Legal Business Blogs

Dealwatch: Advisers get KKR infra play on the road as CC and MoFo energise $3.5bn renewables disposal

As market activity continues to branch out into diverse sectors, some of the biggest deals have had an energy and infrastructure flavour recently, with KKR’s £2bn takeover of John Laing Group and SoftBank’s disposal of its renewables venture SB Energy India proving standouts.

US private equity investor KKR agreed to acquire listed infrastructure group John Laing in a deal which will also see investor Equitix jointly own John Laing’s existing asset portfolio.

Ashurst’s global head of corporate Jason Radford advised longstanding client Equitix on the transaction. ‘The acquisition is interesting because it marks KKR’s entrance into core infrastructure. John Laing has historically held portfolios in PFI, PPP, solar and renewables, assets at the less risky end of the infrastructure spectrum, which attract lower returns – about as far away from PE as you can get.

‘John Laing has decided to diversify under the leadership of Ben Loomes. After a strategic review it decided to stick with PFI and PPP but branch out into more risky assets. For KKR, which has historically been an investor on the more risky side, buying into John Laing gives it not only exposure to a portfolio of less risky assets, but also access to a bunch of investment professionals that bring skills.’

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett advised KKR and Aqueduct Bidco, a newly-formed company owned by funds advised by KKR, with a team led by London M&A partner Amy Mahon and including Clare Gaskell and Sinead O’Shea. A Herbert Smith Freehills team led by Gavin Williams also advised KKR.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advised John Laing, led by global transactions partner Oliver Lazenby and including partners Michele Davis, David Mendel, Dawn Heath and Alex Carver, who are leading on antitrust, employment, pensions, and projects matters respectively.

Ashurst advised Equitix on the formation of a new managed fund as well as in relation to two of its flagship funds, which will invest in the transaction. That team was led by investment funds partner Nick Goddard, while corporate partner Tom Mercer acted for Goldman Sachs with support from partners Tim Rennie and Harry Thimont.

Elsewhere, SoftBank agreed to sell its majority stake in SB Energy India, a renewable assets joint venture between SoftBank and Bharti Group, to Adani Green Energy, an India-based renewable energy company owned by the Adani Group.

The deal has been billed as the largest M&A transaction in the Indian renewables sector and gives SB Energy India an enterprise value of $3.5bn. It relates to a 5GW portfolio made up of 84% utility scale solar (4GW), 9% wind-solar hybrid capacity (450MW) and 7% wind capacity (324MW).

Morrison & Foerster advised SoftBank, led by London corporate partners Gary Brown and Simon Arlington. A Clifford Chance team led by David Lewis advised Adani Green.

Meanwhile, the £1.2bn acquisition of FTSE 250 UK real estate developer and investor St. Modwen by Blackstone also kept advisers busy.

Kirkland & Ellis advised Brighton Bidco, a newly-formed company owned indirectly by investment funds advised by Blackstone, on the recommended cash offer with a team led by corporate partners Michael Steele and Dipak Bhundia.

Ashurst emerged again, advising Rothschild as financial adviser to Brighton Bidco with a team led by UK head of corporate Karen Davies.

Another KKR deal saw it acquire a majority stake in ERM, the world’s largest pure-play sustainability consultancy, from OMERS Private Equity and Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo). The transaction will see ERM’s partners and management team remaining as minority investors.

Allen & Overy is acting for OMERS Private Equity and AIMCo and as co-counsel to ERM. Ropes & Gray is acting for the ERM partner shareholders and as co-counsel to ERM. The A&O team was led by corporate private equity partner Gordon Milne and the Ropes team was led by private equity transactions partner John Newton and included Will Rosen.

And finally, Exponent Private Equity’s acquisition of chilled dessert brand Gü from Noble Foods tickled the taste buds of a host of dealmakers, with A&O acting for repeat client Exponent with a team led by private equity partner Peter Banks and leveraged finance partner Cathy Bell-Walker.

A&O has advised Exponent on a number of foodie transactions since the beginning of 2021, including the acquisition of Proper and its merger with Eat Real, and the acquisitions of Fudco and Everest Dairies. A&O also recently advised Exponent on the demerger of Moonpig from the Photobox Group, and on the subsequent IPO of Moonpig, fielding a team led by private equity partner Gordon Milne, ECM partners James Roe and Adam Wells and leveraged finance partner Neil Sinha.

DLA Piper advised Noble Group with a team led by partner Charles Cook, and advising management of Gü was EMW partner Ian Morris. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson acted for the lenders, with a team led by partner Neil Caddy.