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Real estate round-up: Clifford Chance, Taylor Wessing and Burges Salmon start New Year on front foot

Clifford Chance (CC), Taylor Wessing and Burges Salmon have emerged as the pace setters for real estate work in the first few days of 2014, with each having completed significant UK commercial property deals recently.

Clifford Chance advised GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, on both the purchase of a 50% interest in the Broadgate Estate from Blackstone Real Estate Partners Europe III and Blackstone Real Estate Partners VI and GIC’s 50:50 joint venture with British Land to ‘enable the future development of the estate,’ according to the firm.

The joint venture aims to focus on widening Broadgate’s appeal from a traditional City-focused occupier base to ‘cater for the growing creative district centred around Shoreditch and the emerging tech-focused area around Old Street’. British Land’s 2013 annual report cites the portfolio value of Broadgate at over £3bn.

As befits a deal of this scale, a very senior multi-disciplinary team was led by corporate partner Mark Poulton, alongside global head of corporate and incoming global managing partner Matthew Layton. The deal also featured London head of real estate Jonathan Solomon, corporate partner Adrian Levy, real estate finance partner Jane Cheong Tung Sing, real estate partner Nigel Howorth, head of real estate tax David Saleh, corporate partner Steve Curtis, and antitrust partner Greg Olsen.

Poulton said: ‘We were delighted to advise GIC on this major real estate acquisition and were able to field a multi-disciplinary team in order to meet the client’s requirements. This type of complex corporate real estate transaction is where we can really add value to our clients by bringing together our corporate, real estate, real estate tax, real estate finance specialists from across our real estate sector group.’

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s City-based corporate partner Michael Wolfson led the team advising Blackstone, alongside Berwin Leighton Paisner.

Meanwhile Taylor Wessing advised longstanding client Wainbridge, a private real estate investment group, on the purchase of 11-15 Grosvenor Crescent, SW1, from the Grosvenor Estate, in a £350m scheme that will comprise eleven exclusive apartments overlooking Belgravia, with associated parking and leisure amenities.

Taylor Wessing real estate partner Keith Barnett led the team, which included finance partner Martin Yells, and corporate tax partner Robert Young. The team also advised on the related acquisition and development debt funding provided by Urban Exposure and Letter One, marking the latter’s first financing in the European real estate market.

Principal and co-founder of Wainbridge, Rob Rackind, said: ‘Taylor Wessing were instrumental in our achieving the acquisition of this prime freehold site and in securing its funding. They have provided us with outstanding support.’

Meanwhile, Bristol-based top-50 firm Burges Salmon has acted for the Crown Estate, for which it is a panel firm, on the sale of Honda’s biggest storage depot in Cabot Park, Avonmouth to the BlackRock UK Property Fund and Canmoor for £31m.

Led by senior associate Matthew Sims, the deal forms part of a spate of £130m transactions that the Crown Estate unveiled at at the end of 2013.

Commenting on the sale, Sims said: ‘The firm’s real estate team acted for the Crown Estate in its purchase of Honda’s site in Avonmouth in 2005 and also in the sale of part of Honda’s original site in 2011 for £10.5m, which is now used by The Co-operative Group as a major regional distribution centre. Given our previous involvement, we were delighted to act for the Crown Estate again in its strategic disposal of this site.’