William Blair Teams with Australia’s Allier Capital to Expand ‘Down Under’

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Global investment bank William Blair has formed a strategic alliance with financial advisory firm Allier Capital, allowing for an expansion into the Australian marketplace. Together, they will offer clients assistance in mergers and acquisitions, public offerings in the U.S. securities markets, advisory services and private placements.

The investment bank also established a strategic alliance with Business Development Asia LLC (BDA) through the minority stake it acquired in 2011, giving it access to Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Vietnam and India. The bank has also established clients in North America, Latin America and Europe. With its relationship with Allier, it now has access to “a place that we have looked at for a number of years” and Allier is the perfect pairing, Brent Gledhill, global head of investment banking, tells Mergers & Acquisitions in this Q&A. And for Allier Capital--known for advising on M&A, equity and debt raisings--and the firm’s managing director Matthew Stubbs, forming the partnership with William Blair also has its advantages, Gledhill notes.  

What attracted William Blair to Australia?

What we saw is just a very consistent culture of client focus there. They are very focused on delivering on promises to clients. Australia isn’t the largest market, but it is certainly top five or 10 when it comes to market capitalization.

Why do you think Allier is a good fit for growth over there?

It is a place that we have looked at for a number of years. Matt and I met about three-and-a-half years ago and have had really good conversations. There are two different things we are trying to address. Matt needs to clear the globe for his clients and we do that really well. For us, the economy there is ready to advance. What we are trying to say to our clients--which are largest in Europe and North and South America--is we know where investors and buyers are globally.

Prior to this did William Blair have any business relationships there?

We did not have any, but our asset management side of the business opened a service office in Australia three years ago as part of their continued advance. We manage money globally and that is the first time the firm has done anything in Australia. We do have clients with roots there, like ResMed (NYSE: RMD). (The technology-focused medical device company, recently purchased  software applications company in a deal valued at $800 million.) Australia is more on the map than it used to be. While the commodities boom has cooled, it has certainly given a boost to the region and most players want to enter the global market. You can’t get around the idea that there is a distance between Australia and New Zealand but the way that technology has shrunk down the borders, they have benefited from this.

What are some of the other regions where you would like to establish roots?

If you look out across our offices, we think we have a good footprint across Europe, North America, South America, and there are companies coming into a position where they are interested in more international partnerships. This is a nice trend and there is good reason to think about Colombia and Mexico. Those are good emerging markets with good private equity foundations, but we’re not doing this tomorrow. We would also look somewhere that gets us a little further east than Frankfurt. What we did was we bought a minority piece in BDA and each client benefits from the full reach. A big part of being able to do that is having the knowledge in the sector and the geography.

What are some of the regions that you view as less attractive for forming these types of relationships?

One market that is hard to decide on how to enter properly is Africa. We have done a few transactions and we would think maybe South Africa or Nigeria would be a good place to be. That is a place that as the technology infrastructure continues to come could offer a great market in the next 10 years and we will find its where we may want to be, but not now. It’s the same with Russia. We will get there someday, but we are not there today.

With President Barack Obama’s efforts to improve U.S. relations with Cuba, could you see relationship for William Blair there?

I would guess in 10 years, as more international trade happens and investments start to pour in and it gets more established. There is lots of culture. If you could drop an incubator in there, there could be some good ideas that come out.

Editor’s Note: For Mergers & Acquisitions’ coverage of dealmaking in Latin America, see Spotlight on Latin America ; and in Asia, see As China Stagnates, PE Firms will Turn to Southeast Asia. Also, for more on cross border M&A, view this video shot at AM&AA’s winter conference in Orlando, Florida featuring Srinath Geedinpalli, a senior director with Simanor LLC. 


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