Linklaters NY aids Gold Fields to fight Harmony’s hostile bid

Linklaters NY aids Gold Fields to fight Harmony’s hostile bid” />Linklaters’ renascent New York practice has captured the US end of Gold Fields’ defence to a hostile bid by rival South African mining company Harmony.

A team led by US managing partner Paul Wickes is jointly running the New York litigation with Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom partner Scott Simpson.

Despite the fact that Linklaters is sharing the mandate, a US role on this high-profile deal is a coup.

Wickes said: “It’s not at all unusual in New York to have multiple firms advising in these circumstances.”

Harmony is being advised on US aspects of the deal by Hogan & Hartson and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Wickes joined Linklaters’ reborn New York venture last July with a team of litigation partners from Shearman & Sterling when Linklaters abandoned medium-term hopes of a merger and plumped for organic growth in the US.

Although South Africa is the key battleground in Harmony’s unsolicited bid, the takeover attempt grows more hostile by the day and the New York litigation has significant potential to affect the outcome.

Linklaters has already failed to persuade the South African courts to block Harmony’s bid as unlawful.

Last Wednesday (17 November) the New York courts were set to hear an application by Linklaters and Skadden for a preliminary injunction to stop Harmony’s hostile offer. Wickes said: “Basically, we’re saying that disclosures to US shareholders [in Gold Fields] are simply not adequate to let them make a proper decision.”

Last week the press reported that Harmony intended to petition the US courts to remove Linklaters and Skadden, although at the time of writing it was not clear on what grounds.

Earlier this month the South African company alleged that Gold Fields’ financial adviser JPMorgan had a conflict of interest because it had previously advised Harmony.

The hostile bidder also succeeded in persuading South Africa’s equivalent of the UK’s Takeover Panel, the Securities Regulation Panel, that JPMorgan and Gold Fields’ other financial adviser Goldman Sachs were not qualified to advise Gold Fields’ shareholders on the fairness of Harmony’s offer, possibly because of the success fee structures the banks had in place.