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It’s been a busy old time for the UK aviation industry these last few weeks.
First we had BAA’s long-awaited sale of Gatwick Airport. And hot on the heals of that deal came the news that British Airways’ apparently permanently grounded merger with Iberia was finally set for take off.
Slaughter and May was the chief beneficiary of all this airborne excitement, first advising Gatwick’s new owner Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) on the £1.5bn deal, then advising longstanding client BA on its Spanish tie-up.
Magic circle law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advised BAA on the sale, with Allen & Overy advising the 12-strong bank club that raised the finance. Norton Rose, meanwhile, won the mandate to advise Iberia on the BA merger.
Under the terms of the deal, which is expected to receive regulatory approval BA will hold a 55 per cent stake in the new company with Iberia holding 45 per cent.
And the industry is likely to yield plenty more work, with merger talks between the two airlines only just kicking off and not expected to close for at least another 12 months. Given that the deal was first announced last July, even that date could well prove optimistic.
The Gatwick sale could also be the precursor for a raft of new business opportunities, with the Competition Commission ruling that BAA must sell two more of its UK airports.
Stansted and Glasgow airports are being tipped to follow Gatwick onto the auction block, but BAA is challenging the ruling in the Competition Appeals Tribunal. Herbert Smith is advising BAA on the appeal. Burges Salmon advised the commission on the original ruling.
Back on terra firma, Ashurst has its hands busy with longstanding client National Express. The rail operator has been forced to hand over the running of the East Coast mainline to the Government before the franchise is retendered next year, while it is also acting on a proposed rights issue by the company.
However, the firm could have its hands full, with National Express’s major shareholder the Cosmen family coming out against the cash call.
Freshfields is acting for lead underwriters Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley on the deal. Meanwhile, Eversheds is acting for Directly Operated Railways - the company set up by the DfT to run the East Coast line.