Herbies wins role for debt providers on Verna buyout

Herbert Smith’s acquisition finance team is celebrating after landing its first instructions from Bank of Ireland and Scotia Group as senior debt providers for Legal & General Ventures’ acquisition of healthcare manufacturer Verna Group.

Finance star Malcolm Hitching, who was promoted to the Herbert Smith partnership earlier this month, led on the deal for Bank of Ireland and Scotia. Taylor Wessing, with partner Martin Winter, advised Legal & General. The instruction follows the firm’s appointment to the Legal & General panel last December.

Hitching won the instruction after a recommendation from Bank of Ireland’s head of acquisition finance Nathan Hawkes. Hitching worked with Hawkes at his previous firm Norton Rose. It is understood Bank of Ireland pushed for Herbert Smith ahead of Scotia Group’s regular adviser Clifford Chance. It is the first time Herbert Smith has advised Scotia Group and the first time the firm’s acquisition finance team has acted for Bank of Ireland.

The £60m acquisition saw Legal & General acquire Verna, a major supplier of medical products to UK hospitals and among the largest mail order suppliers of medical devices.

The deal follows a clutch of new bank instructions for Herbert Smith’s acquisition finance group, following last year’s work for Royal Bank of Scotland on the acquisition of Cygnet Healthcare.

The recent mandates will be a boost for Herbert Smith’s finance practice, which has always lagged behind the firm’s corporate and litigation practices.

According to The Lawyer UK 100 Annual Report 2004, the firm’s finance practice ranked fifteenth by revenue, generating £21.9m in 2002-03, behind both Watson Farley & Williams and Berwin Leighton Paisner.

As first revealed by The Lawyer last month (14 March) Herbert Smith’s head of finance Clive Barnard stood down a year early and was replaced by renowned energy finance specialist Jason Fox on 1 April.