A&O, CC, Freshfields and Herbies win Thames Water hopefuls

Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have all netted instructions on what could be Europe’s largest infrastructure deal this year, the sale of Thames Water by German utilities group RWE.

Allen & Overy

(A&O), Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have all netted instructions on what could be Europe’s largest infrastructure deal this year, the sale of Thames Water by German utilities group RWE.

Clifford Chance is representing Alinta, the latest party to confirm its bid. If the Australian utilities group is successful it will launch a A$4bn (£1.6bn) share issue, the most capital an Australian company has ever raised.

Freshfields has been instructed by rival bidder Terra Firma on the £7bn sale. It is understood that partner Chris Bown is leading the Freshfields team. Bown declined to comment. Last year Freshfields advised Terra Firma on a similar deal, when it acted for the firm’s acquisition vehicle Kellen on its purchase of East Surrey Water owner East Surrey Holdings.

The private equity house operates a panel of individual partners (most of whom grabbed a role on this deal) rather than firms, including David Pearson at Clifford Chance, Geoff Twentyman at Slaughter and May and Marco Compagnoni at Weil Gotshal & Manges.

A&O is understood to be acting for Australian bank Macquarie, which is also putting a bid together, while Herbert Smith has netted an instruction from a consortium led by the Qatar Investment Office and UBS.

Berwin Leighton Paisner is advising Thames Water’s board after winning the instruction in a beauty parade.

It is still unclear whether RWE will accept any bid and whether it will decide to refloat Thames Water. Linklaters is understood to be advising Goldman Sachs, which would underwrite a potential IPO.

Pension funds, especially in Canada and Australia, have been chasing utilities targets of late, seeking secure investments that are immune to inflation but that yield better than bonds.