A&O enters fray for Hbos on potential Abbey bid

Allen & Overy (A&O) has scooped a role on the anticipated battle for UK mortgage bank Abbey National

The magic circle firm has won an instruction from Halifax Bank of Scotland (HboS) which is believed to be considering a counter bid for Abbey, a longstanding client of Slaughter and May.

Last week Abbey agreed to a £8.1bn takeover by Spain’s Banco Santander Central Hispano.

Alistair Asher, head of the financial institutions group at A&O is leading on the deal. The firm confirmed it had been instructed, but declined to comment further.

HboS’ first choice corporate adviser is Linklaters, but it is understood that the both the magic circle firm and HboS’ second string firm Herbert Smith were conflicted.

Slaughters faces its Spanish best friend Uria & Menedez which is advising Banco Santander Central Hispano on its recommended bid for Abbey.

Clifford Chance, which advised Lloyds on its blocked 2002 bid for Abbey, is also advising Santander.

All the large UK banks are now watching the battle closely; of the big five, three – HboS, Lloyds and RBS are all advised by Linklaters.