South African independent Werksmans Attorneys, part of the Lex Africa Group, has welcomed back banking and finance lawyers Chris Moraitis and Astrid Berman as directors. The pair makes the move from Baker & McKenzie's Johannesburg office after initially leaving the firm in 2012 to join Dewey & LeBoeuf, then joining Baker's later that year. They bring with them banking and finance expertise as well as experience in public-private partnerships (PPP) and projects.
Werskmans also announced the recruitment of Peter Mason from Absa Capital, where he acted as corporate and investment bank counsel, and Jason Smit from the beleaguered Brink Falcon Hume, which lost two directors to Webber Wentzel earlier this month. Smit headed up the firm's litigation practice and now joins Werksmans' engineering and construction practice.
Former Werksmans director Wildu du Plessis will remain at Baker & McKenzie, where he co-manages the Johannesburg office.
The hires are significant in the sense that many of the big South African firms have been beefing up their capacity in order to scoop up mandates in the projects market. Government programmes have driven forward transactions in energy (primarily in renewables, so far) and infrastructure and precipitated a huge growth in project financing, with knock-on effects to related practice areas such as construction and engineering. They are also an important boost to Werksmans, which is generally seen as having one of South Africa's most active M&A practices.
Currently in South Africa the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP) has entered its fourth procurement phase and the government is on the cusp of releasing requests for proposals (RFP) for a base load procurement programme. The country also has a nascent nuclear power procurement programme.