Legal Business

Deal watch: Healthy pickings for Travers and DLA on Unilever’s £150m graze buyout as firms navigate Interserve rescue saga

Deal watch: Healthy pickings for Travers and DLA on Unilever’s £150m graze buyout as firms navigate Interserve rescue saga

Travers Smith and DLA Piper have sated their appetites on The Carlyle Group’s £150m disposal of graze while a raft of advisers sat tight as a further twist in the Interserve saga unfolded.

Unilever last Tuesday (5 February) sealed the deal to acquire ubiquitous healthy snack brand graze, having fended of competition from rival bidders Pepsi and Kellogg in an auction launched in the latter part of last year by Harris Williams.

The buyer, which also owns Marmite, mustard maker Colman’s and Wall’s ice-cream, was reputed to have paid exactly half the £300m asking price for the snack company.

Private equity house Carlyle, which sold graze via its Carlyle European Technology Partners fund, turned to longstanding relationship firm Travers and a team led by partners Ian Shawyer (pictured) and George Weavil. While not an obvious asset to be owned by a tech fund, Shawyer notes that graze, having started life in 2008 as a direct to consumer snack box delivery service, has a tech-based flavour in that it is based on data strategy and uses tech to mine customer preferences of its products.

The company has evolved to stocking the shelves of more than 30,000 UK retailers as well as US shops including Target, Walgreens and 7-Eleven.

Carlyle last year started sounding out the market for a successor fund – Carlyle European Technology Partners IV – with a view to raising €1.3bn to invest in companies with significant growth potential.

While Latham & Watkins is the firm most associated with Carlyle Group for international work, Travers has carved a niche advising the group on European deals.

Bob Bishop, DLA’s global co-chair of corporate, led the team advising Unilever, while Phil Hails-Smith, corporate and commercial partner at Joelson, advised graze’s management.

Meanwhile, the rescue of beleaguered UK construction plc Interserve has encountered a snag. Coinciding last Wednesday (6 February) with Interserve’s agreement in principle of a deleveraging plan that could save it from a Carillion-style collapse, hedge fund investor Coltrane Master Fund sought to leverage its 17% stake to requisition a general meeting that could see most of its directors ousted.

The latest example of shareholder activists making their presence felt on this side of the Atlantic, Coltrane has called for Interserve’s entire board, apart from chief executive Debbie White, to stand down and that David Frauman and Stuart Ross be appointed as directors.

The rescue mission has kept firms including Ashurst, Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld busy for several months. If approved by shareholders, it would involve £480m of new shares issued to lenders in a debt for equity deal aimed at reducing debt from £600m to £275m.

Advising Interserve are an Ashurst corporate team led by Tom Mercer and a Slaughters team led by restructuring partner Ian Johnson. A&O is advising the lenders with a team led by Trevor Borthwick, while Akin Gump, led by Barry Russell, is advising the noteholders.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer restructuring partner Adam Gallagher is advising the pension trustees of Interserve.

While there are clear parallels with fellow UK construction company Carillion, which fell into liquidation in January 2018, advisers are quick to note that the underlying business of Interserve does not suffer from such severe liquidity shortfalls and has not been subject to the same mismanagement.

‘A similar rescue plan was being considered for Carillion but didn’t work because that business was in far worse shape. This is what it looks like if it is possible to save the company’, said one partner of the Interserve restructuring.

Howard Kennedy and Browne Jacobson also last week won mandates acting on HMV’s rescue buyout by Canadian record company Sunrise Records & Entertainment Limited.

The move follows the music retailer’s demise into administration at the end of last year when Addleshaw Goddard partners Fraser Ritson and Alison Goldthorp were drafted in to advise the administrator KPMG.

The transaction will see Sunrise Records acquire 100 HMV stores across the UK while 27 stores were not included in the deal and have now shut down.

Howard Kennedy is advising KPMG, with a team led by corporate partner Jonathan Polin while Browne Jacobson corporate finance partner Roger Birchall is advising Sunrise Records.

