New Zealand

Reviews

Practice area

IFLR1000 Reviews

Overview

Solicitors governing body: New Zealand Law Society 

Competition authority: Commerce Commission 

Financial regulator: Financial Markets Authority (FMA) 

IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:

Financial and corporate (published October) – Banking and finance, Capital markets, M&A, Project Development, Restructuring and insolvency 

Jurisdiction overview

Even though New Zealand has had its own courts since the middle of the 19th century, its judicial system didn’t become completely independent until 2003 when the Supreme Court replaced the British Privy Council as the country’s final court of appeal. As a former British colony, its legal system is heavily based on English common law.

New Zealand’s financial and corporate legal market is small, independent and stable. It’s full of familiar names that cover a broad range of practice areas, and within this constrained setting competition is high. Because of its small size and the strength of the local market, international firms prefer to refer matters to the strong domestic firms.

Traditionally, the market has described Bell Gully, Chapman Tripp and Russell McVeagh as the ‘Big Three’ perched atop the legal market. However, this perception is increasingly being challenged by the claim that it is only the perception that creates the distance and that it’s not matched by reality. Firms such as Minter Ellison Rudd Watts and Buddle Findlay are working hard to narrow the gap. 

Adam Majeed - Asia-Pacific Editor

IFLR1000 2019: Australasia market trends and developments

Financial and corporate
Anthony Harper

Anthony Harper serves domestic and international clients in 26 practice areas, including in joint ventures, M&As, and restructuring mandates. The firm has been operating for over 150 years with 77 lawyers in total.

The firm’s banking and finance practice is best known for property finance and has experience in dealing with different banking transactions. Members of Anthony Harper sit on the advisory panels of a number of international banks. Additionally, the firm’s M&A practice has a strong volume flow acting on an average of 50 M&A transactions per year.

Recent staffing changes witnessed the inclusion of Nick Summerfield to the firm’s financial services practice from Kensington Swan. 

Recent Deal Data highlights

•Emergent Cold NZ$151.4 million acquisition of Scales Corporation's cold storage businesses

•Forex Brokers insolvency

•Intercivil Group insolvency

•Northern Crest Investments insolvency

•Scales Corporation NZ$30 million joint venture with Alliance Group

•Synlait Milk NZ$40 million acquisition of Talbot Forest Cheese’s assets and property 

Client feedback

“I'm extremely happy with the service received. Anthony Harper are extremely obliging, accurate and helpful.” - Banking

“The firm has superb communication, support, speed and business acumen.” – M&A

"Brilliant to work with. Responsive, very commercial, well versed in risk and commercial transactions. Like that they have specialists in different areas." – M&A

“Very thorough but also commercial.” – M&A

“Anthony Harper are cost effective, quick and pragmatic.” – M&A

“Anthony Harper provides an excellent service overall, from a knowledge point-of-view and also covering the wider service delivery. It is a highly valued advisor to the company.” – M&A

“Anthony Harper made a concerted effort to have a thorough understanding of our industry in New Zealand which is unique due to "grey imports". Its strengths lie in its ability to engage the correct partner for the correct task.” – Project development

“The firm understands our business, and understands our desire for risk.” – Project development

“We achieved a better collection ration than expected.” – Restructuring and insolvency

“An excellent law firm with a strong litigation department and similar fire power to the departments of the largest five New Zealand law firms.” – Restructuring and insolvency

“The banking and insolvency team are exceptional. It is very responsive and provides timely and respected advice and assistance. It is efficient in its processes and cost effective. Anthony Harper has, what I would consider to be, a full range of expertise in all legal fields.” – Restructuring and insolvency

“Sensible and pragmatic.” – Restructuring and insolvency

 

Bell Gully

Bell Gully is one of New Zealand’s strongest firms, performing consistently well across banking and finance, M&A, capital markets, project development and restructuring and insolvency. 

Alongside acquisition finance work, the firm has also been engaged with the continuous demand for New Zealand dollar-denominated debt by offshore issuers, and securitisations.

A strong M&A market has kept the firm busy with it acting in the largest takeover undertaken to date in the country via scheme of arrangement and in one of New Zealand’s largest M&A transactions on record.

Despite a short-term slowdown in projects work the firm has been in demand as New Zealand’s infrastructure needs form part of a longer-term story. 

In the research period the firm lost partner Tom Bennett to Buddle Findlay. 

