It means that if I have a client who needs legal advice in another jurisdiction, the likelihood is that there’ll be an Interlaw firm in that jurisdiction who can help. Of course it also means that we receive referrals of work from other jurisdictions too, so we end up handling interesting and varied international work.
Having already admitted to having a spectacular view of the snow-capped Alps for the duration of my Swiss trip I’m not expecting any sympathy, but after only half a day in Lucerne I came down with one of those vicious colds (lesser mortals may have called it ‘man flu’) that hits you like a train, leaves you feeling as though you’ve gone ten rounds with Joe Louis (as my Dad would say), and makes your nose very sore from constant blowing. I spent the latter half of the conference with what felt like a hangover but wasn’t. It was therefore a great relief when, on Wednesday morning, we were taken on a walking tour of Lucerne culminating in a visit to a Swiss coffee shop for a warming drink. Most of the delegates opted for the usual latté or cappuccino (and one, bizarrely, even went for a green tea). However, our host, who could see that I was suffering, suggested (purely for medicinal reasons of course) that I should (in fact must) have a Kaffee Träsche. Not wanting to offend my host by questioning his choice I accepted the kind offer and was thrilled to discover that Kaffee Träsche comprises equal measures of schnapps and coffee and comes in a tall glass containing about half a pint of the steaming liquid. It was heaven, and after only a few sips I felt infinitely better. My cold was still there, but quite frankly I couldn’t have cared less and I went back to the hotel feeling thoroughly rejuvenated, if a little light-headed. The M&A Team meeting later that day was an even bigger success than I suspect would have been the case without Kaffee Träsche, and I’m a convert. It certainly beats Night Nurse hands down.
The subject of the M&A meeting was the flow of funds around the world and an analysis of the extent to which Interlaw firms are involved in advising foreign investors on investments into their own jurisdictions. The meeting included over thirty delegates from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Korea, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, USA and Vietnam and it was quite staggering how many of the delegates had advised on investments into their respective countries by foreign investors. Because of the time constraints in the meeting we weren’t able to carry out much more than a glorified straw poll of investment activity, but it’s clear that private equity is a busy market just now, and that’s certainly our experience here in Morton Fraser’s Corporate Team.
Part of the M&A meeting was also given over to presentations by Interlaw firms in Vietnam and China. As you might expect, many of the issues that crop up on M&A deals in those countries are very similar to the ones we experience here: the need to carry out adequate due diligence on acquisition targets, the need to analyse competition/anti-trust restrictions affecting the acquisition target, working out how to grant security to the funder, exploring the tax consequences etc. However, one issue that our Vietnamese colleagues encounter, which doesn’t happen here, is the lack of a central register of companies, equivalent to our Companies House. Companies House has, over the 22 years that I’ve dealt with it, been the subject of the occasional bad press, normally the result of minor delays in filing or documents going missing. However, I have to say that I’ve always enjoyed a happy relationship with the institution; even in the pre-internet days as a trainee in Newcastle when hours were spent poring over Companies House microfiches that arrived by post in a special envelope three days after a telephone order was placed. Trainees nowadays don’t know they’re born with the ability to do an immediate online search without ever straining their eyes at a microfiche reader. Having heard my Vietnamese friend’s tales of having to search in anything up to 33 separate district company registries in a country that’s over 1,000 miles long and split into 58 provinces, I’ll never again complain when the Companies House website takes five seconds to download rather than three.
Once my co-chair and I have finished our post-conference analysis of all of the data that we collected on international investment I’ll share it with you in a future blog. In the meantime, if anyone is suffering from man flu, a cold, a broken leg or indeed any ailment whatsoever, try a large Kaffee Träsche. It won’t cure you, but it’ll certainly take your mind off your condition for an hour or two.