Legal Business Blogs

Deal Watch: Third time lucky for Links and Ashurst on software bid as HSF puts PR shop into the headlines

Given the steady hum of deal activity over the summer, the crucial September period has yet to take off with a flurry of big ticket M&A, but LinklatersAshurst and DLA Piper are among firms handling prominent work this week.

The largest deal to hit Europe’s market this week has seen Linklaters and Ashurst advising on the combination between British company Aveva and France’s Schneider Software to create a £3bn tech group. Linklaters’ corporate partner Aisling Zarraga and capital markets partner Richard Good are heading the team for Schneider, a long-time client of the firm with the City giant advising parent group Schneider Electric in 2013 on its £3.3bn takeover of UK engineering group Invensys. Ashurst, meanwhile, fielded a contingent under corporate partners Karen Davies and James Fletcher for the Cambridge-based Aveva. The deal is expected to complete by the end of the year.

Schneider will take a 60% stake in Aveva, injecting £550m in cash into the British company, which will go to shareholders, and £100m on its balance sheet. The remaining 40% of the listed company will stay in the hands of public shareholders.

This is the third combination attempt between the two companies. Linklaters and Ashurst previously worked on a possible deal in the summer of 2015, but talks were called off in December. Negotiations held the following year also led to nothing. The parties involved cited a complex combination, which required extracting Schneider Software from parent group Schneider Electric to combine the business with Aveva.

Linklaters’ Good told Legal Business: ‘We are very proud to be part of this deal, which will create a global leader in the industrial technology sector.’

Ashurst’s Davies added: ‘It is fantastic to achieve after three attempts. It is a great deal for the industry and a great deal for Ashurst. It represents the culmination of a great deal of hard work and collaboration between the Aveva and Ashurst teams over a number of years.’

Elsewhere, DLA Piper is working with supermarket chain Nisa on its possible sale to the Co-op for a reported £140m. Co-op has not instructed any external legal adviser yet, but has confirmed it has entered exclusive talks with the convenience store chain and is carrying out the due diligence for the acquisition.

Aside from transactional work, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has acted on the most high profile contentious mandate to hit the headlines this week, after writing a critical report on the activity of leading City PR shop Bell Pottinger. Published a day after Bell Pottinger chief executive James Henderson resigned, the report was critical of the PR firm’s handling of controversial campaign in South Africa on behalf of Oakbay, a holding company owned by the Gupta family. The report, which was published on Monday (4 September), found the campaign had created potentially racially divisive material targeted towards ‘wealthy white South African individuals or corporates’. Henderson himself had commissioned HSF to produce the report over the summer.