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February 3, 2010 5:10 PM

Mourant and Ozannes Merge to Create Offshore Giant

Posted by Brian Baxter

Seychelles Legal Week reports that an announced merger between leading Channel Island firms Mourant du Feu & Jeune and Ozannes will create the world's third-largest offshore firm with roughly 200 lawyers and 50 partners.

According to Legal Week, once the merger is completed by May 1, the new firm will be called Mourant Ozannes. The firm will have offices in London, the Cayman Islands, and the U.K. dependencies of Guernsey and Jersey in the Channel Islands.

Mergers are relatively common between offshore firms, but the nuptials between Mourant and Ozannes comes at a time of increased competition in the offshore arena.

Rival offshore firm Appleby announced earlier this month that it would open an office in Guernsey this spring after luring four lawyers from Ozannes. It is the latest in a string of office openings--from Bahrain to Zurich--by 210-lawyer Appleby this past year.

Appleby's opening in the Seychelles in June of last year was a first for an international law firm. Another launch on the Isle of Man came after Appleby merged with 38-lawyer shop Dickinson Cruickshank. (Appleby itself was created through a series of mergers between Bermuda firm Appleby Spurling Kemp, Cayman Islands firm Hunter & Hunter, and Jersey firm Bailhache Labesse; Appleby now has 12 offices worldwide.)

Another offshore rival, Bermuda-based Conyers Dill & Pearman, followed Appleby's lead by announcing that it would branch out into the Channel Islands this summer either through an office opening or merger with a local firm.

The merger between Mourant and Ozannes creates a firm that will rise to the top of what has been termed an emerging "offshore magic circle."

Other firms competing in that category are British Virgin Islands-based Harney Westwood & Riegels, Channel Islands shop Carey Olsen, Cayman Islands-based Maples and Calder and Walkers, and Jersey-based Bedell Cristin and Ogier, which just announced plans to expand to Hong Kong.

Mourant and Ozannes claim that as a result of their merger, the combined operation will advise more investment funds than any other firm in the Channel Islands. Mourant Ozannes will be run by a management committee comprised of individuals from both firms.

As part of a strategic growth plan, Mourant shuttered its New York office a year ago and announced plans to sell its private wealth management unit to the Royal Bank of Canada. Boston-based financial services firm State Street announced in December an all-cash deal to acquire Mourant's fund administration subsidiary.

Completion of that deal is subject to regulatory approval, as is any final merger between Mourant and Ozannes.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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