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Allen & Overy (A&O) missed out on advising Italian bank UniCredito on its €15bn (£9.95bn) merger with Germany's HypoVereinsbank because the global firm was unable to staff the deal with Italian-speaking partners.
Although A&O has established offices in Italy and Germany, Italy's second-largest bank instructed Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to advise on the largest-ever cross-border merger because the latter firm fielded an Italian-speaking, German-based partner.
One well-placed source said: "A&O would like to have got the deal. Freshfields got it because UniCredito had a prior relationship with a Freshfields partner who speaks Italian."
The move is a blow for A&O, because the firm has been trying to strengthen its relationship with UniCredito ever since it won the Milan-based bank as a new client.
A&O won its first work for UniCredito earlier this year, advising on its acquisition of a stake in Turkey's Yapi ve Kredi Bankasi (The Lawyer 21 March).
London corporate partner Pervez Akhtar, who manages the UniCredito relationship, denied a snub. "This is just a one-off," he said. "We've still got an excellent relationship and expect to handle more work for them in the future."