A Berlin-based partner is packing for Botswana; a hiking expedition. A London lawyer is preparing for a cycling trip to the Isle of Skye with his daughter, and a soon-to-be-retired Madrid partner is a few days away from a long weekend in the jewel of the Amalfi Coast, Positano. Calling lawyers at the tail end of July is a high-spirited affair. Of course, not all lawyers are packing their bags for a summer of adventure. Many will be working throughout August to get deals over the line—and if you’re one of those individuals, apologies.
But before anyone sets foot on a plane, train or automobile, there is work to be done. Because the summer deal rush is here, as our coverage on the latest slew of big ticket European M&A deals shows.
Iberia correspondent Alex D’Elia reported on Clifford Chance’s role in FC Barcelona’s sale of a big chunk of its TV rights to a private investor as it looks to plug a gap in its ailing finances. She also had the stories on: Uría Menéndez and Linklaters advising as global telecoms giant Telefónica Group agrees to sell off part of its Spanish rural fiber network for €1.02 billion; and Latham & Watkins and Jones Day leading on XYZ.
Anne Bagamery wrote about Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and K&L Gates advising on a €3 billion, cross-border, all-cash merger in Europe, as well as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton’s role on France’s proposed €9.7 billion nationalization of EDF Energy. Habiba Cullen-Jafar had the story on Weil Gotshal & Manges and Herbert Smith Freehills bagging roles on the $3.4 billion British-French merger between satellite giants Eutelsat and OneWeb.
She also reported on how Kirkland & Ellis fielded two separate teams to advise both Bain Capital and BC Partners on a €3 billion private equity deal.
It was a less than conventional deal, in which the firm advised the two private equity operations, which entered into a partnership to each acquire 50% of Italian labels and packaging products company Fedrigoni. This was done via a combination of reinvestment by Bain via a new fund and new investment from BC Partners.
Habiba writes that, although fielding two teams on M&A deals is relatively rare, it has become acceptable industry practice for law firms to advise separate bidders in private equity transactions. This deal is unusual given Bain is effectively transferring part of the ownership of the portfolio company between its funds, requiring it to have both buy-side and sell-side advisers.
It’s not just Europe seeing the billions flow from A to B. In Africa, heavyweights Clifford Chance and Norton Rose Fulbright advised on opposite sides on the sale of renewable energy company Lekela Power by global investor Actis and Mainstream Renewable Power—a deal thought to be one of Africa’s largest energy deals so far this year. Jennigay Coetzer has the story.
But what about when the summer deal rush ends? For the past few weeks, the word ‘recession’ has swept insidiously across the world’s alpha cities. “Deals will slow. That’s just a fact,” one London-based M&A said. “You can’t operate at this level all the time. There are peaks and troughs. But then we’ve also got the threat of recession approaching. Inflation is at an all time high, so you’ve also got stagflation to look forward to.”
But despite the foreboding tone, the partner stresses that it shouldn’t mean the end of M&A deals. “Things might quieten as folks get a handle on the direction of the economy. But M&A is more resilient nowadays. Most investors are exceptionally clued up and still have huge stores of capital, and so M&A is on a trend to becoming decoupled from macroeconomic cycles.”
One thing in all this is fact: No longer is August sacrosanct. So expect more deal coverage in the coming few weeks.
Taking a Stand
From the chirpy world of M&A we travel to the depths of disputes in all its forms: corporate v corporate; firm v firm; firm v church; lawyer v government; EU v climate change and more.
Jack Womack wrote about a multi-million dollar dispute in which Mishcon de Reya accused King & Wood Mallesons of “poaching” two of its New York-based partners—a case that has now shifted from a New York court battle to arbitration.
In court filings lodged at New York’s Supreme Court, Mishcon’s lawyers accused KWM of recruiting two Mishcon partners in New York “in an attempt to poach” a lucrative piece of litigation from the firm. Check out the full story here.
Jack also covered the matter of an ex-Clifford Chance partner writing to the U.K.’s legal regulator calling for it to clamp down on the practice of high-powered lawyers sending deliberately intimidating ‘confidential’ and ‘without prejudice’ letters to laypersons after he was threatened with legal action by no less than the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadeem Zahawi.
In Australia, Christopher Niesche reported on how Australian law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth dropped the Catholic Church as a client amid reports some of its lawyers were uneasy with the firm representing the church in compensation actions by alleged victims of child sexual abuse, though the firm attributed the move to a pivot away from personal injury work.
And in an important piece of reporting, Linda A. Thompson writes about the growing phenomenon of climate litigation and how it is threatening the EU’s emissions curbs. She writes: “Several legal and political processes that may limit the impact of arbitration claims under the treaty in the European Union are underway.”