A&O scoops Dutch mega-merger

Allen & Overy (A&O) has cemented its dominance on large Netherlands-based deals as it scored instruction from pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough on the €11bn (£7.5bn) cash purchase of Dutch group Akzo Nobel’s drugs division.

The main draw of Akzo Nobel’s drugs division is Organon, the contraceptive pill.

Corporate partner Sietze Hepkema led A&O’s team, with banking partner Andrew Thomas and tax partner Olaf van der Donk.

A&O’s co-counsel on the deal was Lovells, led by London corporate partner Richard Lewis and Amsterdam-based Johannes Buntjer.

Akzo Nobel turned to its panel firm De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, with Manhattan M&A stalwart Sullivan & Cromwell advising on the US aspects.

At the end of last year Akzo Nobel completed the first phase of a radical panel overhaul, selecting De Brauw and Dirkzwager in the Netherlands, Loyens in Belgium, Garrigues in Spain, Bonelli Erede Pappalardo in Italy, CMS Hasche Sigle in Germany and Vinge in Sweden. Sullivan is not one of the six US panel firms.

The Dutch chemicals group had said in 2006 that it would either look to float its pharmaceutical division or sell it off. It will use some of the proceeds to fill a pensions gap, but will also launch a share buyback on completion of the deal.

A&O’s instruction by Schering follows its role on the £16bn purchase of Essent by its utilities client Nuon, the biggest deal in the Netherlands to date. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer represented Essent in that transaction.