Firms cash in on coal sell-off

Freshfields looks set to be the on-going legal advisers for the biggest winner in the coal privatisation bonanza.

The firm's client, RJB Mining, formerly a British Coal opencast contractor, is expected to take most of the British Coal regions, together with contracts estimated at u1 billion a year.

Also likely to benefit is Midlands firm Fishers, which has provided technical advice.

RJB Mining was one of 25 successful pre-qualifiers and it is one of the top favourites to get the business.

As one of just five preferred bidders, RJB has been awarded three regions, the Regional Coal Companies and the Thorne and Ellington Care and Maintenance Collieries.

Freshfields has had a team of up to 18 lawyers involved. Other leading law firms, paired with each consortium to bring together City and mining skills, will benefit.

Gouldens and DJ Freeman act for Coal Investments, another company tipped earlier for success and which is also in the five preferred bidders with one colliery.

DJ Freeman's partner on the job is Alan Magnus, British Coal's former head of company/commercial law.

Leading Scottish lawyer Ross Harper of Harper Macleod, who was recently elected president of the International Bar Association, is involved in the consortium Mining Scotland, a preferred bidder for all of the Scottish business.

The sell-off is involving the massed ranks of some of the top City and specialist firms, with lawyers comparing the complexity of the work with that of the British Rail privatisation (The Lawyer, 20 September).

While details are to be negotiated, the preferred bidders are almost certain to be given the business, says the Department of Trade and Industry.