Bank calls up two US giants for BOC sell-off

Two Transatlantic heavyweights have been called in to advise on the joint u7.2bn takeover bid by Air Liquide and Air Products of British Oxygen (BOC).

In a twist that has puzzled the two firms involved in the deal, Chase Manhattan Bank, the senior debt arranger for the $7bn (u4.4bn) financing deal, has instructed different US firms on either side of the Atlantic.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is dealing with the US law documentation, while Weil Gotshal & Manges has been instructed to deal with the UK end of the deal.

Both firms have London and New York operations.

Weil Gotshal banking partner Mark Western admits that both firms were a little bemused by Chase Manhattan's decision.The team was led by joint head of the London office Maurice Allen and included banking partner Justin Benson,

“It is nice, though, to have been invited in for our expertise in English law and we have a close working relationship with Chase Manhattan in London,” adds Western.

Originally, Air Liquide and Air Products launched rival bids for BOC, but Air Liquide was forced into partnership on the buy with Air Products because of the u7.2bn price tag attached to BOC.

The special UK venture is subject to clearance on certain competition issues.

The link-up will also enable Air Liquide to avoid an obligation to sell off some of BOC's businesses by the anti-trust authorities.

Once the deal is finalised, BOC will be carved up by Air Liquide and Air Products in such a way as to avoid competition law problems.

The two companies will then go back to being rivals.

Clifford Chance's head of global finance Stuart Popham is leading the team representing Air Products with Cravath Swaine & Moore advising the US side. Corporate partners Jonathan Beastall and Guy Norman are also in the team.

Norman says that it is interesting to work on a “relatively rare example of a joint offer transaction”.

Freshfields is representing Air Liquide with corporate partners Mark Rawlinson and Sundeep Kalila in the team.