LPresident Enrique Peña Nieto’s reforms, particularly in the energy sector, have caused something of a rush to Mexico by international law firms. There has been a spike in hiring and in tie-ups with local firms.
Hogan Lovells announced a partnership with local firm Barrera, Siqueiros y Torres Landa (BSTL) in July. Holland and Knight hired for its newly-opened Mexico City office in February. Haynes and Boone said it was in “aggressive pursuit” of Mexican lawyers when it announced a bundle of new additions to its Mexico team in March.
Ritch Mueller has continued to work on many of the biggest and most important deals in Mexico without being tied to any particular international firm. Thomas Mueller-Gastell, a partner since 1987, chuckles when asked if his firm could form a venture along the lines of what BSTL has done with Hogan Lovells. “That’s the $64,000 question,” he says.
“We are seeing law firms, which before were not interested in Mexico […] now looking very closely.”
While he says Ritch Mueller is expanding its cross-border, syndicated loan and real estate franchises, he is keen for the firm to maintain the freedom to choose whom it partners with on deals on a flexible, ad hoc basis. “Once you partner with one firm, you are exclusive and the other firms won’t look at you anymore,” he says.
Mueller-Gastell notes that economic growth in Mexico continued to disappoint for much of the period of these awards. Still, he says the country has performed particularly well, as Mexico’s attractions for investors looked all the more enticing given the growing problems elsewhere in emerging markets.
“Mexico has benefited from that tendency to a certain extent,” he says, speaking of economic and political volatility in Brazil, Russia and elsewhere. “Expectations for economic growth in 2014 [in Mexico] were kind of dampened a bit. They were higher at the beginning of the year, but for us at the law firm, it has worked out to be a good year.”
Among the deals on which the firm worked in the awards period was the $1.01 billion initial public offering for dairy firm Grupo Lala: the largest IPO in Mexico during the period. The issuance was priced at the top of its range, and investors put in orders for almost eight times the size. Mexican banks and investors grabbed more than half the issue.
Ritch Mueller also advised on Sigma Alimentos’ $1 billion term loan to finance the acquisition of Spanish food producer Campofrio. The deal won LatinFinance’s Syndicated Loan of the Year award. It also advised on the $1 billion/€400 million dual tranche deal for Cemex that wins High-Yield Bond of the Year.
The firm advised, too, on baker Grupo Bimbo’s 10- and 30-year bond deal in June, worth a collective $1.3 billion, that drew an order book of around $10 billion. The issuance was Bimbo’s first cross-border bond since January 2012, and followed the bread maker’s close of an acquisition of Canada Bread for $1.7 billion a month earlier. “Mexico has been the darling of Wall Street in the last year,” concludes Mueller-Gastell. “There is a lot of new activity going around.” LF
WINNER: Ritch, Mueller, Heather y Nicolau