High-value commercial and private equity deals continue at Belfast law firm Tughans
Law firm Tughans is set for another busy year, judging by the high-profile and high-value deals the Belfast commercial law firm has been behind in the last 12 months.
The firm, which works with companies across the UK, Ireland and further afield, has topped the Experian Deal and Advisor League Table (Northern Ireland M&A activity) for the fourth year in a row.
John-George Willis, the firm's head of corporate, said: "The feature of the last year has been lots of activity in the mid-market - the £5m to £20m space.
While several major deals have grabbed the headlines, it's the mid-market and lower-value deals which are ensuring the firm continues to grow.
"We have a strong team across a number of different disciplines and have lawyers qualified in Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and England and Wales.
"A lot of our lawyers trained in large City firms and bring that experience back. We are also quite commercial in terms of transactions.
"The focus is understanding the client and their needs and building strong relationships with them - it's about delivering the best possible results for the client."
Corporate partner James Donnelly said foreign buyers were seeking deals here. "For us that included a deal to sell Belfast motorhome firm Camperco to Australian buyer Apollo. Investors are still coming in where there is a specialism, or good contracts, people or tech."
Corporate partner Ciara Lagan, named Insider Dealmaker of the Year 2018, is responsible for setting up some of Invest NI's equity funds, such as the Growth Loan Fund.
"We have investments from London and Dublin, all looking at Northern Ireland companies. People seem to have woken up to the fact that there is a huge amount of innovation in NI, and that's very attractive.
"They realise that London isn't where it's all that and they are going elsewhere."
John McGuckian, also a partner in the corporate team, said: "We have had quite a number of sales in the last few years, but a good example for us is companies which are starting to acquire.
"We acted for Westland Horticulture and Henderson Foodservice, which both acquired companies outside Northern Ireland, as well as Staffline, which bought a few companies in the Republic - most publicly Grafton Recruitment."
Alongside that M&A activity, there is private equity work. John said: "There is a lot of venture capital, and investment through the Northern Ireland funds.
"In that world of £500,000 upwards, to around £3m to £5m - we do a lot of investments, and thereafter there is more investment in the private equity world."
The Experian deal tables also record large scale real estate sales and acquisitions (those over £15m), and the real estate team - the largest in Northern Ireland, and which includes partners David Jones, James Pringle, Joe Moore and Rebecca Moffett - are regularly instructed on the highest value and highest profile matters in the Northern Ireland market.
David Jones, head of real estate, said: "Our real estate team has been involved in the majority of the most significant property transactions in Northern Ireland over recent years, including the first private sector student accommodation development, John Bell House, which involved complex forward-funding and the sensitive conversion of an iconic listed building in Belfast city centre, along with virtually every subsequent student accommodation scheme in the city.
"We are the team of choice for the majority of institutional investors looking at Northern Ireland and continue to be involved in the most complex and interesting projects within the local market, while serving our clients' needs throughout the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland."