SNR, Salans and Canada's FMC set for triple merger under Dentons brand

SNR Denton, Salans and Canada’s Fraser Milner Casgrain (FMC) are in discussions about a three-way merger which is expected to go live in early 2013 under the Dentons banner.

Partners at all three firms are set to vote on the union at the end of this month, paving the way for the creation of a combined firm with revenues of more than $1bn, which would be structured as a Swiss verein.

Should the deal receive the required partner approval it will go live in the first quarter of 2013.

Management of the combined entity has yet to be finalised; however, it is thought likely that SNR Denton global chief executive Elliott Portnoy (pictured) will take charge of the group, with Salans global managing partner Dariusz Oleszczuk also expected to take up a senior management role.

Revenues for the Canadian law firm are not known, but given that SNR Denton – which was formed by the merger of legacy Dentons and US firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in 2010 – reported combined revenues of $712m (£443m) during the last financial year and Salans reported turnover of $287m (£179m) in 2011, the combined firm is likely to sit within the global top 20 by revenue.

Legal Week reported last week that SNR Denton was in talks with a Canadian law firm but at that point the name of the local firm was unclear.

FMC has a strong oil and gas practice, which would tie in well with SNR Denton’s energy focus, as well as ranking highly for dispute resolution and Latin American projects work, according to Chambers and Partners. The Canadian firm has more than 550 lawyers across offices in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

SNR Denton has been keen to open in Canada for some time, with legacy UK firm Denton Wilde Sapte understood to have engaged in discussions with Fasken Martineau around four years ago, while the merged SNR Denton was subsequently linked to Canada’s Macleod Dixon. The latter firm went on to combine with Norton Rose in 2012.

Meanwhile, merger discussions between Salans and SNR Denton started last year, with partners at both firms initially expected to vote on the deal last month in preparation for a 1 January 2013 tie-up.

While there is no overlap with any of FMC’s offices, Salans and SNR Denton have a number of duplicate offices, with each firm having bases in Almaty, Brussels, London, Moscow and Paris.

The deal is expected to see Salans’ UK arm being absorbed into the City arm of SNR Denton, with the same happening in New York. It is unclear what will happen in the other locations.

Commenting on the deal, a former partner at one of the firms said: “FMC is quite a good firm, and in a three-way merger like this their global coverage looks set to be better than most of their rivals. In Salans’ and SNR Denton’s case, it will be interesting to see exactly how the practices will be consolidated, but I think we can expect to see severe restructurings out of the merger, which is very sad.”

A partner at one Canadian firm said: “The big issue for Canadian firms [in merging] is they already get an enormous amount of referrals from American firms. That said, FMC could probably justify having an American firm in its network, and is probably in a category where that wouldn’t matter so much. Salans has a very strong practice in emerging markets, and the access to Toronto and the mining space may be important. For SNR Denton, links to Calgary in the oil and gas space will be key.”

SNR Denton said in a statement: “We enjoy strong relationships with many law firms around the world however we never comment on our efforts to enhance our global presence.”

FMC said: “Canada is an increasingly attractive opportunity for international firms looking to expand their reach on the global stage. As such, FMC continues to be invited to participate in discussions with global firms to look at identifying potential synergies and areas of mutual benefit and strategic opportunity.”

Salans said: “Salans is always interested and open-minded about ways to expand access to markets and services for our largely multinational clients. Our policy is not to comment on specifics, but in principle strategic growth opportunities are welcome.”

Additional reporting by Alex Newman.