MALAYSIA: In the backdrop of a record-high number of law firm combinations in the US dominated by larger firms amalgamating with legal boutiques of dozens of lawyers, one of the largest law firms by size in Malaysia will be enhancing its multi-practice capabilities including in Islamic finance by merging with a boutique law firm.
Adnan Sundra & Low (ASL), a firm with close to 80 lawyers, will be merging with Putri Norlisa Chair (PNC), a team of 13 lawyers. To be effective from the 1st October 2018, merger negotiations with PNC began 18 months ago in 2017, ASL told IFN. As a result of the amalgamation, PNC’s corporate and commercial, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), projects and infrastructure and banking and finance practice will be integrated into ASL’s existing banking and finance, capital markets, civil aviation, corporate and M&A, dispute resolution, Islamic finance and real estate practice. The merged entity will operate under the ASL brand.
This consolidation underscores a growing M&A trend between law firms, particularly between major firms and smaller niche practices. In 2017, 102 M&As were concluded within the US legal fraternity, with over half of those involving firms with two to five lawyers, according to Altman Weil MergerLine, which also noted that the 2017 figure was the highest annual total recorded in over a decade.
In the case of ASL, the incoming partners will be undertaking key roles within the newly integrated firm on the effective date of the merger, with one assuming a management role in the newly integrated firm, and another heading the corporate banking department.
The merger brings ASL’s team to over 90 lawyers including 22 partners. A homegrown firm with over four decades of history, ASL has been a long-standing active player in the Islamic finance sphere and the integration with PNC – which has Shariah finance expertise as well – is expected to enhance the integrated firm’s overall Islamic finance practice, and better meet the legal needs of the Malaysian Islamic finance industry, one of the world’s most robust.
ASL acted on multiple award-winning deals including Malaysia’s largest green SRI Sukuk (at the time of issuance) by Quantum Solar Park; SkyWorld’s Sukuk Musharakah, the world’s first Islamic securitization of real estate progress billings; and the establishment of the country’s first privately-owned Islamic REIT, Alpha REIT. The team at PNC had advised this year on the proposed RM2.5 billion (US$615.43 million) Wakalah Bi Al-Istithmar issuance by a subsidiary of a listed government-linked corporation and is presently advising on a commodity Murabahah term financing of RM650 million (US$159.37 million) to be provided by a local Islamic bank to the wholly-owned subsidiary of a listed government-linked corporation.
“Moving forward, ASL and PNC wish to jointly confirm that there will be no disruption to legal services provided to clients by either firm in the transition period pending the effective date of the merger,” said the firm. “In the meantime, the partners of ASL expect to explore further merger opportunities for the firm’s continued growth and development.”