Firms await word on Energis future

To wind up, to sell, or to wind up and then sell? This is the less than tantalising menu troubled telecoms company Energis may be choosing from right now. But whatever cold dish the future serves up for the company, it is bound to send lawyers into a feeding frenzy of Marconi-like proportions.
At the time of going to press Energis shares were trading at just 3p. Just five weeks after its £725m bond issue, Energis announced that it was at risk of breaching its financial covenants, sending lead managers Barclays Capital, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and Bank of America into a state of panic. Then, last week, it was reported that former Energis chief executive Michael Grabiner and his new employer Apax Partners were considering buying the company.
So which law firms are likely to be involved? Energis’ main adviser is Clifford Chance. The firm was unable to confirm that it had been instructed, but as Clifford Chance advised Energis on the bond issue, the magic circle finance specialist is best placed to help Energis out of its predicament.
Linklaters advised the banks on the bond issue and is likely to be very busy advising them on what to do if Energis breaches its covenants.
Until around five months ago, Denton Wilde Sapte was a main adviser to Energis, alongside Clifford Chance. It was instructed by Energis on operational telecoms transactions, such as advising on its mobile services provision agreement with Orange. However, it was cut off when Energis turned its attention away from transactional work to focus on its own more pressing financial concerns.
If the company goes into administration, its administrator could do worse than Dentons. But as Clifford Chance is probably dealing with some European asset sales for Energis, the firm is likely to be retained if the administrators step in.
If Energis opts for a straight sale to Apax then Ashurst Morris Crisp is likely to advise the private equity house. The firm was edged out by Clifford Chance on Apax’s £335m leveraged buyout of Ericsson’s handset division, but it would be an obvious choice with Clifford Chance likely to be facing a conflict.
Energis could plump for a combination of insolvency proceedings and an asset sale, à la Marconi, with parts of the company being sold off slowly to pay creditors, but insiders are questioning the value of Energis’s assets.
Energis has a deal with the National Grid which allows its telecoms networks to run along electricity pylons. But premature corrosion of these pylons means that the company has admitted it needs new money to replace them. The National Grid, which had over 30 per cent of shares in Energis, has pulled out of the company.
Nothing is certain for Energis at the moment, but rest assured that a number of lawyers are going to be needed.