Hot deals and top firms…

1 Canary Wharf flotation Described as “a rollercoaster ride from start to finish”, the £2.6bn flotation of Canary Wharf in March marked the closure of the biggest deal of its kind. Allen & Overy acted for the sponsor Morgan Stanley Dean Witter while Clifford Chance represented the Canary Wharf Group, with partner Martin Richards describing the deal as “unique”. After nearly going bust at the beginning of the decade, Canary Wharf is now one of the biggest five property companies on the London Stock Exchange, and the deal is described as “a leader in the market”.

2 HSBC pre-letting Freshfields acted as adviser to HSBC on the UK's largest single office letting – HSBC's lease from Canary Wharf of a £500m, 41-storey Docklands headquarters at the end of October last year. Nabarro Nathanson had acted for HSBC in early discussions, but Freshfields fought off tough competition to win the tender for the legal work for the second stage. Clifford Chance property partner Robert MacGregor, who acted for the Canary Wharf Group, commented that “the sheer scale of the transaction represented a turning point in the market”.

3 Broadgate securitisation Simmons & Simmons and SJ Berwin acted for British Land in Europe's largest ever property securitisation bond. The £1.54bn issue was based on the rental income for 12 properties at the Broadgate Centre, including the headquarters of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. US investment bank Morgan Stanley Dean Witter was advised by Allen & Overy's David Kisher. Described as a deal which “leads the way in the financing of property companies”, the securitisation that began last autumn was completed in April.

4 Bull Ring In Birmingham Herbert Smith, Nabarro Nathanson and Nicholson Graham & Jones acted in the deal to set up The Birmingham Alliance, a partnership to undertake Europe's largest city centre regeneration project. Herbert Smith advised UK property investor Hammerson, Land Securities was advised by Nabarros, and Nicholson Graham & Jones acted for Henderson Investors. The Bull Ring will be pulled down as part of the £800m programme. The deal is described by property lawyers as “an impressive amalgamation of three potentially competing partners”.

5 Bluewater joint venture Linklaters led a host of top City firms advising on the development of the Bluewater shopping complex, billed as Europe's largest, which opened in March. The firm advised Australian property developer Lend Lease, while Lovell White Durrant acted for Prudential and Herbert Smith advised the other investor Hermes. Cameron McKenna advised the investors' syndicate and the banking syndicate, including Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays. Herbert Smith property partner James Barnes described the deal as “new and innovative”.

6 International Financial Centre Last summer saw the £226m sale of the IFC (formerly the NatWest Tower) to a partnership of three firms. The deal represented the biggest single property asset sale ever. Ashurst Morris Crisp advised NatWest on the sale to a partnership of three firms: Greycoat, advised by Herbert Smith, Mercury Asset Management, advised by Nabarro Nathanson, and Hermes, advised by Maxwell Batley. Simon Cookson, head of property at Ashurst Morris Crisp, says: “There were a lot of complicated issues involved.”

7 Minerva City development Herbert Smith and Olswang are currently advising property developer and investor Minerva on a multimillion pound City office development.The £800m deal is believed to be one of the largest since the Broadgate estate deal earlier this year. Herbert Smith is to advise on the planning applications for two sites -“St Botolph's House in EC3 and The Walbrook in EC4. In-house lawyers in the property division of the Corporation of London will assess the applications for the buildings, which will house approximately 10,000 people.

8 Meadowhall Addleshaw Booth & Co, Norton Rose and SJ Berwin worked on the £1.2bn acquisition of Sheffield's Meadowhall shopping centre for British Land. Addleshaws and Norton Rose advised Stadium Group, the centre's parent company, while SJ Berwin represented British Land. Commercial property partner at Addleshaws, Michael Reevey, says the deal was a complex transaction. “The centre has 270 occupants of approximately one-and-a-quarter million square feet of leisure and retail accommodation. That is a major undertaking,” he says.

