DealMakers - 2020 Annual
Anthony Knox (Merrill Lynch)
Anthony, a Managing Director at Merrill Lynch South Africa, joined the firm in 2016. Prior to this, he was a director in the M&A team at Standard Bank in South Africa, having spent a number of years in London with both Standard Bank and BNP Paribas. With over 15 years of investment experience, he boasts an extensive track record of transactions, covering a wide range of SA corporates across a broad scope of product areas, including mergers and acquisitions, equity capital markets and debt capital markets. He has gained deep expertise within his field, with experience across sectors as well as geographies.
Over the past three years, Anthony has played an instrumental role in executing some of SA’s highest profile deals, the most notable being Sasol’s R33bn disposal of a 50% interest in its Lake Charles Chemicals Project (a finalist in the DealMakers’ Brunswick 2020 Deal of the Year); the disposal of a 34.4% stake in Alexander Forbes by Marsh &
DealMaker of the Year
McLennan (c.R2,1bn); Old Mutual’s Managed Separation (which won the Deal of the Year in 2018); as an independent expert in the unbundling of FirstRand; and the proposed acquisition of PPC by AfriSam, and subsequent expression of interest by multiple competing parties.
In addition to the above key transactions during the past three years, he has also been involved in numerous other South African deals throughout his career, each with their own level of complexity and unique set of challenges. These include, but are not limited to, the sale of Stillwater to Sibanye, Sasol’s $2,25bn debt issuance, R4,3bn accelerated bookbuild of Bidvest’s remaining shares in Bidcorp, PPC’s R4bn rights offer, Shanduka’s merger with Phembani, a private placement for Impact Oil & Gas, the listing of Pivotal Property and the sale of RCS to BNP Paribas.
Anthony is described by his industry peers as an individual who has, over the years, displayed an ongoing commitment to the investment banking and corporate finance industry, having consistently proven his value as a dealmaker by successfully executing a number of complex and high profile transactions, often running in parallel. He has created long-lasting relationships, not only with his clients, but with his peers, spanning various advisory firms.
Comment from the Independent Panel: In a year with many strong contenders, Anthony Knox stands out as a worthy winner. He has led strong teams on many of the country’s most significant transactions, both in the last year and also during the previous few years. In hindsight, even complex deals that are well-executed look simple, which is the hallmark of Anthony and his team. As an individual, Anthony is a highly regarded adviser, and well respected by our industry, regardless of whether he is on your side of the deal, or on the opposing side. Anthony has established himself as the go-to adviser of SA Inc, with recent deals on behalf of FirstRand, Old Mutual, Sasol, PPC and Alexander Forbes.
The leading candidates in alphabetical order
Cobus Human (One Capital)
Cobus has been in corporate finance for over 22 years, and was the recipient of the Individual DealMaker award for 2014. Prior to co-founding One Capital, he served as CEO of Barnard Jacobs Mellet Corporate Finance, and as Managing Director of Quaestor Capital.
During 2020, Cobus worked on a number of noteworthy transactions including the take private of Peregrine by Capitalworks, the hostile takeover defence in relation to Quantum Foods by Country Bird, and the placement of domestic medium-term notes in respect of Northam Platinum during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The R4,2bn offer by Capitalworks to qualifying Peregrine shareholders was proposed by way of an innovative concurrent scheme of arrangement and general offer mechanism that was originally conceptualised and brought to fruition by Cobus in 2017, when advising on another Capitalworks transaction. Peregrine shareholders were afforded the option to elect to receive a cash consideration per share and/or a leveraged re-investment option through the subscription of shares in one of Capitalworks’ buyout vehicles. The transaction unlocked significant value for Capitalworks and reinvesting shareholders. Additional complexity was added to the transaction as a result of the highly regulated industry and multiple jurisdictions in which Peregrine operates.
Cobus proposed and implemented an innovative solution to creating liquidity for Northam through its Note programme. What makes this particularly noteworthy, says Northam’s management team, is that c.R411m of new capital was raised at a time when asset managers were under substantial pressure as a result of significant losses incurred due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the same applicable, in particular, to the extension of maturity dates of the Notes, to the value of R530m maturing in 2020. Cobus’ entrenched relationship with institutions ensured that Northam was provided much needed capital, at a time when the majority of companies in South Africa were under significant pressure and in need of capital.
