Deals Comment

Ashurst buoyant as Competition Commission clears NEG’s rail bid

Ashurst had reason to celebrate after the Competition Commission cleared the way for National Express Group (NEG) to bid for the Thameslink/Great Northern (TGN) rail franchise. The expected bid for TGN was referred to the commission to investigate whether it would lessen competition in the supply of passenger transport services. The commission was concerned about the effect of the merger on overlapping rail and coach services between London and Luton, Luton Airport and Bedford, London and Gatwick Airport and London and Cambridge. There were five shortlisted bidders for the TGN franchise, but NEG was the only one referred to the commission. Other bidders included Stagecoach, MTR Laing Railways and CapitalTrains. Ashurst EU and competition partner Roger Finbow (pictured), who led the team, said the commission accepted that NEG was not likely to reduce services on the affected routes if the acquisition was successful. “We’re obviously very pleased with the commission’s provisional conclusion,” he said. “Clearly, it’s the right decision.” The TGN franchise is valued at £250m per year. The preferred bidder is expected to be announced in December by the Department for Transport.

Mayer Brown‘s UK property team bags two big-ticket deals

Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw (MBRM) is giving the real estate practices of bigger City firms a run for their money. MBRM has picked up a series of big-ticket property deals recently. The property practice won its first UK instruction for US pension fund TIAA-CREF, advising it on the £206m acquisition of 1 and 7 Westferry Circus, Canary Wharf. TIAA-CREF is one of the largest institutional real estate investors, with a global property portfolio of $59bn (£34.15bn). The firm already carries a lot of work for the fund in the US and looks set to benefit in the UK from its acquisitive nature. Real estate partner Jeremy Clay led the team advising on the deal. It has also made its mark in property financings. It advised Royal Bank of Scotland on the provision to the CIT Real Estate Fund of senior debt funding for its £107m acquisition of 10 Fleet Place, London, and for Nationwide Building Society on the senior debt funding for a £112m acquisition of the ITN Building in London.