This article was first published by ACQ5 on Friday, 6 February 2015 and the full article can be found online here.
"Sociable environment. Fruitful networking. The blend of speakers and topics made it a refreshing change from the monotone seminar." So said Benedicte Leroy, of Ontex, Belgium to Conference Chairman Simon Rous, corporate partner at Ashfords LLP.
The Conference is an annual event attracting delegates from around the world who congregate to share insights into the legal, cultural and practical differences in the conduct of M&A transactions across national boundaries.
This year the Sunday evening dinner and drinks were held in the Sky Bar, giving the 130 attendees from 25 countries the opportunity to network in a dazzling setting overlooking St Paul's.
Building on the success of the 2014 Conference gave emphasis to business as well as legal topics, featuring a number of speakers from corporate finance, insurance and accountancy backgrounds as well as clients sharing first-hand experiences of merging and being merged. The Conference also fielded impressive speakers from the ADVOC the International Legal Network and Ashfords LLP.
Paul Beber, Corporate Finance Partner at Accountants, H W Fisher, reminded delegates of the importance of a strategic plan and the "three Cs - Culture, Culture, Culture". Toby Ryland, Tax Partner at H W Fisher, queried the need for tax havens with the UK corporate tax rate down to 20%. James Lyons, partner at Ashfords, provided insights on the early legal stages of M&A negotiations including lock-up and exclusivity.
Delegates were given a run through of Warranty and Indemnity Insurance by William Brooks from The Clear Group and Tim Davidson of Ironshore.
Wade Aust of C W Downer & Co, the Boston based independent, global investment bank, compared his experiences negotiating in China, India, Japan and Europe. Wade reminded delegates that less than 25% of acquisitions live up to expectation and that full attention must be given to post-merger integration and retention of the target management team.
Josh Blacher the CFO of Galmed Pharmaceuticals gave a useful insight into biotechnology and pharmaceutical M&As and IP licencing in the emerging markets. In 2014 the value of M&As in the pharmaceutical industry topped £260 billion. Delegates also learned about the rise and influence of Tech Hubs from Ayelet Mavor, the Deputy Director of the UK Israel Tech Hub and Ashfords private equity partner, Chris Dyson.
Bastien Guelton of the Diana Division of the Symrise Group gave the audience tips on post-merger integration based on his first-hand experience of the Diana-Symrise merger. Bastien's key message regarding integration was to give it full attention, its own budget and "do it faster"!
The ADVOC International Legal Panel sessions were particular highlights of the day. Panel members demonstrated how cultural distinctions can be as important as legal and commercial issues when negotiating a deal and how deals are variously structured in different jurisdictions. Alessandra Tarissi De Jacobis from Milan law firm Cocuzza said that "a different language is a different vision of life". She explained that Italian lawyers see M&A as a drama that needs a director. Luuk Hendricks from Netherlands firm Boels Zanders, emphasised the importance of cheese sandwiches in a Dutch negotiations, while Johannes Gruber from Munich law firm Seufert, explained that, whilst sandwiches may be present at a German negotiation, you should not expect any time in the schedule in which to eat them. John McKasson from Californian firm, McKasson & Klein, gave a useful breakdown of how to interact with lawyers depending on their geographic location within the USA.
The Conference was declared a huge success, delegates having enjoyed the opportunity to build relationships with new and existing contacts and expand their understanding of the M&A processes globally.