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Dealwatch: Travers Smith and Baker Botts lead on $1bn demerger; Mills & Reeve and Burges Salmon advise on Co-op farm sale

A healthy uptick in transactional activity has brought a handful of players in line for a windfall, as City-firm Travers Smith and US-firm Baker Botts secured leading roles advising on the $1bn demerger of Paragon Offshore from drilling company Noble Corporation.Elsewhere, UK-firms Burges Salmon and Mills & Reeve landed heavyweight roles advising on the £249m sale of the troubled Co-operative Group’s farm business to charitable foundation Wellcome Trust.

The demerger of Houston-headquartered Paragon, a provider of standard specification offshore delivery units in the oil and gas industry, from international offshore drilling contractor Noble means the company will trade separately on the New York Stock Exchange.

Travers Smith corporate partner Richard Spedding led a cross-departmental team, including tax partner Simon Yates and employment and immigration partner Sian Keall, and employee incentives partner Mahesh Varia. The team provided English law advice on aspects of the deal. UK-based Noble is a longstanding client of Travers Smith, which in 2013 advised the drilling giant as English law counsel on its migration from Switzerland to the UK in 2013.

On US law aspects of the deal, Noble and Paragon were advised by Baker Botts partners David Emmons and Hillary Holmes, based in Dallas and Houston respectively.

Leading the Co-Operative Group deal was Burges Salmon corporate partner Nick Graves and real estate partner Alastair Morrison while Mills & Reeve’s head of agriculture Michael Aubrey led a 40-strong team advising Wellcome Trust.

Constituting the largest open market sale of agricultural land in the UK, the acquisition of the agricultural business arm included 39,533 acres of freehold and third party owned land, 15 farms, and more than 100 residential properties, 27 commercial properties and 255 employees.

Mills & Reeve’s Aubrey said: ‘This was a large and fast moving deal requiring both agricultural law expertise and experience of advising on high profile, complex corporate acquisitions – a combination which few law firms can boast.’