It is this achievement that was recognised when the firm was named Legal DealMaker of the Decade – M&A – by Deal Value at the DealMakers Annual Awards held in February 2020.
Some of the big deals Webber Wentzel has been involved in on over the last decade include advising:
Wal-Mart in buying a majority stake in Massmart and its entry into Africa. This deal was awarded Deal of the Year 2010 by DealMakers;
The sale of Barclays' Africa subsidiaries to Absa - the largest cross-border African M&A transaction in 2013;
Woolworths' take-over of David Jones in Australia valued at AUD 2,14 billion. This deal was awarded Deal of the Year 2014 by DealMakers;
AB InBev's take-over of SABMiller in 2015 - the largest transaction ever to be done in Africa. This deal was awarded Deal of the Year 2015 by DealMakers;
Vodacom’s purchase of Vodafone's interest in Kenya’s Safaricom for ZAR 35 billion. This deal was awarded Deal of the Year 2017 by DealMakers;
Sibanye Stillwater in its USD 500 million streaming transaction with Wheaton Precious Metals International in 2018;
The managed separation of Old Mutual and its primary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in 2018 (involving 20 countries). This deal was awarded Deal of the Year 2018 by DealMakers; and
(Most recently) PepsiCo Inc’s purchase of Pioneer Foods, valued at ZAR 25 billion. This deal was awarded Deal of the Year 2019 by DealMakers.
“The Legal DealMaker of the Decade award is really significant because it reflects consistent effort in high value transactional work over an extended period of time,” says Christo Els, the law firm’s senior partner.
“It shows our clients trust us with their largest and most important mandates and highlights our incredible track-record of getting big deals done on the continent” says Els, “It also reflects that our clients are receiving the best possible service from our client teams and the exceptional quality of people who work at Webber Wentzel.”
"The award recognises our last 10 years of success – but underpinning that is our firm's deep history. We have over 150 years of experience, knowledge and relationships which enables us to achieve what we do for our clients."
When asked how Webber Wentzel makes these multi-billion-rand (and, in some cases trillion rand) deals, happen, Els advised:
“On any one transaction there could be a 50 to 70 person team involved with deep expertise, from a multitude of disciplines – working upfront and behind the scenes to get it all done (and done timeously). Much of the big work we advise on has a multi-jurisdictional element, where we partner with our leading relationship firms throughout sub-Saharan Africa. We have worked together over many years and are able to harness the strength of these relationships for our clients doing business in Africa. Many transactions cover up to 15 jurisdictions which makes these partnerships a big part of the success story.”
He added: "Currently, Webber Wentzel is involved in several matters across multiple African jurisdictions. Besides South Africa, other jurisdictions of current interest include Mozambique, Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana. The firm is also involved in a few deals in West Africa and there is always interest in opportunities in Nigeria. The retail, financial services and telecommunications sectors are often focus areas for investors on the continent – offering significant potential returns from large consumers bases. Mining and energy are also core sectors for investors."
When asked about doing business in Africa and Africa trends, Els said:
“Doing business in Africa is no different to any other part of the world. Big deals are more about ‘opportunity of the investment’ than any one thing that is ‘country specific’”.
Els added, "Currently, the largest transactions in Africa are probably in South Africa but the volume of transactions outside of South Africa is increasing across the continent. Investor interest in Africa seems to go through peaks and troughs, depending on international risk appetite and some domestic issues. We are now seeing a renewed interest in Africa-focused transactions and a lot of discussion related to potential opportunities which may flow from the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. On the ground, we see foreign multinationals preferring to make acquisitions to enter and grow into Africa over making greenfield investments. Investors seem to favour obtaining an immediate foothold and partnering with local businesses than going in alone into unknown territories. These partnerships, by and large, seem to be more successful in the long run than those that enter new territories alone” he added.
For attracting big money and investment into Africa, Els says that the old staples always remain relevant. “For any would be investor, there must be certainty and rule of law in a country. It's also a significant advantage if other regulatory institutions have clear and certain regulation.”
Webber Wentzel also won the DealMakers:
Legal Adviser of the Year 2019 - M&A - by Deal Value;
Legal Adviser of the Year 2019 - M&A - by Deal Flow; and
Legal Adviser of the Year 2019 - General Corporate Finance - by Deal Value.
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