Record deals year for Ward Hadaway | 31 January 08

LAW firm Ward Hadaway chalked up a record year in 2007, advising on almost £850m worth of corporate deals.

Martin Hulls, head of corporate finance

Record year - Martin Hulls, head of corporate finance at Ward Hadaway, which has enjoyed a record year for corporate deals.

The Newcastle-based firm saw a 74% rise in the total value of deals it worked on, racking up £843m worth of transactions last year compared with £484m in 2006.

The figures mean that Ward Hadaway’s corporate team has more than doubled its deals value total in the space of two years, rising from £320m in 2005.

The team also hit the century mark for the total number of deals done with 100 completed in 2007, a rise of 25% on 2006.

Highlights of the year included working on a £115m share placing and simultaneous £50m acquisition for Washington-based engineering company the Tanfield Group.

Ward Hadaway carried out the legal work on the fast-growing plc’s largest stock market cash-raising and managed the group’s acquisition of US-based aerial platform maker Snorkel, a deal described as “transformational” by Tanfield chairman Roy Stanley.

During 2007, the firm also advised on two acquisitions for software giant Sage – the £20m purchase of KCS Global Holdings Limited and the £18m acquisition of Snowdrop Systems Ltd.

Ward Hadaway also advised North plcs Romag and China Goldmines on share placings worth £7m and £31m respectively and a £12m placing on AIM and €23m related acquisition of Biocode Hycel S.A. for Immunodiagnostic Systems.

The firm played a role in some of the most high-profile deals in the North-East during 2007, including the sale of the Henderson Pharmacy chain to Alliance Boots, the management buy-out of technology company 4Projects and the sale of the Peter Barratt’s garden centre empire to Wyevale.

Ward Hadaway was also heavily involved in helping ambitious young North-East companies on their path to growth and advised on numerous deals involving local venture capitalists NorthStar Equity Investors and NEL Fund Managers in a range of different sectors.

The firm also chalked up several notable client wins in the venture capital sector, including acting for London-based Bridges Community Ventures, a fund management company which specialises in investments in disadvantaged areas that have a positive social impact.

Ward Hadaway is now looking forward to a busy 2008 after recruiting experienced dealmaker Mike Spetch, formerly of Eversheds, earlier this month.

Martin Hulls, head of corporate finance at Ward Hadaway, said: “We are delighted to have once again broken our deal-making record – and by such a margin.

“It is a reflection both of the continuing strength of the North-East economy and the hard work and expertise demonstrated by the Ward Hadaway team.

“What was particularly pleasing about last year’s excellent performance was the sheer breadth of deals the firm worked on, from smaller scale investments and management buy-outs to complex, high-value acquisitions and disposals.

“Despite the current economic situation we are looking forward to another successful year in 2008, especially now with Mike Spetch on board.”

Ward Hadaway’s deal-making expertise was recognised in legal industry bible Chambers UK.

The 2008 edition of the directory noted how clients commented that “the firm has an excellent cross-section of lawyers, the resources to cope with tight timescales and is excellent value for money - we trust it to come up with the goods on any legal matter".