Nabarro Nathanson looks set to steer Pubmaster through a sale to a rival trade bidder, possibly Punch Taverns, as Pubmaster's private equity owners look for an exit for their investment.
Nabarros, Pubmaster's main law firm on M&A work, has advised the tenanted pub chain since December 2000, when corporate partner Andrew Inkester acted for it on a secondary buyout. Since then Nabarros has advised the company on a string of M&A deals, including last year's acquisition of 1,200 pubs from Nomura for £523m.
Media reports last week said that Hartlepool-based Pubmaster is mulling a £1bn London listing instead of a trade sale to Slaughter and May client Punch. But a well-placed source told The Lawyer that the initial public offering (IPO) route was a "red herring" and that a trade sale is more likely. It remains to be seen whether it can find a rival trade buyer given Punch's reportedly lukewarm interest.
Slaughters has been Punch's main adviser on corporate matters since 1998 and acted for the company on its IPO in May 2002. Corporate partner David Johnson, who handles the relationship, declined to comment on whether the company was in any such talks.
Any decision on the future of Pubmaster will need backing from its major shareholders. There has been speculation that WestLB, which owns 22 per cent of Pubmaster, is closing its principal finance division and selling its investments.
Rotch, the property company controlled by Iranian billionaire Robert Tchenguiz, has 34 per cent in Pubmaster. Linklaters, which acted for Tchenguiz on the acquisition of Odeon cinemas from Cinven earlier this year, must be hoping to scoop instructions to advise the property tycoon on any such deal.
Allen & Overy is expected to be instructed by WestLB after it advised the German bank on its initial investment in Pubmaster.