Herbert Smith and Linklaters have won roles alongside India’s AZB & Partners on Indian company Bharti Airtel’s $10.7bn (£6.8bn) bid for the African business of Kuwaiti telecoms group Zain.
AZB is lead counsel to Bharti, which is making its third attempt to enter Africa. It is understood that Herbert Smith has been drawn in by Bharti to manage all international legal aspects and due diligence on the deal, which includes 15 African jurisdictions.
Herbert Smith London corporate partners Alan Montgomery and India group chairman Chris Parsons are understood to be leading the team.
The firm has built a well-respected Africa practice, which is led out of its Paris office.
Linklaters London corporate partner Charlie Jacobs is understood to be leading the team for Kuwaiti target company Zain. Jacobs co-heads the firm’s Africa practice group.
AZB has a longstanding relationship with Bharti, having advised on its ill-fated $23bn mega-merger attempt with South Africa’s MTN in 2009. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Platinum Partners advised MTN on that deal, which was abandoned on 30 September 2009.
AZB Delhi partners Ajay Bahl and Gautam Saha, who advised on the MTN deal, are understood to have reprised their roles on the Zain bid.
AZB, Herbert Smith and Linklaters all declined to comment.
Zain’s board accepted an offer made by Bharti to acquire its African assets last Sunday (14 February). The Indian company will seek to raise up to $7bn in debt to finance the acquisition, with several banks in the running to provide the financing.
It is understood that law firms are currently preparing to pitch for the advisory mandate to the lending banks.
The exclusivity period of talks between Bharti and Zain is set to end on 25 March.