Cobus provided his client, Quantum Foods, with invaluable insight into the strategies that would be used to defend against a hostile takeover attempt. He was instrumental in building a ‘friendly’ shareholding block in excess of 50% of the shares in Quantum, thereby securing an effective block to Country Bird’s attempt to take control of Quantum. His introduction of Astral as a new key shareholder in Quantum was due to his relationship with institutional shareholders and potential investors, and created significant value unlock and liquidity for Quantum shareholders given the historical illiquidity of the stock. Management said that his in-depth knowledge, relationships with key stakeholders and expertise added substantial value for Quantum and its shareholders.
His innovation and solutions-driven approach to the many hurdles experienced while negotiating and structuring transactions were common themes expressed by those with whom Cobus and his team dealt. So, too, were his strong relationships with institutional shareholders, which he was able to leverage in order to obtain irrevocable support for the transactions on which he was advising.
Comment from the Independent Panel:
Cobus and the One Capital team continue to punch way above their weight in the South African advisory space. With his portfolio of transactions during the last year, which included Peregrine and the Northam Zambezi deals, among others, Cobus was a strong contender for this award. He continues to be regarded as an energetic driver of unique solutions for often complex situations.
Lydia Shadrach-Razzino (ENSafrica)
Lydia, who has 20 years’ experience, heads up the firm’s Private Equity team and co-leads a large team within the Corporate Commercial department. In addition to being an experienced Private Equity lawyer, Lydia specialises in M&A in a diverse range of industries, ranging from mining to telecommunications, and has advised on takeovers and general corporate finance matters.
During 2020, Lydia worked on several notable transactions.
Shortlisted for the DealMakers Brunswick Deal of the Year 2020, the acquisition of selected parts of the JET business by The Foschini Group (TFG) is expected to give TFG significant scale at an attractive price. Lydia was the lead practitioner on this matter and, according to TFG, she played a significant role in advising on a number of critical work streams, and was influential in the successful advancement of multiple negotiations. Her commercial and pragmatic approach to various scenarios, and her ability to find solutions to most issues, assisted the deal team to successfully conclude a very complex transaction. In addition, Lydia advised on the company’s R3,95bn capital raise to reduce debt and insulate its balance sheet ahead of the economic uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. She was instrumental in leading the South African legal team, and in supporting TFG throughout the process, providing seamless collaboration with a host of other service providers/advisers to ensure that all milestones were met, in what was a very complex transaction with challenging timelines. The deal was completed within four months, from offer/conception to implementation.
Lydia also advised on the unwind by Anheuser-Busch InBev of its BEE transaction – the SAB Zenzele deal, which has been shortlisted in the DealMakers’ Exxaro BEE Deal of the Year 2020 – and on several other high profile transactions over the past few years, namely Vodacom’s acquisition of a controlling stake in the 10T Group (2019); Kleoss Capital’s subscription to a 30% stake in Bandag South Africa; Capitalworks’ disposal of Much Asphalt to AECI (Catalyst Private Equity Deal of the Year 2018); RMB Ventures and Bopa Moruo acquisition of Cargo Compass (shortlisted for PE Deal of the Year 2019); Deal of the Year 2018, Vodacom’s acquisition of an interest in Safaricom; and RMB Ventures acquisition of the Bluff Meat Supply Group (Catalyst Private Equity Deal of the Year 2013), to name a few.
Those who work closely with Lydia say that no deal she does is simple, often being sought out by colleagues and clients alike to undertake complex transactions, due to her reputation in the market of being able to pull these deals off with ease. She has become a master at solving complex structures and translating the same into understandable agreements.
Her industry peers say that she is passionate about driving change in the industry, and has lived the words, “be the change you want to see”, achieving much in a male-dominated industry. She is focused on bringing as many women, and especially women of colour, through the door with her as she can.
Comment from the Independent Panel:
Despite the inherent challenge for the legal advisers to be acknowledged against lead advisers in this category, as a panel we were extremely impressed with Lydia’s credentials. She is seen as a pragmatic problem solver, with a stellar and rising credibility, especially in the area of Private Equity transactions. She would always have to out-perform on the basis of a portfolio of transactions, and she is certainly building such a portfolio. Lydia has been lead legal adviser for transactions that have been finalists and winners of Deal of the Year in almost all categories. A young, rising star to be watched as a potential future winner.