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Dealwatch: Ashurst and Travers double up on McColl’s and Ideagen acquisitions as Freshfields energises offshore wind deal

A trio of City firms acted on the sale out of insolvency of McColl’s to supermarket chain Morrisons, in a week that also saw significant mandates in the renewable energy and software sectors.

The transaction, which was structured as a pre-pack sale following the initiation of administration proceedings by McColl’s board on 6 May, ensured all employees would avoid redundancy, while also protecting all pension schemes.

Convenience store and newsagent operator McColl’s maintained roughly 1,200 sites across the UK, employing some 16,000 people.

Travers Smith represented McColl’s. Restructuring and insolvency head Edward Smith and corporate lead Andrew Gillen headed up the team which also included associates Kirsty Emery and Fabian McNeilly.

Morrisons was advised by Ashurst, with the team led by longtime adviser Tom Mercer and restructuring partner Olga Galazoula in addition to Giles Boothman and Inga West. The firm also provided a comprehensive service through a cross-practice team of partners; Nigel Parr (competition), Lynn Dunne (contentious restructuring and insolvency), Ruth Buchanan (employment), Tim Rennie (global loans), Sarah Sivyour (real estate), Nicholas Gardner and Paul Miller (tax) were all involved in the deal.

The transaction is the second high-profile acquisition in which the firm has represented Morrisons in the past year, having also acted for the supermarket chain in its £7.3bn takeover by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in October 2021.

PwC instructed Hogan Lovells to represent it as joint administrator of seven companies within the McColl’s group. Insolvency duo Debbie Gregory and James Maltby led the team, which also included Oliver Humphrey, Oliver Chamberlain, Katie Banks, Stefan Martin, Tom Brassington and Angus Coulter, who advised on litigation, real estate, pensions, employment, corporate and competition expertise respectively.

Gregory commented: ‘This is a fantastic outcome for McColl’s and all its stakeholders and we are pleased to have played our part in securing a rescue for this neighbourhood retailer which has been part of communities across the UK for over 100 years.’

Travers and Ashurst were also instructed on the £1.06bn purchase of Ideagen plc by Rainforest Bidco Limited, a company indirectly controlled by funds managed by Hg Pooled Management Limited (Hg).

Ideagen has a strong foothold in the regulatory and compliance software space, operating across the life sciences, finance, insurance and health sectors. With offices in London, Munich and New York, Hg has over 20 years’ experience of investing in the software industry.

The Travers team that advised Ideagen was led by corporate partner Richard Spedding. Head of incentives and renumeration Mahesh Varia also acted on the deal, as did competition lead Nigel Seay. The transaction builds on the firm’s relationship with the company after it first advised on a £103.5m fundraise in December 2021.

Linklaters represented Hg. Corporate duo Chris Boycott and Alex Woodward headed up the deal team, which also included fellow partners Bradley Richardson, Neil Hoolihan and Oliver Sceales, who respectively advised on employment, antitrust and debt financing.

Lazard and Houlihan Lokey, which are acting as financial advisers to Ideagen, were represented by Ashurst. Karen Davies and Tim Rennie led the transaction.

Finally, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) has acquired wpd offshore, the offshore wind arm of wpd AG. Active in 14 European and Asia Pacific markets, the target company has an extensive portfolio of offshore wind projects which includes a development pipeline of roughly 30GW, with 7GW developed so far.

The cross-office Freshfields team which advised GIP was led by Natascha Doll (Hamburg) and Patrick Ko (London), assisted by Richard Lister (London) and Torsten Schreier (Frankfurt). Michael Josenhans (Frankfurt) and Pascal Cuche (Paris) provided finance expertise; David Beutal (Munich) advised on tax matters; Paul van den Berg (Amsterdam) and Martin J. McElwee (London/Brussels) led on antitrust; employment issues were handled by Boris Dzida, Klaus-Stefan Hohenstatt (both Hamburg) and Christel Cacioppo (Paris); and Michael Ramb (Düsseldorf/Berlin) assisted with environment, planning and regulatory.

Wpd was represented by Bremen-based renewables specialists Blanke Meier Evers. Thomas Heineke and Jochen Rotstegge led on the deal with assistance from Rainer Heidorn and Andreas Hinsch.