Herbert Smith picks up Macquarie work on NGT gas network buyout

Herbert Smith has gained a further foothold in the private equity arena after winning Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund as a new client.

The fund, which is a subsidiary of Australia’s Macquarie Bank Group, has relationships with a number of firms including, it is understood, Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. However, it retained Herbert Smith to advise on the £1.2bn acquisition of National Grid Transco’s (NGT) Wales & the West gas distribution network.

The mandate is a major breakthrough for Herbert Smith, which has been working to build a private equity practice for some time.
The deal is part of a disposal programme announced by NGT last Tuesday (31 August), involving the £5.8bn sale of four of its gas distribution networks.

CMS Cameron McKenna elbowed out Linklaters to advise NGT on the corporate aspects of the disposal, leaving the magic circle firm to handle property, environment and employment matters.

Camerons and Linklaters’ tug-of-war to become NGT’s lead UK legal adviser was triggered following the company’s 2002 merger with Lattice. Following the link-up, Camerons stole a march on Lattice’s main adviser Linklaters when NGT’s former global general counsel Fiona Smith retained the firm as lead UK adviser and appointed it to act on the multibillion-pound disposal of the gas distribution networks.

However, Smith left the company last autumn, and in a boost for Linklaters was replaced by former Lattice company secretary Helen Mahy.

Mahy retained Linklaters to advise on NGT’s £2bn acquisition of the UK mobile telecoms and broadcasting infrastructure of US telecoms conglomerate Crown Castle (The Lawyer, 5 July).

Mahy declined to comment on which firm would get the lion’s share of NGT’s corporate work in the future, adding that the company will continue to instruct both firms on a case-by-case basis.

Denton Wilde Sapte and Eversheds, which also have existing relationships with NGT, advised the company on pensions related matters and industry documentation respectively on this latest deal.

Dundas & Wilson represented a consortium comprising Scottish and Southern Energy and Borealis Infrastructure Management, which has agreed to buy the Scotland and South of England networks.

Meanwhile, Norton Rose is acting for the consortium led by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings, which is acquiring the North of England network.