GCR 100 - 13th Edition

Norton Rose

05 December 2012

Australia

Another UK firm making impressive progress in Australia is Norton Rose. After merging with Deacons Australia in January 2010, the firm boasts five core competition partners across six cities, with three more partners working on competition alongside other practices. Experienced competition specialist and former ACCC counsel Nick McHugh now leads the group after Richard Lewis stepped down last June. Calum Henderson left the practice to join Johnson Winter & Slattery last June, but Norton Rose was boosted by the arrival of telecoms specialist Martyn Taylor from Gilbert + Tobin in September.

A mark of the practice’s standing is its reappointment to the ACCC’s panel in January, and Norton Rose is already advising the authority on several cartel and merger matters. The firm continues to advise Japan Airlines in the air cargo cartel proceedings, both civil and private. McHugh negotiated an A$5.5 million settlement with the ACCC. McHugh says the practice is particularly strong in the energy sector, and Norton Rose successfully defended Hydro Tasmania against abuse of dominance allegations brought by the ACCC, which were later dropped. The firm is also acting in several global cartel investigations.

Merger work is strong, with the firm advising brewer Asahi on its failed tie-up with P&N Beverages, and representing McKesson Asia-Pacific on its sale to Medibank in the pharmaceutical sector. Norton Rose also acted for Wagner in the acquisition of its cement and concrete businesses by Boral. McHugh is also advising the ACCC regarding clearance of APA Group’s A$800 million hostile takeover of the Epic Pipeline from Hastings Diversified Funds.

As with many practices, Norton Rose is active in access regulation, most notably advising Vodafone Hutchison Australia regarding the implementation of the National Broadband Network.

Canada

Observers in Canada say Norton Rose Canada is a firm on the rise. About a year after Norton Rose merged with Canadian firm Ogilvy Renault to enter the Canadian market, the firm then absorbed MacLeod Dixon, another Canadian law firm, picking up two competition specialists in Calgary to add to the Montreal and Toronto-based practice group. Who’s Who Legal nominee Denis Gascon continues to lead the team.

The Norton Rose antitrust group is advising clients in some of the most contentious litigations in Canada. It is acting for Citibank in the Competition Bureau’s price-fixing investigation regarding interest rate derivatives, including Libor. The team is also acting for Sharp Corporation in the LCD price-fixing investigation and follow-on class actions, as well as advising at least one company in the bureau’s price-fixing and bid-rigging investigation of the auto parts industry. On the merger front, the team acted for Petronas in its purchase of Canada’s Progress Energy, Royal DSM in its purchase of Ocean Nutrition Canada, and AbitibiBowater in its hostile takeover bid for Fibrek – all of which required competition and foreign investment reviews. Other clients include Costco, ArcelorMittal and Westco Group.

France

The competition team at Norton Rose specialises in the life sciences sectors; around 50 per cent of the firm’s work is carried out in those markets. Who’s Who Legal nominee Mélanie Thill-Tayara leads the practice, and she is supported by counsel Marta Giner and five associates. Thill-Tayara was recently appointed head of a new internal life sciences group for Europe and North Africa at Norton Rose.

The firm is advising sanofi-aventis in several litigation matters, and assisted Medtronic in a dawn raid by the competition authority. They also recently joined GDF Suez’s panel of competition counsel. Thill-Tayara advised Les Messageries Lyonnaises de Presse in its challenge against Presstalis’ acquisition of Soprocom.

Italy

Partner Andrea Zulli heads the competition practice of Norton Rose in Milan, assisted by two associates. The firm makes its first appearance in the survey this year. Competitors indicate Zulli, who previously spent nine years at Linklaters’ London office, as an up-and-coming lawyer with increasing market visibility. “He is capable and meticulous,” says a practitioner.

The team represented personal care multinational Beiersdorf in the appeal against a €3.5 million fine imposed on the company for its alleged participation in the cosmetics cartel. The appeals court later reduced the fine. The firm is also active on merger control matters, advising investment fund Fondo Italiano d’Investimento, owned by the government and the country’s largest banks, in its acquisitions. BNP Paribas, Royal Bank of Scotland and Samsung also rely on the firm for antitrust advice in other merger matters.

South Africa

Norton Rose extended its global footprint to South Africa by merging with Deneys Reitz in June 2011. Who’s Who Legal and GCR “40 under 40” nominee Heather Irvine leads the practice, which was bolstered by the return of economist Geoff Parr after two years as deputy chief economist for New Zealand’s Commerce Commission. The firm also hired senior associate Fergus Reid from South Africa’s Competition Commission.

The firm’s behavioural practice is thriving, with Norton Rose involved in two of the three major litigation cases in South Africa. Irvine is representing both fertiliser company Omnia and foam manufacturer Loungefoam in separate matters questioning the extent of the commission’s powers, both of which are likely to produce precedent-setting rulings.

Norton Rose also represented Gazelle in a plastic pipe cartel case that was eventually dropped, and it successfully defended Chevron against allegations of price fixing in the bitumen cartel matter; the case was dismissed. Partner Marianne Wagener also negotiated a 125 million rand settlement for client Afrisam, South Africa’s second-largest cement maker, in cartel proceedings.

Merger work has not slackened despite the amount of cartel cases. Irvine acted for three government ministries in their review of Walmart/Massmart, and also advised Actom in its merger with Savcio, the country’s largest electrical motor equipment repairer and manufacturer.

United Kingdom

Norton Rose’s highly regarded London competition team is led by partner Peter Scott and includes the firm’s practice head and Who’s Who Legal nominee Martin Coleman. Eleven associates complete the team, whose capabilities have increased enormously since the firm merged with several firms in Canada, South Africa and Australia over the past couple of years.

The Norton Rose London team acted for UK supermarket chain Asda in its successful appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal against the OFT’s decision to fine a number of manufacturers and supermarkets in the tobacco pricing case. Both the OFT’s substantive findings and the £14 million fine imposed were quashed.

The firm is also working for Pricewaterhouse Coopers in the UK Competition Commission’s investigation of the country’s auditing market. And Norton Rose is acting in a global capacity for a major automotive parts manufacturer involved in the various cartel investigations currently underway in multiple jurisdictions.

Other key Norton Rose clients include Arqiva, BMW, the Crown Estate, HSBC, Ofwat, Nestlé, PayPoint, Stena Line and Visa.

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