Two private-equity-focused boutiques in Paris have merged to create a 50-lawyer firm dedicated to midmarket PE and mergers and acquisitions transactions in the French market, a sector that is showing growth despite recent skittishness in some parts of the M&A market in Europe, according to one of the founding partners.
The new firm combines Mermoz Avocats, a 31-lawyer firm launched in January, and HPML, a 19-lawyer firm created in 2000. It will keep the Mermoz name and operate out of offices in Paris, Lyon and Brussels.
The enlarged Mermoz comprises 15 partners, four counsel and 31 associates spread among six practice groups: corporate finance (PE/M&A/finance); tax; antitrust and competition; commercial contracts, data privacy and litigation; restructuring and litigation; and employment.
Nada Sbaï and Thomas Hermetet, both partners from HPML, said in a statement that combining with Mermoz “seems to us an obvious choice to fuel our growth and to propel us to greater heights.”
Two of the new Mermoz partners from HPML have Big Law experience. Aurélie Bonsch, a PE/M&A partner, practiced early in her career at Eversheds in Paris. Nicolas Privat, a tax partner, practiced at EY Société d’Avocats in Paris and New York, according to a statement from Mermoz.
Philippe Rolland, a tax partner, has experience in the French finance ministry as an auditor specializing in small and medium enterprises.
The two firms have worked together on more than 15 transactions since the beginning of the year, including several high-profile LBOs in the French market.
The merger, which has been in discussion since the end of last year, will allow the combined entity to take advantage of a growing market for midsized PE deals—those valued at between €20 million and €200 million—and maintain standards through the growth, Tristan Segonds, a Mermoz founding partner, told Law.com International.
“Part of the purpose of the merger is making sure we have the resources, so our clients are happy with the service we provide,” Segonds said in an interview.
“A lot of our clients are investment funds, and they have been as active in 2022 as they were in 2021, which was a record year,” he said. “Just last week, clients came to us with five new deals to do before the end of July. It feels like an acceleration.”
Corporate finance—the largest practice group, with 23 lawyers, including nine partners—is “the heart of the firm,” Segonds said. The other practice areas support the PE team as well as work with their own clients, he said.
All of the practice groups except antitrust were part of the original Mermoz. The firm added a seven-person antitrust team from Fidal in February, just a month after its founding.
“As we do more deals at the larger end of our range, competition and antitrust is becoming a more important area to have,” Segonds said.
Education, intellectual property and data privacy, and health care are the sectors where the French market for private equity deals is still growing strong, he said, while food and some industrial sectors are experiencing some “wait-and-see,” largely because of uncertainty around energy costs and inflation, partly due to the war in Ukraine.