Recent Deal Data highlights

·         Apax Partners NZ$2.56 billion acquisition of Trade Me

·         Auckland City Rail Link

·         CBL Insurance insolvency

·         Haier 690 $856 million acquisition of Haier New Zealand Investment Holding Company

·         Infratil and Brookfield Asset Management NZ$3.4 billion acquisition of Vodafone New Zealand 

Buddle Findlay

Buddle Findlay is a full service firm with a very strong finance practice and excels in restructuring and insolvency owing to its strong networks in banking and professional services.

The firm has been busy across a range of practice areas recently. It has acted in energy financing mandates; the first green bond issued by a New Zealand corporate; the insolvency of New Zealand’s largest and oldest provider of credit surety and financial risk; and in one of the largest construction projects to be undertaken in the Northland region.

In the research period the firm brought in projects partner Tom Bennett from Bell Gully but lost finance partner Frank Porter who set up his own firm.

Recent Deal Data highlights 

·         CBL Insurance insolvency 

·         Contact Energy $69 million green bond issue

·         Ngawha geothermal power plant expansion

·         Village Life Energy Upolu waste-to-energy plant

·         Top Energy NZ$355 million syndicated loan

Chapman Tripp

Chapman Tripp is among the leading firms in New Zealand, especially in capital markets and restructuring and insolvency.   

In the research period the firm acted in the market’s only residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) transaction last year; one of largest and complex corporate insolvencies in New Zealand of late; and the largest corporate issuance on New Zealand’s debt market.  

Recent Deal Data highlights   

•Avanti Finance NZ$200 million RMBS 

•CBL Insurance insolvency  

•Chorus New Zealand NZ$500 million bond issue   

•Xero $300 million convertible bond issue  

•Christchurch International Airport $100 million bond issue 

Client feedback

"Chapman Tripp has one of the strongest national finance practices with excellent lawyers in Auckland and Wellington. You always know with Chapman Tripp that you will be getting the 'A Team' on a transaction given the strong depth of talent across its network." - Banking

"Excellent, as always. Chapman Tripp embodies the 'safe pair of hands' and 'trusted advisor' roles that we have come to expect." – Capital markets: Debt

"It has a great understanding of the client and its drivers. It also has great knowledge of real estate (the asset being invested in) and are able to match this to the issues raised by an equity raising." – Capital markets: Equity

"Excellent work. Astute advice with a clear commercial focus. Able to separate what the 'law' was vs what could be achieved commercially. Strong bench and able to throw a lot of resource at a transaction." – M&A

"Highly professional and hard-working. Experts in all relevant fields. Advice was clear and commercial." – M&A

"Strong team of partners across multiple disciplines. No particular weaknesses other than turnover of junior staff which is pretty typical." – Private equity 

"Chapman Tripp did a good job. It was able to take a practical approach and were able to appreciate the commercial realities of the negotiations and provide sensible advice regarding the legal risks. In terms of billing I never felt that we were being billed for time that wasn't related to delivery of the specific objectives." – Private equity

"Very strong law firm. Practical and well thought out advice with a collaborative approach towards achieving the best outcome." – Restructuring and insolvency

"Very professional and efficient. It has great ability to distill complex scenarios and solutions down to clear and concise positions." – Restructuring and insolvency

Rachel Dunne

"Excellent. Truly top grade. Very commercial and much focused."

Pip England

"Pip is an expert in property funds and really understands the drivers and risks of real estate."

Jeremy Gray

"Jeremy provides straight to the point legal analysis and is efficient with both his time and mine. Generally he identifies problems but also solutions and a path forward."

Michael Harper

"Exceptional. Provided great advice to private equity owners, company, and executives."

"One of New Zealand's leading R&I lawyers. Approaches everything with a workout culture (rather than an insolvency focus). He's well connected which helps achieve positive outcomes."

Gerard Souness

"As a new partner, Gerard has quickly earned a reputation as a strong, reliable negotiator. He is approachable and very pleasant to deal with and understands the importance of client relationships. The Chapman Tripp partnership has been significantly strengthened through his promotion."

Emma Sutcliffe

"Emma is clearly one of the top tier lawyers in NZ for her area of expertise. She is a thoroughly experienced and capable lawyer, combined with sharp commercial acumen and practical ability."

Tim Tubman

"Excellent advice, always available and responsive. Able to efficiently coordinate a large team."