High street cake purveyor Patisserie Valerie last month called in KPMG after it was unable to shake off significant fraud plaguing the business, with Gateley advising the administrator.

Legal Business

Double whammy for Ashurst as London head quits for BCLP and Macfarlanes hires former corporate head

Double whammy for Ashurst as London head quits for BCLP and Macfarlanes hires former corporate head

Ashurst London managing partner Simon Beddow and former corporate head Robert Ogilvy Watson have quit the firm to join Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) and Macfarlanes respectively.

A partner at the firm for 21 years, Beddow had led the firm’s City base since 2016 and was previously the firm’s corporate co-head. He will become BCLP’s deputy head of corporate.

BCLP’s co-chair Lisa Mayhew said: ‘At the time of our merger, we said that we would enhance our corporate team in London and hiring someone of Simon’s calibre clearly demonstrates this.  One of his priorities will be to consider which further additions we wish to make.’

Ashurst has appointed real estate finance partner Ruth Harris to replace Beddow as London managing partner, effective today (1 February).

Managing partner Paul Jenkins told Legal Business: ‘Simon wanted to continue in a management role and there wasn’t one available at Ashurst. We want people to be more transaction and client focused.’

He added: ‘I see it as a changing of the guard. We have some amazing corporate partners including Tom Mercer, Karen Davies and Jason Radford. The corporate practice has seen 17% revenue growth over the last year. It’s the strongest it’s been in many years. The departures are not going to impact that.’

Ogilvy Watson, whose 18 years as partner included a seven-year spell in the firm’s Hong Kong office from 2008, has acted on a number of public M&A transactions, including ITOCHU Corporation’s $10.4bn acquisition of a 20% stake in CITIC and Volcan Investments’ £778m offer for Vedanta Resources. He led Ashurst’s corporate practice until Jason Radford took over last year, and is a rare lateral for Macfarlanes, which is beefing up its public company M&A practice.

Macfarlanes senior partner Charles Martin told Legal Business: ‘We see public M&A as an important part of the practice and we see this as a quite interesting year for strategic M&A.’ He added: ‘When the opportunity to have Robert join us came along it seemed very timely.’

He added that the hiring process took ‘weeks rather than months’ and ‘as we got to know him, we thought he would be an outstanding addition to the team’.

Legal Business

Deal watch: City and US firms defy tough M&A market with deal duo as Gateley takes the cake on Patisserie Valerie collapse

Deal watch: City and US firms defy tough M&A market with deal duo as Gateley takes the cake on Patisserie Valerie collapse

Slaughter and May, Sullivan & Cromwell, CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang and Ashurst have defied a challenging market to take key roles on a pair of UK mergers as listed Gateley leads on the collapse of Patisserie Valerie.

Last week saw the £3.3bn takeover of UK listed plastics manufacturer RPC Group by funds managed by Apollo Management IX, as well as Primary Health Properties’ £393m acquisition of MedicX Fund Limited in an otherwise sedate UK M&A market.

Slaughter and May took the company-side mandate to advise RPC on a recommended offer for all shares by Apollo. Each RPC shareholder will be entitled to 782 pence in cash for each RPC share, valuing the deal at roughly £3.3bn. The shares have been issued by Rome UK Bidco, a vehicle created by the buyer of RPC, which designs and engineers plastic products, including for the plastic packaging markets.

The deal was led by Slaughters head of corporate Andy Ryde with a team including corporate partner and future rising star candidate Paul Mudie.

A Sullivan & Cromwell team led by Ben Perry acted as lead adviser to Apollo on the UK takeover elements of the deal with Paull Weiss London-based M&A partner David Lakhdhir providing additional advice to that firm’s core client in the US.

The sale process has been relatively protracted, becoming public last September and being subject to numerous takeover panel extensions. Bain Capital was also pegged as a potential acquirer of the business but later pulled out of the process. The transaction also includes a significant debt financing piece.

