Ezra Davids

Ezra Davids

Deputy Chairman
Johannesburg, South Africa
T: +27 11 669 9320
E: ezra.davids@bowmanslaw.com
  • Overview
  • Experience
  • Publications & Insights

Overview

Ezra Davids is deputy chairman of Bowmans.

He specialises in mergers and acquisitions (M&A), capital markets, and securities law. Some of the most recent transactions on which Ezra has advised, as our lead partner, include acting for:

  • PepsiCo on its USD 1.7 billion acquisition of Pioneer Foods, which was named Deal of the Year 2020 by DealMakers. The acquisition was one of PepsiCo’s largest outside the United States;
  • SAB Miller in its combination with AB InBev (valued at ZAR 1.8 trillion/ USD 107 billion);
  • Tokyo Stock Exchange listed Kansai Paint Co. Ltd in its successful hostile bid for JSE Listed Freeworld Coatings Ltd (valued at ZAR 3.3 billion), which remains the first and only successful cross-border hostile bid in South Africa;
  • Bharti in its then proposed merger with MTN (valued at USD 24 billion);
  • Verizon Communications in the disposal of its subsidiary, Verizon Business (South Africa), to MTN;
  • M1 and Investcom in the latter’s acquisition by MTN (valued at USD 5.5 billion); 
  • Dis-Chem, a major South African pharmaceuticals retailer, on its recent IPO on the JSE (valued at ZAR 20 billion);
  • Alexander Forbes, a major South African financial services company, on its IPO on the JSE (ZAR 12 billion);
  • PPC, the largest cement company in South Africa, in successfully defending itself against an attempt to replace the entire board in the most high-profile example of shareholder activism in South Africa to date; and in its response to an approach by Afrisam to combine the largest and second largest cement manufacturers in South Africa;
  • Barrick Gold Corporation in its disposal of Barrick Gold South Africa (valued at USD 1.55 billion);
  • Goldman Sachs and Citigroup in the disposal by Polyus (Norilisk) of its entire shareholding in Gold Fields Ltd (valued at USD 2.02 billion);
  • SABMiller in the USD 1 billion BEE transaction for its South African subsidiary; and
  • PPR in the disposal of its furniture and household goods business, Conforama, to JSE-listed Steinhoff International Holdings Ltd (valued at ZAR 12 billion).

Ezra is the relationship partner for several of the firm’s major clients such as Barrick Gold Corporation, Bharti, ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Microsoft, Orange, PepsiCo, Total, UPS and many others.

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 boards 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 M&A Sub-Committee and a serving officer of the very same Corporate/M&A Committee of the International Bar Association.

Ezra is frequently recognised as a leading M&A lawyer by credible international rankings organisations. Most recently he was named a ‘Market Leader’ by IFLR.

He is a regular contributor to international M&A and equity capital markets publications and is co-contributor on the mergers’ chapter of the Modern Company Law textbook. 

Ezra was the first practising African lawyer to be featured on the front page of the American Lawyer.

Specialist Services

Relevant Experience

  • Ezra was co-lead partner acting as South African counsel to SAB Miller in its proposed combination with AB InBev (ZAR 1.5 trillion/ USD 107 billion), the third largest M&A transaction ever in the world and the largest in South African M&A history.

Ezra was the lead partner:

  • acting as South African legal counsel to PepsiCo on its acquisition of Pioneer Foods, which was named deal of the year by DealMakers 2020 in South Africa. Valued at approximately USD 1.7 billion, the acquisition was one of PepsiCo’s largest outside the United States.
  • acting for Tokyo Stock Exchange listed Kansai Paint Co. Ltd in its successful hostile bid for JSE Listed Freeworld Coatings Ltd (ZAR 3.3 billion) – which is still the first and only successful cross-border hostile bid in South Africa;
  • acting as South African counsel to Bharti in its then proposed merger with MTN (USD 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 (USD 5.5 billion);
  • acting for Dis-Chem, a major South African pharmaceuticals retailer on its recent IPO on the JSE (ZAR 20 billion);
  • acting for Alexander Forbes, a major South African financial services company on its IPO on the JSE (ZAR 12 billion);
  • acting for PPC, the largest cement company in South Africa, in successfully defending itself in the most high profile shareholder activism matter in South Africa where there was an attempt to replace the entire board; and in its response to an approach by Afrisam for a proposed combination of the largest and second largest cement manufacturers in South Africa;
  • advising Barrick Gold Corporation in its disposal of Barrick Gold South Africa (USD 1.55 billion);
  • acting for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup in the disposal by Polyus (Norilisk) of its entire shareholding in Gold Fields Ltd (USD 2.02 billion);
  • acting for SABMiller in the USD 1 billion BEE transaction for its South African subsidiary;
  • acting for Old Mutual plc in the aborted negotiations related to the acquisition by HSBC of Nedbank Ltd; and
  • acting as South African counsel for PPR in the disposal of its furniture and household goods business, Conforama, to JSE-listed Steinhoff International Holdings Ltd (ZAR 12 billion).