9 British Land sales British Land sold nine of its properties to a private European investor in a deal £260 million. Nabarro Nathanson acted on behalf of the private investor in the deal, for which funding came from DG Bank and a £45 million loan-back from British Land, which was represented by Berwin Leighton and SJ Berwin & Co. Wilde Sapte acted for DG Bank in the deal to buy the portfolio of properties which included offices, distribution warehouses and the Allders department store in Portsmouth.

10 London and regional acquisitions TBI plc, an owner and operator of airports, sold all of its property portfolio apart from the core airport businesses to London and Regional Properties Ltd. The total value of the transaction was £190m, and the firm was advised by Norton Rose. London and Regional Properties was represented by Lawrence Graham. The deal was described by Patrick Plant, a partner at Linklaters, as “one of the most significant deals in the property market over the last few months”.

Linklaters & Alliance

Seen by many as the leading department in the sector, the 20 partners at Linklaters have recently seen Simon Clark recruited to replace head of property Robert Finch. The department accounts for between 12 and 15 per cent of the turnover of the firm. Significant clients include MEPC, Security Capital and Lend Lease, for which the firm has done a lot of work on the Bluewater development.

A number of partners in the firm were picked out as “ones to watch”, including Patrick Plant and Peter Farren. Simon Clark is highly-regarded, as is his predecessor Robert Finch, described as “very experienced” and someone who consistently “gets the significant deals”. One lawyer says “despite taking a back seat, he still always crops up on the big deals”.

Berwin Leighton

Universally cited as one of the leading departments in the property sector, the 23-partner team at Berwin Leighton accounts for around 45 per cent of the turnover of the property-led firm. Headed by David Taylor, the department's turnover for 1998-99 is said to have been approaching the £23m mark.

Among the leading individuals in the department are Laurie Heller and Claire Milton, who was described by one property lawyer as “very good on the retail side”. Philip Bretherton was also recommended as an “exceedingly bright chap”, and Simon Allan got several mentions as “one to watch”.

Big clients include Prudential, Legal and General, Norwest Holst and Mercury Asset Management, and the firm does a lot of work for the Government, particularly PACE (Property Advisers to the Civil Estate) and the Ministry of Defence.

Clifford Chance

The real estate department at Clifford Chance accounts for between 10 and 15 per cent of the turnover of the firm, and deals with some significant clients.

Work for the Canary Wharf Group has involved the firm in some of the biggest deals of the last year, with other notable clients including investment developers Burford Holdings, Rotch Property Group, for whom the firm does PFI work, and CGU Insurance.

The real estate department has 17 partners, with three construction partners working closely alongside. With Cliff McAuley at the reins in place of Teddy Bourne, who is to retire in October, other notable partners include Robert MacGregor and Tony Briam, described as “very, very good, he gets the job done and he always does it well”. Andrew Rolfe also got several mentions.

Nabarro Nathanson

With a highly-regarded 35-partner team, the property department at Nabarro Nathanson constitutes 38 per cent of the turnover of the firm. Clients include Land Securities, Great Portland Estates, Slough Estates and Hammerson.

Head of department Geoffrey Lander received a number of recommendations as “a leading light”, as did Kevin Stimpson and Keith Hutcheson, who was described as “well-established”.

Work for Land Securities, the biggest property company in the UK, and Hammerson have meant the firm has been consistently involved in the big deals over the past 12 months and has maintained its strong reputation in the sector.

Lovell White Durrant

A recent shake-up of the property department at Lovells saw department head Robert Kidby hand management of the London practice to Michael Gallimore so that he could spend more time developing the firm's international property practice.

The department, which has 17 partners Europe-wide, generates 15 per cent of the firm's overall turnover. When Andrew Sanders joins the firm from DJ Freeman, the firm's third lateral hire since January, there will be 14 partners in the London department.

Partners Simon MacDonagh and Michael Stancombe were both singled out as leading individuals, while Kidby's reputation still stands out whenever the firm is mentioned.

The department's largest client is Prudential, with other significant work coming from The John Lewis Partnership, Barclays Pension Fund, Greycoat and Granada Hotels.