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Corporate stirrings: Cinven gifts Freshfields with IPO while HSF defends Severn Trent

A handful of major corporate mandates were unveiled this week as private equity house Cinven kicked off its £1.4bn proposed initial public offering (IPO) of annuity provider Partnership Assurance Group and Severn Trent rejected a preliminary takeover offer by an international consortium.

Amidst signs of renewed confidence in the IPO market, Cinven has instructed Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – led by corporate partners Mark Austin and Adrian Maguire – to advise on the float of Partnership Assurance, which Cinven acquired for €200m in 2008.

Corporate partners Sarah Murphy and David Higgins are also advising on the deal, together with employment and benefits partner Simon Evans. The Magic Circle firm is acting as US and English counsel.

Freshfields has instructed offshore firm Ogier to advise Partnership Assurance on matters in Jersey, while Magic Circle rival Clifford Chance is advising the co-ordinators Bank of America, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, led by equity capital markets partner Adrian Cartwright and City-based US securities partner John Connolly. Travers Smith has scored a role advising Partnership Assurance led by private equity partner Edmund Reed and tax partner Kathleen Russ.

Freshfields has been acting for Cinven for the last two decades so the firm was an obvious selection for the private equity house, Maguire told Legal Business. Earlier this year, Freshfields advised Cinven and Spire Healthcare on the partial refinancing of its loan facilities through a sale of 12 of its 38 hospital properties, raising approximately £700m.

Austin said: ‘This IPO demonstrates the increasing trend of the financial sponsor community to look to the equity capital markets, which have been more stable recently, as a route to exit.’

Maguire added: ‘With the reduced M&A activity, our financial sponsor clients with assets close to maturity are now seeing an IPO exit as a very viable alternative to a traditional sale process.’

The firm has been working on the deal since the end of last year and expects it to be completed by June this year.

Elsewhere, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) led by City corporate partners Stephen Wilkinson and Robert Moore has taken the lead role for longstanding client Severn Trent on a potential bid from a Canadian, Kuwaiti and UK consortium, reportedly valuing the target at £5bn.

Allen & Overy led by corporate partner Richard Evans is advising the consortium, made up of Borealis Infrastructure Management, the Kuwait Investment Office and Universities Superannuation Scheme.

The deal was confirmed on 14 May by Severn Trent and following a meeting with the consortium yesterday (16 May), the FTSE 100 water and waste company announced its rejection, commenting: ‘The board of Severn Trent has reviewed the proposal with its advisers and concluded that it completely fails to recognise the existing and potential value of Severn Trent. Accordingly the board has informed the consortium that it has rejected the proposal.’