CC, Deneys join forces on Barclays’ Absa bid

South Africa firm Deneys Reitz has reignited its old ties with Clifford Chance to act for Barclays on its attempt to secure a majority shareholding in the country’s largest retail bank Absa.

Deneys won the mandate after being recommended to Barclays by JPMorgan, which is also advising the UK bank on the deal. Barclays is reported to be offering £2bn to acquire a 60 per cent controlling stake in Absa.

Barclays famously pulled out of South Africa 18 years ago during the Apartheid era, but re-entered the country nine years ago to provide corporate and wholesale banking services.

Before its retreat, Deneys acted for Barclays and, just after it left South Africa worked closely with Clifford Chance, advising on loan issues arising out of the bank’s exit.

Kevin Cron, head of commercial at Deneys’ Johannesburg office and lead partner on the deal, said the firm has a longstanding relationship with JPMorgan, and although it is not on Barclays’ legal panel in the region, there had been talks on the matter.

The deal is also significant for Linklaters, as its role for Absa is the first major corporate transaction it has undertaken for the bank. In the past Linklaters has advised Absa on a couple of small deals, including an alternative dispute resolution programme in the US.

Linklaters, led by corporate partner Charlie Jacobs, is working closely with South Africa’s Webber Wentzel Bowens on the transaction, with financial advice provided by Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. Linklaters, which is advising Absa on UK, US and foreign aspects of the deal, has built up a strong reputation in South Africa.

Last year Linklaters consolidated its leading position in the South Africa government’s Black Economic Empowerment Programme (BBE) when it acted for Impala Platinum Holdings on its sale of a 27.1 per cent stake in Western Platinum and Eastern Platinum to Lonmin for $800m (£446.4m).

Earlier in 2003, Linklaters represented Investec, the first South Africa financial services company to divest 25 per cent of its stock to black empowerment investors.