Ryde told Legal Business: ‘RPC’s plastic packaging business has grown rapidly in recent years through acquisition and it was felt that a private equity owner would allow it to continue this acquisitive strategy.’

He added: ‘It is a sign of market confidence that a takeover of this size of a FTSE 250 company can be done in a challenging market. The deal first became public last September and required five takeover panel extensions to finalise the due diligence process. RPC is a decentralised business with seven divisions operating across 33 countries so the deal took time to cross the line – but it got there in the end.’

The deal is slated to close in the second quarter of 2019.

Meanwhile, Ashurst has landed a role advising MedicX Fund, the healthcare infrastructure fund owned by Octopus, on its takeover by Primary Health Properties Plc (PHP).

The deal is being done via a Guernsey law scheme of arrangement and sees the share capital of MedicX issued in exchange for new shares in PHP, a deal which is valued at roughly £393m.

MedicX, a specialist primary care infrastructure investor in healthcare properties in the UK and Ireland, was advised by a team led by Ashurst corporate partner Tom Mercer and including corporate partner Tara Waters.

CMS advised PHP on the deal, with a team spearheaded by partners Glyn Taylor and Jack Shepherd.

MedicX is a closed-end investment company with UK REIT status, listed on the London Stock Exchange. Its investment portfolio includes 166 properties with a value of around £806.7m.

FTSE 250 company PHP is also a listed UK REIT which leases properties to GPs, the NHS and other healthcare providers. It has a market capitalisation of £875m and investments of £1.5bn.

Elsewhere, woes continue to plague the UK high street as Patisserie Valerie succumbed to the dark cloud of ‘significant fraud’ overshadowing the fancy cake chain as it brought in KPMG to administer its collapse earlier this week.

Parent company Patisserie Holdings plc announced the move on Tuesday (22 January), saying that as a direct result of the significant fraud it had been unable to renew its bank facilities.

Last October, a £40m black hole was discovered in the company’s accounts overseen by former finance director Chris Marsh who was then arrested on suspicion of fraud, bailed and then resigned from the company.

Patisserie Valerie’s chairman Luke Johnson has taken out a loan in order to pay out January wages.

Listed law firm Gateley has been unforthcoming about its reported role advising KPMG on the administration. The firm has declined to comment on whether Birmingham-based partner James Madill is advising, as one restructuring source suggests.

On Wednesday (23 January), KPMG announced the closure of loss-making stores, including 27 Patisserie Valerie stores and 19 Druckers stores. A further 25 Patisserie Valerie concessions in Debenhams (the UK department store which has itself been on restructuring counsel’s watch list for several months), Next and motorway service areas have also closed, along with the company’s bakery in Spitalfields. The closures have resulted in 920 redundancies.

Legal Business

Ashurst seeks competitive edge with second new lawyer salary increase of 2018

Ashurst seeks competitive edge with second new lawyer salary increase of 2018

Ashurst has become the latest City firm to review its trainee and newly qualified (NQ) salaries for the second time this year, upping the latter’s basic pay to £82,000.

The changes, which take effect on 1 November, give NQs a £6,000 salary hike from the £76,000 given during the last review in May, while a performance-related bonus could bolster compensation to £94,300.

Meanwhile, one year qualified lawyers will take home £86,000, a £6,000 uptick, with a bonus yielding a total possible salary of £98,900. Two-year qualified lawyers will earn basic pay of £94,000, a £7,000 increase, and a bonus could increase compensation to £117,500.

London managing partner, Simon Beddow (pictured), attributed the pay rise to ‘a very strong start to the financial year… together with the desire to remain as competitive as possible’.

Ashurst’s revised pay means the firm only slightly lags the NQ rate of £83,000 offered by Allen & Overy and Linklaters, with the latter earlier this month also increasing its pay for the second time this year.

