Clifford Chance sidelined as CGNU demands Istanbul presence
Denton Wilde Sapte is advising new insurance client CGNU on the acquisition of a further stake in Turkish insurance company Commercial Union Sigorta. The firm's Istanbul office was approached by CGNU because the client was looking for an international firm with capital markets capability in Turkey, according to partner Paul Sheridan. Dentons did not have to pitch for the work and was approached by CGNU directly, even though the client had instructed usual adviser Clifford Chance to advise on the English aspects of the transaction. The deal involves advising CGNU's subsidiary CGU International Holdings on its purchase of a further 29.9 per cent stake in Commercial Union Sigorta, the Istanbul stock exchange listed insurance company. CGNU bought the stake from Turkish banking group Finansbank in a deal worth $17.3m (£11.8m). With its increased shareholding now at 84.8 per cent, CGNU is making a public offer to buy out the remaining public shareholders.
"This has been an interesting transaction at a time when the Turkish economy has been in turmoil with the devaluation of the Turkish lira" Paul Sheridan, Denton Wilde Sapte
Istanbul partner She-ridan led the deal, along with assistants John Dovey and Mustafa Akbilan. Dovey has just moved to the firm's Turkish office after spending time on secondment at the Takeover Panel in London, where he came across CGNU's in-house lawyers. Sheridan said: "This has been an interesting transaction at a time when the Turkish economy has been in turmoil with more than 50 per cent devaluation of the Turkish lira and increased inflation. "Some foreign investors who know the market have not been put off by the domestic situation and indeed the liquidity requirements of the local market mean that for some this may be a good time to invest." Clifford Chance lawyer Robin Abraham led his firm's team on the deal, which included advising on a number of announcements to the London Stock Exchange. Sheridan added: "It clearly shows a commitment by CGNU to the Turkish market at a time when politically and economically with Turkey there has been difficult times. And, of course, now we have got the world situation which creates uncertainty for everyone." Dentons has a 14-lawyer office in Istanbul, comprising three English and 11 Turkish lawyers. Sheridan is one of two partners in the office, and was previously the head of corporate at Fox & Gibbons' London office until it was taken over by the then Denton Hall in 1998. The office focuses on mergers and acquisitions, telecoms work, energy work and banking work, as well as capital markets deals. The practice has handled other work for insurance companies, but it has tended to do mainly claims-related work coming out of the London office.