburg (M&A, Mining)

In addition, firm lawyers from Paris, London, New York, Chicago and other European, Asia Pacific and Latin American offices have long advised clients on high-profile transactions in Africa across a wide range of sectors, including energy, natural resources, healthcare, IT and telecommunications, retail and more.

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