Signature Matters

Awards

  • Chambers and Partners has consistently ranked Ezra, for the past five years (2017 to 2021), in Band 1 in South Africa for Capital Markets: Equity and in Band 1 for Corporate/M&A. He was also ranked in Band 2 for Corporate/M&A: Africa-wide, in 2018.
  • IFLR1000 Financial and Corporate Guide rated Ezra as a Market Leader in South Africa for his work in Energy and Infrastructure, Capital Markets: Debt, Capital Markets: Equity and M&A in 2021 and prior to this, as Highly Regarded for three consecutive years (2018 to 2020).
  • Legal 500 inducted Ezra into their Hall of Fame for Commercial, Corporate and M&A for the past two years (2020 – 2021) and prior to that, recognised Ezra as a Leading Lawyer (2018 and 2019) and in Tier 1 (2015-2016) for the same category.
  • Recognised in the Who’s Who Legal 2019 edition of Thought Leaders Global Elite, for Mergers and Acquisitions and Corporate Governance. Recognised by Who’s Who Legal 2018 in the following categories Thought Leaders: Corporate Governance; Thought Leaders: M&A and Governance; Corporate:  Corporate Governance as well as for his work in the Mining sector.
  • According to the International Who’s Who of Mergers & Acquisitions Lawyers 2013 Award: ‘Ezra Davids is regarded as one of the top 10 Mergers & Acquisitions lawyers globally. Ezra is the only lawyer from Africa on this list and according to Who’s Who respondents praise his sophisticated understanding of complex issues.’
  • Recognised by Best Lawyers 2017 for Corporate Law, Mergers and Acquisitions Law and Mining Law.

Celebrated corporate lawyer Ezra Davids is a household name in the field of equity capital markets. Alongside his market-leading M&A practice, he assists clients with the full IPO process, as well as accelerated bookbuilds and private placements.’ – Chambers and Partners, 2021

Ezra Davids maintains a stellar domestic and international reputation as one of South Africa’s foremost experts in corporate law. His skills continue to be sought out by blue-chip clients for assistance with significant cross-border mandates. He is also a well-regarded capital markets practitioner.’ – Chambers and Partners, 2021

Commentators widely laud Ezra Davids as “one of the best capital markets lawyers in South Africa.” He chairs the corporate department and commands a stellar reputation in the M&A and ECM fields. He provides counsel to high-profile issuers and underwriters on IPOs, private placements, secondary inward listings and accelerated bookbuilds.

‘Ezra Davids is a renowned corporate lawyer in South Africa who is trusted by blue-chip domestic and international companies to guide them through high-value M&A transactions in the country and across the African continent. Sources laud him as “business-oriented, commercially minded and a problem solver,” noting his ability to “deliver workable business solutions.” He chairs the firm’s corporate/M&A department. Chambers and Partners 2020

‘Chair of the corporate/M&A department Ezra Davids is a high-profile practitioner acting on a number of the jurisdiction’s largest transactions. Sources describe him as a “brilliant guy” who is “very responsive and accommodating.” He is particularly well versed in the telecoms, natural resources and manufacturing industries, with a practice scope spanning Sub-Saharan Africa.

‘Chair of the corporate practice Ezra Davids is a renowned ECM lawyer with a broad practice scope. He acts for a number of South Africa’s blue-chip banking bodies, with experience handling cross-border mandates. He is commended as one of the “go-to people” for “big-ticket capital markets work,” with other interviewees stating that “Ezra has a very good manner to deal with sensitive matters.” Chambers and Partners 2019

 Corporate/M&A chair Ezra Davids is highly regarded by commentators, who describe him as a “deal maker” who “embraces the landscape and business community” to give “well-seasoned, in-depth law advice.” He has a deep understanding of the telecommunications and energy sectors.

Ezra Davids is noted as a “particularly impressive” practitioner in the equity capital markets space, with sources highlighting the value of “his experience and expertise in critical discussions.” He was joint lead partner assisting Dis-Chem Pharmacies with its initial public offering on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Chambers and Partners 2018

 “Champion lawyer” Ezra Davids is identified as our top practitioner in Africa for M&A work.” –  Who’s Who Legal, 2018

‘Ezra Davids is a key partner for equity capital markets matters. Clients appreciate his “very user-friendly advice,” noting: “He helps you find a solution rather than just telling you what the problem is. He’s also very good at understanding when he should and shouldn’t be the lead, and not overstepping the mark.” Davids was the lead partner advising Virgin Active Group Holdings on its proposed GBP1.3 billion IPO on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.’

‘Ezra remains highly regarded as one of the standout figures in the field, with particular strength in South Africa. He has an enviable client list and has featured on some of the firm’s largest deals, including the acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev of SABMiller. He has expertise in capital markets and securities law. He is based in the Johannesburg office.’

‘a highly respected figure in the South African legal community. He was the lead partner overseeing work for the Affiliated Managers Group in its acquisition of a non-controlling stake in fund manager Abax Investments, which represented the client’s first such acquisition in an emerging market. Peers continue to regard Davids as “a very dynamic guy,” while one client was particularly impressed by his “comprehensive understanding of the economic environment.”’ Chambers and Partners 2017

 ‘highly regarded’ – Legal 500 2017

Publications & Insights