Legal Business

Ireland’s lucky number seven: Irish Treasury appoints septuplet of firms to its legal panel


Thanks to the economic turbulence that has plagued the Irish nation since 2008, Dublin’s largest firms continue to collect hefty recession related work post financial crisis, including most recently an appointment to advise the government’s asset and liabilities manager, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

The NTMA, which is responsible for borrowing on behalf of the Irish government and managing the national debt, has appointed Dublin-based Big Five firms A&L Goodbody, Arthur Cox, William Fry, McCann FitzGerald and Matheson to its general legal services panel alongside Mason Hayes & Curran and offshore funds giant Maples and Calder.

In recent years advising on Ireland’s debt has been particularly lucrative. Traditionally, Arthur Cox has been recognised as the state’s go-to firm, having led on many of Ireland’s headline bank restructuring deals, including the NTMA’s transfer of €15.8bn of deposits and assets from Irish Nationwide Building Society to Irish Life & Permanent, and from the now-defunct Anglo Irish Bank to Allied Irish Banks (€12.2bn).

However, this latest panel announcement comes as the government is under serious public scrutiny over legal fees, particularly in relation to its controversial bank guarantee scheme, which has landed the Irish tax-payer with over €64bn of debt.

Following a parliamentary question published in mid-July, finance minister Michael Noonan revealed that since 2011 the government has paid Arthur Cox around €5m for advice on the scheme including fees this year so far of €981,012.

Noonan also revealed that the state has paid out more than €960,000 to Matheson since last year – a sum it says was for ‘advice on transactions undertaken by the Minister in relation to Irish Life.’

See the September issue of Legal Business for an extensive insight into Ireland’s legal market

Legal Business

Deal watch: CMS, Matheson and Akin Gump act on high-profile international deals

As international M&A catches the headlines, CMS Cameron McKenna has advised a consortium owned by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing on a HK$9.7 billion dollar acquisition of the Netherlands’ largest waste management group AVR Afvalverwerking.

CMS London corporate partner Charles Currier and Amsterdam partners Martika Jonk and Cecilia van der Weijden led the multi-disciplinary team advising Cheung Kong Infrastructure Consortium (CKI). Last year CKI acquired MGN Gas Networks for $1bn, also advised by CMS.

CKI is the largest publicly listed infrastructure company in Hong Kong for energy, transportation, water, waste management and infrastructure-related business.

The acquisition of AVR, which is subject to regulatory approval, is considered to be one of the biggest in continental Europe by a Li company.

Currier said: ‘We were delighted to act for the consortium on its first investment in continental Europe and for the opportunity to continue to build on the excellent relationship we have developed with them.’

Also advising a Ka-shing company is Dublin-headquartered Matheson, which confirmed yesterday (25 June) that it has advised Hutchison Whampoa-owned Three Ireland on its €780 million acquisition of Telefonica Ireland, which trades as O2 Ireland. A further additional deferred payment of €70m is payable on hitting agreed targets.

Telefonica is Europe’s second largest communications company by market value after Vodafone. The Spanish-headquartered company has sold its Irish unit as it attempts to cut its debt down to €47bn this year – which in 2011 peaked at €56.3bn.

In another high profile international deal, US Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has advised long-standing client ExxonMobil on an agreement with Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft, to establish a joint Arctic Research Center in Russia as well as a technology-sharing agreement supporting the two companies’ joint ventures worldwide.

International corporate transactions partners Richard Wilkie and Alexey Kondratchik in Akin Gump’s Moscow office led the team advising ExxonMobil, supported by Moscow corporate counsel Oleg Isaev.

Last year the US firm advised ExxonMobil on a joint project with Rosneft to access oil reserves at the Bazhenov and Achimov formations in Western Siberia, under which Exxon provided initial financing of $300m. The deals follow a strategic co-operation agreement between the two companies to jointly explore for and develop natural gas in Russia.

In 2011 BP famously entered into a similar arrangement with Rosneft, leading to arbitration with TNK-BP joint venture partner Renova, advised by Akin Gump.