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Freshfields takes on first ABB corporate instruction
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has sealed its first corporate instruction from Swiss engineering group ABB. Freshfields advised the ailing Swiss group on the $2.3bn (£1.5bn) sale of a large proportion of its structured finance unit, including debt and equity, to GE Commercial Finance. Freshfields has advised the company on finance and project finance matters, but has now successfully cross-sold its corporate department. It previously acted on the financing of a 250MW lignite-fired project at Neyveli, Tamil Nadu, India, one of the few designated fast-track Indian projects to benefit from a central government guarantee, which closed in November 1999. The Freshfields team was led by corporate partner Ian Poynton and included fellow corporate partner Graham Nicholson. The ABB in-house team, led by Daniel Shindleman, general counsel for the group's financial services, advised on Swiss law. The beleaguered engineering company has sold a number of its businesses in the past 12 months in an attempt to reduce its debt burden. ABB's in-house team led the last corporate deal, which saw the company secure a £300m sale and leaseback with London & Regional Properties in July this year. In January, ABB used White & Case on the sale of its air-handling business to the Compass Group. "With a Swiss seller and an American buyer, this deal had very little connection with the UK," Poynton noted. However, the deal was done out of London because that was where ABB's bankers Goldman Sachs had located the auction for the bidders. The deal itself covered around 15 jurisdictions. GE Commercial Finance instructed long-term advisers Clifford Chance. The lead partners on the deal were corporate partners Neil Harvey and Spencer Baylin and finance partner William Glaister. The key associates on the deal included David Martin and Adrian De Souza. "The challenge of acquiring a target business, ranging from large-scale structured finance to small ticket, asset-backed leasing, enabled us to leverage our expertise in several areas - particularly asset and project finance, corporate mergers and acquisitions and regulatory/antitrust advice," commented Baylin. In regions where Clifford Chance has no capability, GE Commercial Finance instructed local counsel. This included Advokatfirman Vinge in Sweden and Bärr & Karrer in Switzerland.