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The usual suspects: Linklaters and Freshfields take roles as Steinhoff gears up for Poundland takeover

Magic Circle duo Linklaters and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have scored lead roles on an attempt by South Africa’s Steinhoff to takeover British retailer Poundland.

Steinhoff, a $22 billion furniture, homeware and clothing conglomerate, has acquired a 23% stake in Poundland and confirmed that it is considering making an offer for the UK discount retailer.

Steinhoff already owns Pep, which sells discount clothing, footwear and homeware across 1,800 stores in Africa, and UK furniture chain Harvey’s.

Linklaters M&A heavyweight Charlie Jacobs, who is set to succeed Robert Elliott as the Magic Circle firm’s senior partner in October, has been instructed by Steinhoff. Steinhoff is part of South African Christo Wiese’s retail empire. He is chairman of Steinhoff and its biggest shareholder. Wiese, through his various investment vehicles and companies, is a longstanding client of Linklaters and Jacobs.

Linklaters has benefitted from Wiese-backed companies splurging on UK retailers in the last two years. The firm’s private equity partner Alex Woodward led last year as Wiese’s private equity vehicle Brait purchased Virgin Active for £1.3bn and took a 90% stake in clothing retailer New Look in a £780m deal.

The Wiese work follows a string of high-profile instructions for Jacobs, who has been advising commodities giant Glencore on its ongoing plans to slash $10.2bn from its $30bn debt pile and landed a lead role last year on the world’s biggest brewing deal, advising SABMiller on its mammoth $107bn takeover by AB InBev.

Freshfields corporate partner Oliver Lazenby is advising Poundland. A rising star in the Magic Circle firm’s corporate department, Lazenby advised Poundland on its £55m acquisition of rival 99p Stores last year.

Poundland also turned to Freshfields for its IPO back in 2014. The team for that mandate was led by corporate partners Mark Austin and Adrian Maguire.