Quartet of Irish firms acts as government sells state pensions business

Four of Ireland’s largest firms have taken roles on the €1.3bn (£1.1bn) sale of Irish state-owned pensions company Irish Life to Canada’s Great-West Lifeco.

Matheson financial institutions head Tim Scanlon and senior associate Éanna Mellett led the firm’s advice for the government on the sale, which sees the government sell off the pensions business it acquired in 2012 as part of the bailout of the business’s owner Permanent TSB.

A&L Goodbody provided ancillary advice to Irish Life, with the work led by partners Vincent Power and Paul White.

Meanwhile Arthur Cox and McCann Fitzgerald represented Great-West Lifeco and its subsidiary Canada Life, which already has an Irish business. Arthur Cox corporate partner John Matson led the team, while McCann Fitzgerald employment head Terence McCrann and a team of lawyers advised the company on pensions, employment, tax and industrial relations issues.

The deal will see the continuation of the Irish Life name. The company employs 2,200 people and has over €37bn (£32bn) in assets under management. Canada Life’s Irish life and pensions business will merge with that of Irish Life.

The Irish state is also set to receive a €40m (£35m) dividend from the sale.

Finance minister Michael Noonan said in a statement: “Today’s deal is the first time during this crisis that a company in which we have invested has been returned fully to private ownership. This is a historic transaction and provides the Irish taxpayer with a full return on its investment in Irish Life.”

Background to this deal:

The successful sale of Irish Life follows an aborted attempt in 2011, on which Arthur Cox and Matheson (then Matheson Ormsby Prentice) advised the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). Matheson also advised the Minister of Finance on the government’s acquisition of Irish Life in 2012.

Meanwhile, Arthur Cox has previously advised Canada Life on several occasions, including in its 2003 merger with Great-West Lifeco.

Work for the Irish state and particularly the Ministry of Finance has proved lucrative for law firms in Ireland since the financial crisis. Arthur Cox has proved the big winner (12 February 2013) but other firms have also won significant amounts of work.

Earlier this year McCann Fitzgerald and A&L Goodbody picked up leading roles on the sale of energy provider Bord Gáis Éireann (28 January 2013), the first major asset sale by the government.