Calm down, it’s just an IPO

Calm down, it’s just an IPO

IPO market set for best year since 2007

While corporate partners continue to protest about the lack of large mandates this year, when it comes to the IPO market, conditions are undoubtedly looking up – for now. The London Stock Exchange has had the best year to date for UK company floats since 2007, with nine flotations to date totalling $4.5bn (£2.86bn), according to Dealogic.

This time last year there had been just one float, raising $48m (£31m).

Stock market volatility remains an issue, with deal lawyers including Norton Rose Fulbright equity capital markets (ECM) partner Mark Lloyd Williams – who advised on the February float of house builder Crest Nicholson Holdings (£553m) – referring to conditions as ‘choppy’ and indicating that the position is kept under review from week to week.

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Back at the gate: US invaders raise fresh questions over private equity status of CC and Linklaters

David Stevenson surveys a fast-changing buyout landscape to find US ‘barbarians’ once again pressing in on City leaders

Unfortunately for top City firms looking to defend their position in private equity, it takes more than a five-year freeze in credit markets and a sustained downturn in leveraged buyouts to stop foreign rivals trying to move in on their patch.

Such a dynamic has once again thrown scrutiny on Linklaters’ now decade-long effort to carve a credible position in the private equity market and the position of Clifford Chance (CC), by contrast traditionally established as the market leader in Europe’s buyout scene.

In the former case, the debate continues among peers (and some internally at Silk Street) over the extent to which Linklaters has forged a practice worthy of its much-vaunted general corporate team. In CC’s case, a purple patch in public M&A last year arguably did not extend to private equity, while the firm has had to contend with the resignation in April of global head of private equity David Walker for Latham & Watkins.

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A&O finance veteran joins Co-op

Alistair Asher takes on GC role as firm acts on major bank rescue

Securing a major deal and having one of your partners take a senior role with the same client is a nice trick to pull off but Allen & Overy (A&O) appeared to have managed that last month after securing a lead role on the Co-op’s rescue plan and ‘donating’ a veteran partner to the lender’s management team.

On 18 June, A&O confirmed that global financial institutions head Alistair Asher is leaving to join the Co-operative Bank as its new general counsel.

Asher will advise on the restructuring of the mutually owned lender and help speed up its management overhaul under its new chief executive Euan Sutherland. Asher retired on 1 July after 34 years with the Magic Circle firm and took on the new role immediately. The veteran partner had previously advised the Co-op on its 2009 merger with Britannia Building Society.

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Slaughters leads on Punch Taverns £2.4bn debt restructuring

Longstanding Magic Circle client warns creditors that it could face administration

Slaughter and May is advising Punch Taverns on its £2.4bn securitised debt restructuring as the UK’s largest pub company warns creditors it could face administration.

On 10 June a powerful group of lenders rejected plans to reduce the pub group’s interest payments to £32m a year. Slaughters, led by corporate partner David Johnson is advising longstanding client Punch, which owns around 5,000 pubs across the UK.

Under the revised plans, Punch asked senior bondholders to approve a reduction in debt service payments of £600m over five years. However, a special committee set up by the Association of British Insurers to represent lenders rejected the plans last month, dismissing them as ‘vague’ and only a marginal improvement on proposals submitted in March.

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Landmark Prest v Petrodel Resources verdict reached

Supreme Court decision hailed as end to ‘cheat’s charter’

The landmark divorce battle between Yasmin and Michael Prest came to an end last month as the Supreme Court on 12 June ruled Mr Prest should hand over properties held by companies under his control.

The ruling – the most significant divorce case to reach the UK’s highest court since the 2010 judgment in Radmacher v Granatino – has been touted as instrumental in establishing whether London remains a key forum for resolving big-money divorce cases. The case has also been watched for its impact on the court’s treatment of the corporate veil, which protects company assets.

The background to the long-running dispute – Prest v Petrodel Resources – is well trodden. In 2011, the High Court ruled that wealthy oil trader Mr Prest was worth at least £37.5m and should pay his ex-wife a £17.5m settlement. Included in that settlement was a £4m house in west London owned by one of Mr Prest’s companies, which Mr Justice Moylan ordered to be transferred in part payment of the settlement. However, last October Lord Justices Rimer and Patten allowed an appeal by the oil trader’s companies, ruling that on principle shareholders are not entitled to treat their companies’ assets as their own.

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Shell completes review of global legal panel

Linklaters, Norton Rose and Baker & McKenzie win spots

Royal Dutch Shell concluded its extensive global panel review at the end of May with firms including Allen & Overy (A&O) and Baker & McKenzie marked out to receive work across multiple jurisdictions.

The tender, which kicked off in March, went out to 357 firms in 20 jurisdictions. According to legal director Peter Rees QC, the aim was to find between two and five suitable firms for each practice area in each jurisdiction. These firms would then be ‘pre-qualified’ for Shell legal work and would compete with each other for significant mandates.

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Withers and Speechly union off as SJP and KWM edge closer

Merger talks between private client firms Withers and Speechly Bircham were called off at the end of May as both sides claimed the merger would not be in their best interests.

A joint statement from the firms said: ‘Following detailed discussions between the management and partnerships of Withers and Speechly Bircham, both sides have now concluded that a merger would not be in the best interests of both firms and have agreed not to pursue this further. The talks have enhanced the respect that both firms have for each other.’

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Redundancy announcements increase as top partners predict difficult H2 for UK firms

Continuing pressure on UK legal market threatens largest redundancy levels since 2009

The level of legal redundancies this year is on course to be the largest since 2009 as the number of law firms announcing job cuts grows and senior partners predict tough months ahead.

CMS Cameron McKenna, which launched a review of its UK and Central and Eastern Europe business in January, last month took the final decision to make 37 staff redundant. The news came as 330-lawyer, top 50 UK firm Trowers & Hamlins also announced in late May that seven employees – three secretarial staff and four fee-earners – had been made redundant, with the firm blaming continuing pressures on the UK legal market.

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HSF merger throws up partnership issues as Herbert Smith issues cash call

HSF merger throws up partnership issues as Herbert Smith issues cash call

Global giant raises capital and shakes up corporate as HSF moves through merger integration

The merger between Herbert Smith and Freehills continues to give rise to growing pains as last month saw the UK half of the firm issue a multimillion pound cash call to its equity partners in preparation for financial integration.

The cash call was issued in a memo sent earlier this year to all equity partners. It is understood that they have been asked to contribute £2,000 per equity point. Herbert Smith’s lockstep ladder runs from 43 to 100, meaning those at the top of equity, around 65 individuals, are liable to pay around £200,000 each.

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Magic Circle unveils new pay levels

Four of the five Magic Circle firms have now revealed their decisions on newly qualified (NQ) and trainee salaries, with decisions pending from the remainder of the top ten City firms.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer so far tops the table for NQs, despite its decision to freeze pay for its career milestone foundation. Junior-banded associates – equivalent to NQ to one-year PQE – will earn between £65,000 and £72,500. The firm’s trainee pay has also been frozen at £39,000 for first-year trainees and £44,000 for second-year trainees.

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