BLP takes on Palmer Capital’s Somerfield sale-and-leaseback

Berwin Leighton Paisner

(BLP) has won a major mandate for Palmer Capital Partners (PCP), advising the property venture capital company on the UK’s largest development-based sale-and-leaseback to date.

BLP partner Tim Simmonds won a competitive tender to advise PCP on the sale-and-leaseback of 140 petrol forecourt stores acquired by Somerfield from Texaco last month.

Real estate finance specialists from BLP, Forsters, South East firm IBB and Wragge & Co were appointed to PCP’s panel in January to advise on commercial property investments by the newly-created Palmer Capital Development Fund.

Supermarket chain Somerfield last month agreed a £225m deal with PCP to acquire 140 Texaco petrol forecourt stores. The agreement sees PCP, with backing from Deutsche Property Asset Management, pay £90m for 140 Texaco petrol station convenience stores across the UK and leasing them back to Somerfield on 20-year leases. The stores will then be rebranded as Somerfield Essentials convenience stores.

PCP, whose regional coverage was a key factor behind its appointment, will redevelop the stores through its seven partner-development companies. They are: Frontier Estates in Milton Keynes; Wrenbridge in Cambridge; Opus Land in Leeds and Birmingham; Danescroft and Thistle Land in London; Ediston in Edinburgh; and Cubex Land in Bristol. Each of these companies is expected to instruct its own law firm.

PCP itself won the role in a competitive tender, fending off competition from a handful of other bidders, including Rotch, the property company owned by real estate tycoon Robert Tchenguiz.

At the same time, BLP’s Simmonds has advised PCP on the creation of its latest property development fund, the Palmer Noble Fund, in conjunction with Noble & Company. The fund involves the novel use of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for each development the fund invests in, with the result that each vehicle will be at least 50 per cent debt-financed. According to PCP managing director Christopher Digby-Bell, putting debt in at the SPV level effectively ringfences the debt for each project.

Digby-Bell said of his flourishing relationship with Simmonds: “He’s just the sort of lawyer we like to use – young, creative, highly motivated and a good, original thinker.”