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Linklaters Begins Talks on South Africa Alliance
Linklaters is drawing up plans to enter the sought-after African legal market, with the firm aiming to replicate its deal with Allens in Australia by linking up with one of South Africa's leading independent law firms.
The plans were set out to partners as part of the Magic Circle firm's three-year strategy consultation earlier this year, and Linklaters hopes to reach an alliance agreement with a firm during the 2012-13 financial year.
The initiative is being overseen by emerging Europe, Middle East and Africa managing partner Sandeep Katwala, who is in charge of negotiations with potential alliance partners.
London corporate partner Charlie Jacobs, originally from South Africa, is understood to have been taking soundings from the partnership.
Linklaters is in talks with a number of firms, but has not yet begun formal negotiations with any one potential partner. Any agreement reached, which will require partnership approval through a vote, is expected to take a similar shape to the deal agreed with Allens -- formerly Allens Arthur Robinson -- earlier this year.
That deal, which went live in May, saw the firms entering into an exclusive alliance in Australia and Asia, alongside an energy resources and infrastructure joint venture in Asia with shared future investment, and a joint venture in Indonesia with shared revenues.
The South African tie-up will have an emphasis on the mining sector, with options under consideration including a mining joint venture with a local firm that could see the pair sharing the costs associated with expanding the practice across Africa.
Linklaters already has established referral relationships with many of South Africa's leading law firms and shares client relationships with practices including Werksmans and Webber Wentzel, both of which work with mining giant Anglo American.
One partner said: "We are not pursuing this deal in order to enter the South African market itself -- it's more of a region-wide play. We have been considering for a while now how to service sub-Saharan Africa, and after ruling out the option of launching our own offices, the partners agreed that we should build on one of our established relationships in South Africa."
If Linklaters does achieve a deal, it would make it the latest of a growing number of firms to enter the market. Baker & McKenzie recently picked up a 31-strong Johannesburg team from now-defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf to launch, while Norton Rose's Swiss verein merger with South Africa's Deneys Reitz went live in 2011.
Eversheds also has a presence in South Africa, with Johannesburg-based Routledge Modise, now Eversheds, becoming a formal ally of the U.K. firm in April 2008, while DLA Piper has an alliance with Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.
Linklaters said in a statement: "Linklaters is recognised for its leading African practice, having worked on numerous landmark transactions in almost every country in the continent over the past 20 years. South Africa remains an important market for us and we have built up excellent working relationships with the best local law firms in that country."