Freshfields fights ‘rearguard battle’ on MTN merger block

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has waded in on behalf of client MTN in the mobile company’s last-ditch attempt to block the merger between Celtel and Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC).

The magic circle firm, led by partner James Wood and instructing Charles Hollander QC and Jasbir Dillon of Brick Court Chambers, went to the Commercial Court last week to seek disclosure of key Celtel documents as it attempts to build a case for preventing the merger.

But the firm secured only a minor victory after the court rejected Celtel’s requests for disclosure in all but two categories, with most of the claims dismissed as “improbable”.

South African cellular operator MTN claims Celtel reneged on legally binding undertakings by accepting last month’s $3.6bn (£1.88bn) cash offer from MTC.

Linklaters, which advised Celtel on its prospective IPO and on the merger with MTC, is also leading the court battle, with litigation partner Kathryn Ludlow instructing Lord Grabiner QC and Sa’ad Hossain of One Essex Court.

The action was closely watched by Clifford Chance, whose partners Joachim Fleury and Ewan Cameron advised MTC on the deal.

The parties are now waiting to see if MTN takes any further action.

One source described the action as a “rearguard battle” on the part of MTN. “But with a deal of this size, it could prove to be money well spent,” the source added.