 

K3 Legal

In early 2017, Auckland-based K3 Legal rebranded from Kirkland Morrison O’Callahan to adopt the ‘K3’ model. 

The firm works closely with its brand partners, K3 Accounting and K3 Consulting, to provide clients with a rounded service in the context of its litigation capabilities within a boutique practice. 

The firm is comprised of five lawyers and four legal assistants, and specialises in dispute resolution, and restructuring and insolvency.

Recent staffing changes include the departure of director and co-founder, Brent O’Callahan, who left for the bar in March 2019.

Recent Deal Data highlights

•Mainzeal Property and Construction insolvency

Client feedback

“K3 Legal has sensible and pragmatic lawyers.” – Restructuring and insolvency

 

Kensington Swan

Kensington Swan is a solid transactional law firm across the board. The firm’s corporate and finance practice is diversified, and it has a specialised China business group that assists Chinese entrants into the New Zealand market.

During the research period the firm was busy in the debt capital markets and advised on only the second ever green bond issuance in New Zealand. Its finance practice kept active with acquisition, social infrastructure and real estate financing mandates, while its corporate team received instructions in the financial services, real estate, and food and beverage industries.

Kensington Swan’s projects team were preoccupied with construction, real estate, social infrastructure and transport mandates, while the restructuring and insolvency team acted in a number of notable receiverships and liquidations.

At the start of the year the firm brought in commercial property and construction partner Paula Ormandy from Bell Gully, but it lost M&A partner Aaron Patience who left to head Simmons & Simmons Tokyo office.

In August 2019, Kensington Swan combined with global firm Dentons in a rare international entry into New Zealand’s legal market, easily becoming the largest international firm in the country. 

Recent Deal Data highlights   

•Argosy Property NZ$100 million green bond issue  

•Central Interceptor project 

•HydroWorks insolvency

•Nishi Sake Brewing NZ$8.8 million acquisition of Urlar Farms business and assets

•Northern Corridor Improvement project 

Client feedback

"Nick Scott and his team have consistently provided excellent advice with a very focused customer service approach. It responds to short timelines while maintaining comprehensive quality opinions." – Banking and finance

"Kensington Swan is excellent. Nobody likes paying fees, but Kensington Swan provides relatively good value for money." – M&A

"We have thoroughly enjoyed working with Kensington Swan's corporate team. It is very professional, always responsive, client-focused, and pragmatic. Our transaction has proven to be rather complex because it involves three jurisdictions and multi-stages and the vendor has been very demanding. Our lawyers have made it as easy as possible for us. The firm is really great at bridging the legal differences involved as it is well-versed with the gaps between common law and civil law systems. Kensington Swan are our 'go-to' lawyers. We highly recommend it because the firm is fantastic to work with." – M&A

"The firm is our first port-of-call whenever we require legal advice. It is highly motivated, client-oriented and very professional. We always receive first-class advice. We do not consider that others in the market will serve us better than Kensington Swan." – Project development

"The firm demonstrates an excellent understanding of our business and the legislative constraints affecting our area of the business. It is particularly easy to do business with and have a number of industry leaders." – Project development

Heida Donegan

"Heida has been helpful to us in starting our business in Auckland since 2016. She carried out the constitution of our company, and drafted the employment contract for us. She also provided full services to our project investment. I was deeply impressed by her wisdom and professional services."

"Heida is very professional, knowledgeable, client-oriented, has significant international experience to deal with complex cross-border transactions and difficult counterparts. She is very patient. Her business acumen, ability to bridge legal differences and interpersonal skills are critical for closing our cross-border deal."

"Heida is very professional, responsive, and offers excellent client care."

John Meads

"John is very focused on an outcome and in delivering value to me as the client."

Matthew Ockleston

"Matthew is an industry leader in the Public Works Act, is extremely easy to deal with and excellent at communicating pragmatic solutions.  Matthew is the first person I think of when I need legal advice in this area."

Nick Scott

"Nick leads his competent team in a highly professional manner."

David Shillson

"David is committed to excellent service to his clients. He prioritises availability, and offers excellent overall value for money with innovative solutions for clients."

 

Lowndes

Lowndes is a specialist corporate and commercial law firm based in New Zealand. In its 22 years of operation, it places emphasis on tight-knit teams and a personal client focus to attract senior lawyers from other top firms. The firm has initiated a number of programmes since its inception, including a ‘parents in law’ programme that promotes efficient delivery of services through remote working technology and a commitment to sustainability.

