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Deal watch: Global elite giants face off in Lafarge/Holcim and Vivendi/Altice European transactions

A handful of Global 100 firms scored key roles on two signifcant European deals this week, as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Linklaters, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advised on the recently announced €40bn merger between France’s Lafarge and Switzerland’s Holcim.

In telecoms, Ropes & Gray, Allen & Overy, and Latham & Watkins led on the €15bn deal that saw French multinational mass media company Vivendi sell its phone unit SFR to European cable group Altice.

Holcim and Lafarge announced their merger yesterday (7 April) following approval by their respective board of directors. The transaction aims to create the world’s biggest cement maker. The core Cleary team advising longstanding client Lafarge was led by Pierre-Yves Chabert in Paris, with the support of more than 30 Cleary lawyers covering six practices in three different offices.

The firm has previously advised Lafarge on key mandates including the €200 million sale of a 14% minority stake in its subsidiary, Lafarge India Pvt Ltd (LIPL) to Baring Private Equity Asia, representing one of the largest private equity investments to date in the Indian cement industry.

Swiss firm Bär & Karrer’s corporate partner Rolf Watter advised Lafarge alongside Cleary.

Linklaters provided French advice to Holcim with a team led by M&A partner Fabrice de La Morandière, while Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Brussels-based competition partner Frank Montag advised the Swiss-based company on antitrust issues. Swiss firm Homburger completed the adviser line up.

The proposed combination is subject to shareholder approval and is expected to complete by the end of first half of 2015, subject to obtaining regulatory approvals.

The second game-changing deal this week saw Ropes & Gray advise its longstanding client Altice on the financing of its proposed acquisition of SFR though subsidiary Numericable Group from Vivendi for €15bn. The deal constitutes the largest leveraged finance deal in Europe since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Altice intends to fund the acquisition through a combination of US and European high yield debt, covenant-lite loans, revolving loans and an equity rights issue.

The financing package was handled by Ropes’ London office, with finance partner Michael Kazakevich leading the team, assisted by finance partner Michael Goetz and tax partner Brenda Coleman.

‘This was a great team effort working closely with Altice to a tight deadline, and demonstrating our ability to work smoothly across U.S. and European bank and bond products on complex debt structure transactions with challenging issues,’ said Kazakevich.

A Paris-based team at Allen & Overy, meanwhile, provided M&A advice to Vivendi, with partners Marcus Billam, Frédéric Moreau and Frédéric Jungels leading a team.

Latham & Watkins’ London-based partners Dan Maze and Scott Colwell were instructed by the underwriting banks including Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.