It is also higher than Slaughter and May’s £80,000 for NQs, while Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer pays NQs £85,000 and Clifford Chance in August increased NQ pay to £91,000, including bonuses.

In what was billed as a ‘strong performance globally’, Ashurst in June reported a 4% uptick in revenue for 2017/18 and sustained the 11% growth in profit per equity partner (PEP) achieved last year.

The firm’s revenue for the last financial year was £564m, up from £541m, while PEP stood at £743,000, compared with £672,000 in 2017. The results marked a second year of growth following two consecutive years of decline following the City stalwart’s merger with Australia’s Blake Dawson in 2013.

Legal Business

Ashurst sets sights on funds and Brexit fallout work with new Luxembourg arm

Ashurst sets sights on funds and Brexit fallout work with new Luxembourg arm

Ashurst is targeting a significant uptick in its European funds offering, having received licence approval for a new Luxembourg office from the country’s Bar association.

Corporate partner Isabelle Lentz – currently head of its Luxembourg desk in London – will take the helm at the new outpost, which is set to open in October.

Legal Business

‘A difficult time’: Ashurst axes 54 City secretaries following redundancy review

‘A difficult time’: Ashurst axes 54 City secretaries following redundancy review

Ashurst has culled more than half of its secretarial staff in London as its redundancy review draws to a ‘difficult’ conclusion.

The firm confirmed on Wednesday (19 July) that 54 of its 100-strong secretarial team had been made redundant following a consultation which put 80 jobs at risk. Two secretarial roles in the Middle East have also been axed.

Ashurst launched the process in May, with women making up the vast majority of those in the firing line. Ashurst stated in its March 2018 gender pay gap report that 122 of its 125 secretarial staff – or 98% – are female.

When the redundancy drive launched, chief financial and operations officer Jan Gooze Zijl commented: ‘Responding to changing client needs, evolving technology, market efficiency drives and embracing new ways of working are strategic priorities for Ashurst. The way legal work is undertaken has changed considerably and we need an approach to service delivery that most effectively supports the practices and our business.’

At the time, the firm said its scaled back support function would be divided into three different types of role across the London and Glasgow offices.

This will include four team leaders and 37 practice executives responsible for practice management and business development, two more practice executive roles than originally stated.

The firm said 25 of its London executive assistants have accepted jobs as practice executives, with recruitment of the remaining 12 roles set to be concluded by the end of this month.

London and Glasgow will also be staffed by team executives and team assistants to undertake the more traditional administrative work. Of the 44 available roles, 14 have been filled internally, with recruitment nearly finished for the other remaining jobs.

Claire Townshend, Ashurst’s head of HR for EMEA and US, said: ‘We recognise that this has been a difficult time for those directly affected by the changes and we aimed to deal with the process sensitively, openly and respectfully for those impacted. We have been very grateful to our staff for being engaged and professional through this time and we thank them for this.’

Legal Business

Ashurst taps Mayer Brown’s City office in disputes drive as White & Case adds Macfarlanes rising deal star Jones

Ashurst taps Mayer Brown’s City office in disputes drive as White & Case adds Macfarlanes rising deal star Jones

The City lateral market has kicked off after an uncharacteristic hiatus in recent weeks, seeing Ashurst recruit disputes partner Tom Duncan from Mayer Brown as Macfarlanes loses private equity rising star Emmie Jones to White & Case’s relentless hiring spree.

Macfarlanes-bred Jones, who featured in Legal Business’ analysis on the female City private equity players to watch in the mid-tier, was made up to partner in 2013. She has joined White & Case’s global M&A and private equity industry group as the firm sallies forth with its 2020 strategy, which includes going ‘toe-to-toe’ with the Magic Circle in London, led by erstwhile London executive partner Oliver Brettle.

Brettle, partner and member of the firm’s global executive committee, commented: ‘Our 2020 strategy includes a focus on profitable growth in London, in the global private equity industry and in mergers and acquisitions. The arrival of Emmie represents clear further progress in all three areas.’

