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Magic circle duo Clifford Chance and Linklaters have landed prime roles in the hostile takeover bid for VT Group by rival Babcock International.
Clifford Chance is acting for engineering support group Babcock, with corporate partners Guy Norman and Lee Coney in London supported by New York M&A partner Ben Sibbett. Competition partner Greg Olsen is advising on antitrust matters.
Linklaters won the mandate to act for shipbuilding and defence company VT on the bid, with corporate partners Richard Godden and David Holdsworth thought to be taking the lead. Meanwhile, target VT Group has been mulling its own offer for rival infrastructure group Mouchel, which turned to third magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for its advice. Corporate partner Farah Ispahani led the Freshfields team.
Although Clifford Chance has acted for Babcock in the past, the mandate marks a new relationship for M&A dealmaker Norman.
Slaughter and May, which had been Babcock’s go-to firm for corporate work, is understood to have been conflicted as the firm has also acted for VT Group in the past.
Clifford Chance has this year already acted for US food giant Kraft on its successful hostile takeover of UK confectioner Cadbury, with Norman again in a prominent role.
“We’ve had a good run on hostiles,” he said. “It’s encouraging to see Kraft-Cadbury finish and then this coming so soon after.
It shows there’s a good pipeline. There are plenty of companies out there looking for strategic M&A deals at the moment.”
Last week VT pulled out of its approach for Mouchel after the Takeover Panel gave it a ’put up or shut up’ deadline. A takeover would have caused problems for Babcock.
“It’s a difficult situation,” said an M&A partner before VT’s announcement. “No one knows which will link up with which of the others. It would be strange if they all ended up merging with one another.”
The Takeover Panel has also given Babcock a deadline, of 12 April, to make a formal offer for VT.