Freshfields pushes 3 trial up High Court’s schedule

FreshfieldS Bruckhaus Deringer has managed to accelerate the trial of its client Hutchison Whampoa’s case against KPN, its joint venture partner in third-generation mobile phone operator 3.

Hutchison is suing KPN because the Dutch company, which owns 15 per cent of 3, has refused a funding call to make a shareholder loan of £150m into 3, even though Hutchison and the other shareholder, Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, have both put money in.

Freshfields, instructing One Essex Court silk Anthony Grabiner QC, argued for an accelerated trial on the basis that ongoing litigation between its shareholders will be commercially damaging for 3. The High Court case, which was brought in June, will now be heard in front of Mr Justice Tomlinson this November.

In March this year, 3 requested an extra £1bn from its shareholders as part of a deal with banks to extend the maturity of financing for the project.

Hutchison, which owns 65 per cent of 3, injected £650m into the company in line with its shareholding. NTT DoCoMo put in £200m in line with its 20 per cent stake.

Hutchison is a longstanding corporate client of Freshfields, but litigation partner Christopher Pugh said this case is the most significant piece of High Court litigation that the firm has been instructed on by the client in recent years.

Freshfields’ corporate department drew up the original joint venture agreement for 3, with Allen & Overy (A&O) acting for KPN and Clifford Chance for NTT DoCoMo. A&O, led by partner Jonathan Hitchin, is representing KPN in the current proceedings.