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Freshfields and Skadden face off as Japanese telco wins $1.2bn arbitration award from Tata Group

In one of the biggest cases for the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) this year, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have advised as Tokyo telco NTT Docomo pursued $1.2bn in damages from a Tata Group linked company for a breach of shareholder agreement.

Skadden advised Tokyo-listed telecoms group NTT Docomo, which acquired a 26.5% stake in Tata Teleservices for $2.7bn, but announced its intentions to exit the venture after a series of setbacks.

NTT Docomo said the shareholder agreement gave it the right to request that Tata Group holding company Tata Sons would find a suitable buyer to purchase its shares for 50% of what it had paid or a fair market price. Tata Sons argued that Indian exchange control regulations prevented it from paying the agreed price, but the tribunal concluded that this did not mean it was excused from meeting its contractual obligations.

Tata Sons was advised by Freshfields in an all-British tribunal seated in London, which was chaired by One Essex Court QC Christopher Style, with former English Court of Appeal judge Lord Hoffmann and 20 Essex Street QC David Sutton serving as co-arbitrators.

Skadden London partner David Kavanagh and New York-based partners Lea Haber Kuck, John Gardiner and Greg Litt worked on the case for NTT Docomo, Japan’s largest mobile phone firm, along with Indian firm Khaitan & Co partner Sanjeev Kapoor. Freshfields London head of arbitration Nigel Rawding QC acted for Tata Sons alongside advocates Harish Salve, Darius Khambata and AZB & Partners in Delhi.

The mandate is the latest in a string of high-profile arbitrations for Freshfields which was recently hired by Oman’s largest sovereign wealth fund, the State General Reserve Fund of Oman, to sue Bulgaria over its role in the collapse of Balkan bank KTB. Bulgaria is being advised by Arnold & Porter.

Kavanagh said: ‘This is one of the largest cases in the LCIA in 2016 and one of the largest LCIA awards in recent years.  It was also very notable that the award was issued within just two months of the hearing so it is a great advert for the efficiency of LCIA arbitration.  Indian related disputes are a significant and growing area in international arbitration.’