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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Ezra Davids

Ezra Davids

Bowmans11 Alice LaneSandtonJohannesburgSouth Africa2146

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Ezra Davids is “a leading lawyer” who is acclaimed for his outstanding expertise in M&A as well as corporate governance.

Questions & Answers

Ezra Davids is the chairman of corporate/M&A at Bowman Gilfillan Inc. specialising in mergers and acquisitions, capital markets and securities law. In recent transactions, Ezra acted as co-lead partner when the firm took on the role of South African counsel to SAB Miller in its recently completed combination with AB InBev (1.5 trillion rand/US$107 billion) and as lead partner in a range of matters, including as South African counsel to Bharti in its then proposed merger with MTN (US$24 billion); advising Verizon Communications in its disposal of its subsidiary, Verizon Business (South Africa); acting as South African Counsel to M1; and Investcom in the latter’s acquisition by MTN (US$5.5 billion) and, earlier this year, advising PepsiCo in its US$1.7 billion acquisition of Pioneer Foods, one of the largest food companies on the African continent.

What inspired you to pursue a legal career? 

My role models, other than my father, were all lawyers, namely Nelson Mandela, Sir Sydney Kentridge, Oliver Tambo, George Bizos and Arthur Chaskalson. All of them had at least one thing in common, they were changing the world into a better place.

What do clients look for in an effective M&A lawyer? 

Clients appreciate an M&A lawyer who is not only on top of the technical aspects of the law (that’s taken as a given) but also has commercial and strategic insights based on an intimate understanding of the business of a client and the socio-economic environment within which a particular transaction is executed. Further, an ability to get the deal done is essential. 

What impact has covid-19 had on your practice? 

Although covid-19 has created major challenges for many of our clients in a sub-optimal business and socio-economic environment that is defined by uncertainty, it has also created unique opportunities for such clients. As a firm we have been able to leverage the depth and breadth of our deal expertise and our deep relationships in the socio-economic ecosystem of the jurisdictions in which we operate, resulting in an enhanced number of new mandates.

In what ways will covid-19 create ramifications for distressed M&A? 

Similar to most jurisdictions, companies that went into the crisis in a relatively weak state are susceptible to approaches (both solicited and unsolicited) from those that went in stronger. Further, the relatively depressed share prices of many of the companies listed on our stock exchanges, combined with weak currencies, present an attractive target to companies that are based in jurisdictions with much stronger currencies. 

How is an increased prevalence of shareholder activism affecting the M&A market in South Africa? 

Although shareholder activism (as it is commonly understood in more developed markets) is a relatively new phenomenon in our jurisdiction, there is a discernible increase in activity in our jurisdiction from both domestic and international shareholder activists. More specifically, there have been a number of instances where activists’ interventions have occurred in the context of announced deals. Further, companies are coming under increasing pressure from shareholder activists to dispose of non-core assets to anticipate or alleviate any liquidity concerns and/or to create a more focused enterprise going forward.

In your opinion, do you think covid-19 could be a catalyst for South Africa’s structural reform and economic growth?

Definitely. This crisis has forced the policy makers to confront the causes of the sub-optimal growth environment that the country has experienced over the past few years. This is typically attributed to a state that lacks capacity, an inflexible labour environment, a narrowing tax base and an increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio. All the key players in the South African economy have come up with various plans to address these issues. What is more heartening is acceptance by all sides that in order to move the needle on these issues, greater collaboration is required among all the stakeholders in the main government, and business and labour sectors.

How does Bowmans stand out from its competitors in the market? 

What sets us apart is our depth and breadth of deal expertise, deep relationships with the international business, legal and investment banking community and our profound appreciation of the socio-economic environment in the jurisdictions in which we operate, together with the broader Africa-wide focus of our practice. Further, our lawyers are taught at a very early stage to master the technical aspects of the law, be client focused, apply common sense, be solutions-driven by embracing complexity and be innovative in their lawyering. We always strive to add value to transactions on which we advise.

What advice would you give to younger practitioners hoping to one day be in your position? 

Work hard, be authentic, be honest, be a team player, use common sense, and respect and enjoy people.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended
M&A 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Ezra Davids is “a leading lawyer” who is acclaimed for his outstanding expertise in M&A as well as corporate governance.

Biography

Ezra Davids is the chairman of corporate/M&A at Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group specialising in mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, and securities law. Some of the most recent transactions in which Ezra has advised in include his role as co-lead partner in the firm acting as South African counsel to SAB Miller in its recently completed combination with AB InBev (1.5 trillion rand/$107 billion) and acted as lead partner in the following matters: South African counsel to Bharti in its then proposed merger with MTN (US$24 billion), advising Verizon Communications in its disposal of its subsidiary, Verizon Business (South Africa), acting as South African Counsel to M1 and Investcom in the latter's acquisition by MTN ($5.5 billion), advising Barrick Gold Corporation in its disposal of Barrick Gold South Africa ($1.55 billion) and for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup in the disposal by Polyus (Norilisk) of its entire shareholding in Gold Fields Limited ($2.2 billion), for PepsiCo Inc in its $1.7 billion acquisition of JSE listed Pioneer Foods, for Old Mutual plc in the aborted negotiations related to the acquisition by HSBC of 70 per cent of the issued share capital of Nedbank Limited, for Tokyo Stock Exchange listed Kansai Paint Co Ltd's successful hostile takeover of JSE-listed Freeworld Coatings Limited (2.4 billion rand) and for PPR in the proposed disposal of its furniture and household goods business, Conforama, to JSE-listed Steinhoff International Holdings Limited (12 billion rand).
Ezra is also the relationship partner for a number of the firm's major clients such as Bharti, Verizon, Barrick Gold Corporation, Nokia, UPS, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, UBS, Eskom and Transnet. He is the former chairman of the Faculty Advisory Board of the Law School of the University of Cape Town and a serving member of the university’s council (board of governors); member of the board of trustees of the Legal Resources Trust and Freedom Under Law; director of the Social Justice Initiative; and a patron of the student sponsorship programme (a non-profit organisation focusing on providing high school education to disadvantaged students). He is also the former chairman of the recent developments in mergers and acquisitions subcommittee of the corporate M&A committee of the International Bar Association, and is a serving member of that committee.
WWL Ranking: Recommended
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