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Slaughters adds to Asian AES Drax work as debt sees energy company swap its main firm in the UK
Norton Rose has been displaced as AES Drax's primary UK legal adviser after the company opted for Slaughter and May to advise it on its major restructuring work. The company, which is a subsidiary of US energy giant AES Corp, instructed Norton Rose on its high-profile £1.9bn acquisition of the Drax coal-fired power station in Selby, Yorkshire from National Grid in 1999. However, it is now understood that AES Drax has increased its reliance on Slaughters since the company defaulted on part of its £1.3bn debt. According to business head of commercial affairs at AES Drax John Lowen, Joe Brent, head of restructuring at AES's corporate head office in Arlington, Virginia, advised the UK subsidiary to use Slaughters for its current legal work. "[Norton Rose] was the main firm on the [Drax] acquisition, but we've moved away from them lately," said Lowen. However, one source added: "The feeling in from the States was that [Norton Rose] was a bit stretched on the original acquisition." Slaughters already has a relationship with AES, primarily in Asia where the firm acted on deals in both Pakistan and Bangladesh, while two years ago it was involved in the part refinancing of a eurobond, which was used to fund the original purchase of the Drax power station. Simon Currie, a project partner at Norton Rose who was involved in the original Drax deal, said that AES Drax has used a number of different firms for legal advice in the past. Currie added that he had just been involved in representing AES in Spain, where he worked alongside Slaughters' best friend Uría & Menéndez. John Turner, project director at AES Drax, said that the company used a number of firms to encourage competition. "At this moment we're engaging Slaughters for most work, but that doesn't mean it's the preferred adviser," he said.