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Headline Deals: Ashurst takes lead for Commerzbank and Morrisons

Ashurst is leading on two headline deals announced this week as Germany’s Commerzbank enters talks to sell a £4bn UK loan portfolio and Wm Morrisons signed a potentially market changing agreement with online grocer Ocado.

The top 15 UK firm is advising longstanding client Commerzbank on the proposed sale of its Eurohypo UK operation to US bank Wells Fargo and private equity group Lone Star. If the deal goes ahead it is reported to be one of the largest disposals of real estate debt by a European bank since the start of the financial crisis.

The work was awarded to Ashurst by Germany’s second largest bank after a competitive pitch in November 2012. For Ashurst, which has an existing relationship with Frankfurt-based Commerzbank through its German operations, this will be the first corporate M&A deal they have advised the bank on, having undertaken largely finance mandates in the past.

The deal is being led by finance partner Lee Doyle, working alongside corporate partners Nick Cheshire and Rob Aird.

Allen & Overy is coordinating the joint bid for the acquirers and Dechert has a small role advising Wells Fargo on the deal, which is expected to complete by the end of the summer.

Elsewhere, Ashurst is also advising British supermarket Morrisons on a long term agreement with Ocado, led by global head of corporate Stephen Lloyd alongside corporate partners Adrian Clark and Karan Dinamani.

The firm, which has advised Morrisons since its 2003 takeover of Safeway, is advising on a technology and services arrangement and a sale and leaseback of property and equipment at Ocado’s Dordon customer fulfilment centre, which will enable the supermarket’s online store to commence grocery deliveries to customers in January 2014.

Speaking of the deal, which is expected to complete in July this year, Lloyd said: ‘This deal is transformational for both Morrison and Ocado. As a 25 year deal with the potential for extension and with a complex sale and leaseback component, it needs to cater for a number of different potential outcomes whilst in all circumstances preserving the value in the respective businesses.

‘Senior teams on both sides have worked to a challenging deadline to finalise workstreams across a diverse range of disciplines and both clients are delighted with the outcome.’


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