John Reiss, head of White & Case’s global M&A practice, added: ‘The addition of Emmie sends a clear message to the market that we’re determined to continue growing our role advising the leading private equity firms and their portfolio companies on their most important, complex, cross-border matters.’

Jones has advised clients on the structuring, negotiation and execution of complex, cross-border private equity transactions across multiple sectors. She has totted up more than 150 deals, in both traditional private equity and advising portfolio companies, with a combined enterprise value of £10bn.

She has more than 13 years of experience advising private equity sponsors, corporates and management teams on acquisitions, disposals, management equity deals and distressed situations.

M&A partner John Cunningham said that Jones’ client relationships are an exciting fit with the firm’s client portfolio and the hire will play an important role in the ongoing institutionalisation and growth of the firm’s client base.

White & Case bolstered this same team as recently as March with the hire of former Jones Day partner Mike Weir. Jones is the seventh lateral in London so far this year, in addition to seven internal partner promotions in January.

City firm Ashurst, meanwhile, is upping its dispute resolution game in London with Tom Duncan, who has been a partner in Mayer Brown’s construction and engineering and international arbitration groups since 2012. He advises on all aspects of construction and engineering law with a focus on complex disputes. He has acted for clients in a number of different jurisdictions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia and has broad experience in arbitrations, adjudications and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.
This is the seventh dispute resolution partner hire for the firm this year, having recently appointed partners David Wilkinson and Alison Hardy in London, Emmanuelle Cabrol and Hortense de Roux in Paris, Nicolas Nohlen in Frankfurt and Melanie McKean in Canberra.

Simon Bromwich, head of Ashurst’s global dispute resolution practice, said: ‘Both in the UK and across our offices we are continuing to see high levels of infrastructure and construction disputes. These cases typically involve our growing and highly rated international arbitration team. I am confident that [Tom] will help our global team to capitalise further on the major opportunities in the market.’

Duncan added: ‘The strength of Ashurst’s credentials and client base in the infrastructure and construction sectors, together with its significant international network, provide an ideal basis to help develop Ashurst’s excellent disputes practice in those sectors. I have been impressed by the quality of the firm’s infrastructure and construction disputes capability and I am looking forward to working with the team.’

Legal Business

Deal Watch: Rich pickings for Travers and Ashurst as US giants get busy on the continent

Deal Watch: Rich pickings for Travers and Ashurst as US giants get busy on the continent

It was a busy week for UK and US deal counsel as Travers Smith and Ashurst acted on multibillion-pound deals north of the channel and White & Case and Ropes & Gray landed key mandates in continental Europe.

Again acting well above its traditional mid-market territory, Travers advised IT company Micro Focus on the $2.5bn sale of open source software business SUSE to EQT Partners.

Head of corporate Spencer Summerfield led the Travers team, which also included corporate partners Jon Reddington and Mohammed Senouci.

Summerfield pointed to his firm’s history with the software business, having advised UK company Micro Focus when it initially bought SUSE in 2014 as part of the $2.3bn acquisition of The Attachmate Group. He commented: ‘This investment has generated substantial shareholder value and provided the SUSE business with a strong, long term investor to support its next phase of growth.’

Travers also fielded a team of specialists on the deal, including IP and tech partners Dan Reavill and James Longster, competition partner Stephen Whitfield, tax partners Simon Skinner and Madeline Gowlett, head of incentives and remuneration Mahesh Varia and real estate partner Paul Kenny.

The deal was another big mandate for Travers after longstanding client Bridgepoint recently instructed the UK firm on its £1.5bn sale of Pret A Manger.

A Latham & Watkins team led by finance partner Dominic Newcomb advised EQT alongside Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. Completion of the deal is expected in the first quarter of next year.

Meanwhile, White & Case advised CVC Capital Partners in one of Italy’s largest ever private equity transactions: the €3bn acquisition of Italian drugmaker Recordati from the family of the company’s founders.

