Freshfields and Wachtell help Alibaba buy back shares from Yahoo!

Six law firms have won roles as China’s largest e-commerce company Alibaba Group has reached agreement with Yahoo! on a $7.1bn (£4.5bn) deal that will see Alibaba buy back half of Yahoo!’s 40 per cent stake in the group.

Alibaba sought out Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz to be its lead counsel and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for Hong Kong law-related issues in the transaction. Silicon Valley firm Fenwick & West advised Alibaba on IP matters.

The Wachtell team in this transaction was led by corporate partner Mark Gordon, while the Freshfields team was headed by Hong Kong partners Teresa Ko, David Winfield and Ken Martin.

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom acted as lead counsel to long-standing client Yahoo!, fielding Palo Alto partner Leif King. Weil Gotshal & Manges advised the company on IP issues, while Yahoo!’s board of directors turned to Munger Tolles & Olson for advice.

The deal will pave the way for the US internet group to exit fully from its investment in Alibaba and brings the Chinese company closer to a possible IPO in the future. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close within six months.

Yahoo! invested $1bn in Alibaba Group in 2005 through a strategic combination of its China business with Alibaba.com. Skadden’s King also advised Yahoo! in that transaction.

In February 2012, Alibaba Group proposed to privatise its Hong Kong-listed subsidiary Alibaba.com five years after its IPO. Freshfields, led by partners Ko, Winfield and Howard Lam, advised the parent company, and Slaughter and May partner Benita Yu acted for Alibaba.com in the transaction.

Most recently, White & Case, King & Wood Mallesons and Walkers advised six banks in the $3bn financing of Alibaba.com’s privatisation. The underwriting banks are Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Credit Suisse, DBS Bank, Deutsche Bank, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and Mizuho Corporate Bank. The White & Case team, which consisted of more than 10 lawyers from Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore, was led by the firm’s head of Asia banking and finance John Hartley. Freshfields, Fangda & Partners and Maples and Calder acted for the borrower in the financing deal.