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Deal watch: Linklaters and Simpson line up on £6bn KKR deal as Ashurst leads on £575m float

Capping off another busy year for European buyouts, Linklaters lined up opposite Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Dentons as Unilever agreed to sell its spreads business to private equity giant KKR for €6.8bn (£6bn).

Corporate partner Matthew Bland (pictured) led the Magic Circle law firm’s team for the consumer goods group, which announced on Friday (15 December) that it had received a binding offer to sell brands including Becel, Flora, Country Crock, Blue Band, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Rama and ProActiv. Linklaters partner John Crozier also worked on the deal.

It is part of Unilever’s review of its business launched in April following the rejected $143bn takeover attempt by competitor Kraft. Linklaters advised Unilever at the time too.

Simpson Thacher acted for key client KKR, fielding a team under City corporate partner Clare Gaskell. The New York-bred law firm is also advising on the financing, antitrust and tax aspects of the deal, with a line-up including partners Ian Barratt, Sinead O’Shea, Nick Shaw, David Vann and Meredith Jones. The investment is backed by the European and North American funds of KKR. Dentons advised the buyout house on due diligence and carve-out aspects. Corporate partners Stephen Levy and Joe Altendorff led the global law firm’s team.

Unilever’s spreads business operates across 66 countries and turned over €3bn in 2016. Its chief executive Nicolas Liabeuf will continue to lead the business. The deal awaits antitrust clearance and will go through employee consultation in some jurisdictions. Completion is expected in mid-2018.

Ashurst, meanwhile, has acted on one of the largest initial public offerings to hit London in 2017, advising a syndicate of banks on the listing of motor insurance underwriter Sabre Insurance Group, which values the business at £575m. The underwriting consortium comprised Barclays, Numis, Peel Hunt and Berenberg, with Sabre receiving roughly £206m of primary proceeds through the float on the London Stock Exchange.  Ashurst’s team was led by London corporate partners Simon Bullock and Jennifer Schneck, alongside regulatory partner James Perry, tax partner Nicholas Gardner and employment partner Crowley Woodford.  Dickson Minto partners Colin MacNeill and Duncan Christison acted for the issuer.