White & Case’s Milan office founder Michael Immordino acted for the private equity house on the M&A and financing aspects of the transaction. CVC will buy 51.8% of Recordati in a transaction valuing the company at almost €6bn.

London partners Mike Weir and Steve Worthington were also part of the team, alongside Milan-based Ferigo Foscari and Leonardo Graffi. Martin Forbes, James Greene, Iacopo Canino and Alessandro Nolet advised on the financing of the deal.

Italy private equity firm Gattai Minoli Agostinelli & Partners also acted for CVC with founder Bruno Gattai and partners Gerardo Gabrielli, Nicola Brunetti and Lorenzo Cairo. Independent firm Studio Tributario Associato Facchini Rossi & Soci advised on tax and due diligence with partners Luca Rossi, Giancarlo Lapecorella and Marina Ampolilla.

Also on the continent, Ropes & Gray advised Netherlands telecoms company Altice Europe on the sale of stakes in its tower businesses in France and Portugal to KKR, Morgan Stanley and Horizon Equity Partners in a deal worth €2.5bn.

London finance partner Michael Kazakevich led the US firm’s team acting on the financing side, while French firm Franklin advised Altice on the M&A aspects with partners Christian Sauer, Julie Catala Marty and Magali Masson.

French firm Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier and US giant Simpson Thacher advised KKR, which will buy 49.99% of Altice’s French tower company, including 1,200 sites in the country valued at €3.6bn.

Partners Alain Maillot and Jean-Baptiste de Martigny led Darrois’s team. Morgan Stanley infrastructure and horizon equity partners will acquire 75% of Altice’s Portuguese tower company, with a portfolio of 2,961 tower sites worth €660m.

Back in the UK, Ashurst advised Volcan Investments on the acquisition of Vedanta Resources in a deal valuing the UK mining company at £2.3bn and bringing an end to its UK listing.

Corporate partner Tom Mercer led the team acting for Volcan, which already owns 66.5% of Vedanta and is seeking to acquire the rest for £778m. Corporate partner Robert Ogilvy Watson and finance partner Tim Rennie were also part of the Ashurst team.

Ashurst had acted for Vedanta on the $812.6m acquisition of Electrosteel Steels and the $2.3bn merger with Cairn India. But this time the firm acted for Volcan, which had previously turned to Allen & Overy as it invested £3.5bn in Anglo American.

Latham advised the independent committee of the board of Vedanta with a London-based team led by corporate partners Richard Butterwick and Nick Cline.

Legal Business

Financials 2017/18: Ashurst posts 4% revenue uptick and second year of double-digit PEP growth

Financials 2017/18: Ashurst posts 4% revenue uptick and second year of double-digit PEP growth

In what management has billed as ‘a strong performance globally’, Ashurst has reported a modest 4% uptick in revenue for 2017/18 while the firm sustained the 11% growth in profit per equity partner (PEP) achieved last year.

The firm’s revenue for the last financial year was £564m, up from £541m, while PEP stood at £743,000 compared with £672,000 in 2017.

The results mark a second year of growth following two consecutive years of decline that followed the City stalwart’s merger with Australia’s Blake Dawson in 2013.

Managing partner Paul Jenkins (pictured) told Legal Business that the 11% year-on-year PEP growth just exceeded his target. ‘We were aiming for 10% growth and we have achieved that over each of the last two years, so we are very happy with the result. We have focused on areas of strength for profitable growth and driving cost efficiency and innovation in service delivery.’

The firm’s core sectors are real estate, infrastructure, energy, digital economy and banks and funds. 85% of the firm’s revenue was generated via these sectors in 2017/18, compared with 80% of total revenue the previous year.

Jenkins noted that Asia Pacific has continued to perform well. ‘We have achieved double-digit revenue growth in Australia and China put in an excellent performance in a year in which we also launched a Joint Operating Office in Shanghai with Guantao. Demonstrating our ongoing investment in Singapore, we also established a formal law alliance with ADTLaw.’