The firm’s expertise centres around corporate and commercial transactions and M&A. Practitioners at the firm specialise in sectors such as technology, telecommunications and shipping. Lowndes in multilingual with capabilities in five languages and harnesses its international focus through its membership to multiple global organisations, including the International Bar Association and LegaLink.

Recent Deal Data highlights

•Green & McCahill Holdings NZ$140 million financing

•Money 3 Corporation $16 million acquisition of Go Car Finance

•SIS Australia Group NZ$1.34 million acquisition of majority stake in Platform 4 Group

•Turners Automotive Group NZ$30 million bond issue

Client feedback

“Lowndes has a strong banking and commercial law team.” – Banking

"The Lowndes team are great. It is very responsive, thorough and pragmatic in its advice and document preparation.” – Investment funds

“Lowndes provides excellent service. It is very client focused and has great attention to detail.” – M&A

"Good advice and a very personable delivery." – M&A

"It was professional and thorough and we felt we were fully protected." – M&A

"High quality, accurate advice, which can be utilised on a practical and commercial level. Timely and on point." – Project finance

"Outstanding, with work completed on time in a clear and concise manner, and within estimated and agreed budgets." – Project finance

"Very proactive, very good communication, always on point, and excellent attention to detail." – Restructuring and insolvency

"The firm was excellent. It needs improvement in no areas." – Restructuring and insolvency

 

Mayne Wetherell

Auckland boutique Mayne Wetherell is one of New Zealand’s strongest finance firms and enjoys a particularly strong reputation in securitisation work. The firm is on the legal panel of New Zealand’s top banks, and provides banking and finance advice to Fonterra Co-operative Group, Auckland International Airport and Transpower.  

In the research period the firm has kept busy with an array of bond work, refinancing mandates, aircraft finance, and securitisation work including the market’s only residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) transaction in 2018.   

Recent Deal Data highlights   

•Auckland Council NZ$200 million green bond issue  

•Avanti Finance NZ$200 million RMBS 

•Fonterra Co-operative Group Rmb600 million term loan 

•Latitude Financial Services NZ$200 million credit card master trust securitisation programme   

•Two Degrees Mobile $250 million refinancing   

Client feedback

"The firm provides an exceptional service. It is extremely responsive with great attention to detail, superb technical skills, and outstanding commercial/strategic acumen."  - Banking

"It was excellent. The transaction was complex and required a deep technical knowledge base and the ability to work to tight deadlines." – Banking 

"Exceptional service. Outstanding advice, early engagement on structure and key legal issues, support around commercial negotiation and insight into latest market changes and best practice. Great delivery under a tight timetable." – Banking

"Mayne Wetherell provides excellent service and responsiveness." – Capital markets: Debt

"We enjoy working with the firm and find it to be an excellent firm for what we do." – Capital markets: Equity

"Mayne Wetherell continues to provide proactive, expert and strategic advice in relation to both M&A and banking services provided to our business. The team is without doubt experts in their fields of expertise and are able to draw on a wealth of experience to provide both technical and strategic advice." – M&A

Michael Harrod

"Michael is very flexible, works hard, and understands all aspects of commercial transactions."

Mei Nah

"Excellent knowledge and experience.  She's responsive and accommodating of client requirements."

"Great customer service and responsiveness.  She is nice to work with."

Michael Pritchard

"Very clear, concise and focused advice on the points that matter. Committed to the overall success of the work engaged on, and our business - a genuine partner in what we are seeking to achieve for our customers and shareholders."

Will Tipping

"Will is the leading banking and finance lawyer in the New Zealand market and I would highly recommend him."

Dave Wetherell

"Exceptional and no need for performance improvement. Lower fees would be helpful as we get some resistance internally since he costs more than other firms in NZ."

"Legend in the industry. Someone you can trust to always deliver. Great deal maker. Innovative and brilliant at making connections. Exceptional legal prowess with extensive practical experience."

 

MinterEllisonRuddWatts

MinterEllisonRuddWatts is a solid performer across the financial and corporate space, but its prized restructuring and insolvency practice sets it apart from its competitors.

