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Glaxo reviews advisers as A&O & CC take lead roles on £1.35bn Ribena and Lucozade sale

As GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) reviews its preferred law firms in a decision that could see the healthcare giant create a formal panel, Allen & Overy (A&O) has won the lead role to advise on its £1.35bn sale of drinks brands Lucozade and Ribena to the Japanese consumer goods company Suntory Beverage and Food (Suntory).

A&O won the deal after a series of GSK’s preferred firms pitched for the role. The corporate team at A&O will include partners Edward Barnett and Andrew Ballheimer, with assistance from senior associate Nigel Parker and associate Matthew Appleton, alongside anti-trust partner Alasdair Balfour and employment partner Mark Mansell.

Clifford Chance is advising Suntory, led by corporate finance partner Joel Ziff, who will work alongside fellow corporate partner Robert Crothers and lead associate Katherine Moir, as well as IT partner André Duminy.

Slaughter and May is widely regarded as GSK’s go-to corporate firm, having previously advised on a string of major deals including last year’s £650m investment to increase its stake in its India and Nigeria subsidiaries; its acquisition of Maxinutrition from Darwin Private Equity in 2010; its agreement with Pfizer to create ViiV in 2009; and a €515m acquisition of the marketed product portfolio of UCB.

However, GSK also operates a list of preferred firms for its legal advice and is discussing whether to set up a formal panel. According to a GSK spokesperson the details will be confirmed at the end of this year.

A&O corporate partner Edward Barnett says: ‘We are proud and delighted to have worked with GSK on this strategic transition and contributed to achieving GSK’s stated aims of diversifying these iconic brands, provided appropriate value was realised for shareholders.’

The sale comes after GSK decided to increase its focus around a core portfolio of healthcare brands, with a particular emphasis on emerging markets, following a strategic review of Lucozade and Ribena in February this year. Annual sales of the two brands were approximately £0.5bn in 2012.

Under the agreement, Suntory will acquire global rights to the brands with the exception of Nigeria, where GSK Nigeria will continue to manufacture and distribute Lucozade and Ribena under licence from Suntory. The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of the year, subject to regulatory approvals.