He also pointed to ‘double-digit revenue growth across key practices in the UK’ and progress in the Middle East, which ‘continued to grow substantially,’ and ‘impressive results with growth across all practice areas’ in Germany. He added that Asia market would continue to be a strategic focus for the firm, while the US infrastructure market has also yielded particular success. The firm has identified opportunities in acting for Chinese banks on outbound investment in Europe and Australia.

Jan Gooze-Zijl, the firm’s chief financial and operations officer, also identified Luxembourg as an area of growth on the back of Brexit and to capitalise on funds activity. The firm last week secured licence approval for a new Luxembourg outpost, which is set to open in October.

Jenkins also said the firm has seen particularly strong performance in its dispute resolution, real estate, competition, regulatory and employment businesses. Restructuring and special situations has also seen very high levels of activity across Europe, as has corporate and banking in London. Technology is also expected to remain a priority. In April, the firm hired GE Capital International’s IT director Noel Jordan as its chief technology officer.

Jenkins concluded: ‘I am confident that our strong trajectory will continue in FY19. In the last two years, we have focused on achieving sustained revenue and profit improvement. There are many significant prospects and opportunities that lie ahead as we build on our achievements as a high-performance and collaborative firm committed to operating at the forefront of change in the industry.’

The firm made 31 lateral hires during the year and promoted 24 internal candidates to partner. The firm also fared considerably better than its peers when it came to gender diversity, with 58% of the partners it made up being female.

Some key mandates for Ashurst during the year have included advising Aveva Group on its £3bn combination with Schneider Electric’s industrial software business and acting for an infrastructure investor consortium fronted by Dalmore Capital on its acquisition of Cory Riverside Energy, the owner of the UK’s largest energy-from-waste plant in London, for more than £1.5bn.


Legal Business

Ashurst targets funds and Brexit business with Luxembourg launch

Ashurst targets funds and Brexit business with Luxembourg launch

Ashurst is a step closer to building out its European funds offering having today (22 June) received licence approval for a new Luxembourg office from the country’s Bar association.

Corporate partner Isabelle Lentz – currently head of the firm’s Luxembourg desk in London -will take the helm at the new outpost, which is set to open in October.

The move is designed to bolster the firm’s position in the funds market and also take advantage of opportunities posed by Brexit as businesses transfer to the Grand Duchy.

Ashurst is hiring for the new office, with a view to having between 15 and 20 legal and business services staff ensconced within a year of opening.

Paul Jenkins, managing partner, said: ‘As a leading investment fund centre in Europe, the second largest globally in terms of assets under management and a hub for international banks and fintech, the opportunities in Luxembourg are significant. Growing our offering and building on the proven track record of our  established Luxembourg desk is an exciting prospect and one which will greatly enhance our client service offering.’

Lentz added: ‘Over recent years, Luxembourg has secured it status as a key financial centre and as one of the frontrunners of preferred EU locations for transfer of business related to Brexit, that is only set to increase. I am really looking forward to capitalising on this by developing our presence in Luxembourg and enhancing our capability.’

The firm’s Luxembourg desk in London was set up in 2011 and advises on corporate, private equity, funds, restructuring, regulatory, real estate and banking matters. Recent mandates for the five-strong desk have included advising investor Digital Colony on its April 2018 acquisition from First State Investments on Digita Oy, the owner and operator of digital terrestrial television and radio broadcasting tower infrastructure network in Finland.

Other recent mandates have seen the team advise US fund Castlelake on the restructuring of a number of Luxembourg companies ahead of the IPO of property developer Aedas Homes, Aviva Investors and Shard Capital on the establishment of unregulated private debt funds, Nordic private equity shop CapMan Real Estate on its €425m fund raising of a private FCP- RAIF fund and the banks on a bridge financing for fund manager EQT.