The firm had a role in all of the major insolvencies in the past year, including in the collapse of Mainzeal Property and Construction, which was one of the largest players in New Zealand's construction industry. The firm also sit on the panels of all of New Zealand’s largest trading banks and has strong expertise in infrastructure financings having acted on many of New Zealand’s prominent PPPs. 

Recent Deal Data highlights

·         Auckland NZ$3.4 billion City Rail Link

·         Blackstone $635 million acquisition of Wynyard Quarter portfolio

·         CITIC Capital NZ$200 million acquisition of Trilogy International

·         Mainzeal Property and Construction insolvency

Russell McVeagh

Traditionally one of the ‘big three’ firms in New Zealand, Russell McVeagh is historically strong and widely recognised for its transactional work.   

The firm has had a strong year across capital markets, M&A, restructuring and insolvency and project development. It acted on the largest ever takeover in New Zealand through a scheme of arrangement; the first green bond issued under a regulated offer by a New Zealand corporate entity; the largest single issue of bonds in the New Zealand domestic debt market by a non-sovereign issuer; one of the largest insolvency mandates available to the market; and some top infrastructure projects.

There have been personnel changes in the past year as the firm was hit with the big loss of Pip Greenwood who decided to pursue directorship roles. Additionally, partner John-Paul Rice departed to establish a finance boutique and partner Bronwyn Carruthers left for the independent bar.

Recent Deal Data highlights

·         Auckland City Rail Link

·         Apax Partners NZ$2.56 billion acquisition of Trade Me

·         CBL Insurance insolvency

·         Carlyle Group A$1 billion acquisition of Accolade Wines Group

·         New Zealand Local Government Funding Agency NZ$1 billion bond issue

Tompkins Wake

Hamilton-headquartered Tompkins Wake was founded in 1922 and also has offices in Auckland, Rotorua, and Tauranga. The firm counts over 60 lawyers with expertise in transactional financing work, corporate advisory, financial services and markets, commercial property and litigation. 

Tompkins Wake regularly acts for banks, financial institutions, investment firms, private clients, developers, investors, property funds and local government authorities both locally and internationally. Its membership with First Law International gives it access to a global network of over 80 law firms.

Client feedback

"Tompkins Wake offers practical commercial advice in a timely and effective way." – Banking

"The firm gave us clear reasons and are clearly articulate. Excellent." - Banking

 

Vince & Rice

Lawyers Kyra Vince and John-Paul Rice, who have a combined total of over 30 years’ experience in global financing and restructuring, established Vince & Rice in December 2018. 

The firm specialises in banking, debt capital markets, acquisition finance, project finance, property and development finance, restructuring and insolvency, structured finance and financial services regulations.

John-Paul Rice left the partnership of Russell McVeagh in late 2018 in order to establish the firm, while restructuring and insolvency lawyer Kyra Vince joined from Bell Gully.

Recent Deal Data highlights

•Arrow International NZ$28 million financial restructuring

•Manuka Health NZ$140 million refinancing 

Client feedback

"The firm's performance has been excellent and I would highly recommend them. It benchmarks alongside the larger New Zealand firms." – Banking

"Great communication and grasp of the matters requiring resolution following the appointment of the administrator to the construction company. Clear schedule of matters requiring close out provided and potential issues that may arise so we could front foot them. Direct input of partner at all times which was refreshing.  Reasonable fees." – Restructuring and insolvency

 

Webb Henderson

Webb Henderson provides legal advice in financial and corporate matters, competition and disputes, with strength in the telecommunications and media industries. The team is made up of four partners and ten lawyers, all experienced in M&A and energy and infrastructure transactions.

The firm’s clients include blue-chip companies in New Zealand and overseas, as well as managed funds. 

Recent staffing changes include the addition of Megan Roberts from Clifford Chance in early 2019.

Recent Deal Data highlights

•Finaccess Capital NZ$881 million acquisition of Restaurant Brands New Zealand 

•Fonterra acquisition of Beingmate’s Darnum plant and related assets

•JCDecaux A$1.2 billion acquisition of APN Outdoor Group

•Michael Morton NZ$8 million acquisition of Mad Butcher

Client feedback

"They are good listeners and communicators, prioritise well, and are commercial and responsive. Individual team members work collaboratively together." – M&A

"I have only positive comments relating to the work it did. The firm focused on the outcome and provided extremely good expertise to get us to the end result. It did this while working in a collaborative manner with the vendor's legal team ensuring the transaction happened efficiently." – M&A