Herbert Smith has bagged a prize mandate acting for transport group Arriva on its prospective takeover by Deutsche Bahn.
The German national rail company, which is understood to have turned to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for advice, tabled a formal offer for Arriva earlier this month.
The Herbert Smith team is being led by relationship partner Chris Parsons, alongside outgoing head of corporate Michael Walter and M&A partner Gillian Fairfield.
The top 10 firm landed the advisory role ahead of several other regular external firms used by the rail and bus operator. These include Dickinson Dees, Field Fisher Waterhouse, Osborne Clarke and Pinsent Masons.
Freshfields has been the go-to firm for Deutsche Bahn for some time. It has advised on various stages of its privatisation, as well as on M&A deals and fundraisings. Most recently, a team led by Frankfurt corporate partner Thomas Bücker and featuring finance partners Andreas König and Christoph Gleske acted on its 2008 IPO on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
A spokesperson for the magic circle firm would not confirm whether it had been mandated on the current bid.
The bid for Arriva has prompted rumours of potential counter-offers. Weeks ago, talks with French state railway company SNCF over a possible tie-up between Arriva and public transport operator Keolis broke down. Rumours circulating last weekend speculated that the move by Deutsche Bahn could revive SNCF’s interest.
Other potential bidders for the operator could include First Group and Stagecoach, both of which made abortive approaches to takeover National Express last summer. Slaughter and May corporate partner Nigel Boardman advised the former while the latter turned to Herbert Smith corporate partner Ben Ward.
One City transport partner said: “They both may be interested, but I’m not sure they have spare cash. Stagecoach has looked to buy in the past year, although when so many people are involved, the price could go through the roof, so they might wait.”
The Deutsche Bahn bid is believed to be in the region of 700p per share, a price that would value the UK target at around £1.4bn.