City quartet grab a share of £800m Phoenix Group float

Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hogan Lovells and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett have snared top roles on the ­proposed £800m flotation of zombie life assurance fund Phoenix Group.

Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hogan Lovells and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett have snared top roles on the ­proposed £800m flotation of zombie life assurance fund Phoenix Group.

The listing, which was formally announced last week, will take place later this month after a meeting with investor and founder Hugh Osmond cleared the way for the rights held by investment groups to be converted to stock. This would allow the group to be listed under London Stock Exchange (LSE) rules.

Freshfields financial institutions partner Rob Stirling is leading on the corporate front for Phoenix, which was formerly known as Pearl. The magic circle firm is fielding a team that also includes tax partner Jill Gatehouse, employment partner Jocelyn Mitchell and corporate partner Mark Trapnell.

Banking partner Stephen Short is leading the Simpson Thacher team acting for Phoenix on the financing of the transaction.

Clifford Chance and Hogan Lovells are acting for the as-yet-unnamed ­underwriters and lenders respectively. Corporate finance partner Iain Hunter is leading for Clifford Chance while the Hogan Lovells team is headed by restructuring partner Stephen Foster.

The deal was described by one lawyer familiar with the situation as “still a work in progress”, but the listing, which would be one of the biggest in the UK this year, is thought to be ready to go live within the next two weeks.

A source said this was because LSE rules “indicate that there’s a ­narrow ­window to get a premium listing for this six months.”

The flotation comes in the wake of last year’s restructuring of £3bn of debt used for Pearl’s £5bn acquisition of Resolution in 2007.

Simpson Thacher, again led by Short, acted on the restructuring which saw Osmond’s Sun Capital and private equity house TDR Capital receive contingent rights after giving up a 70 per cent stake in the insurer.

Ashurst acted for the underwriters on the restructuring while Freshfields, led by financial institutions partner Will Lawes, and Herbert Smith, led by corporate partner Malcolm Lombers, advised Pearl and Resolution respectively on the original acquisition.