Ashursts scoops £2bn BT property contract

Ashurst Morris Crisp is advising British Telecommunications (BT) on the sale and leaseback of its £2bn UK property estate, set to be the UK's largest property outsourcing contract to date.

The deal, involving 7,500 properties, dwarfs similar examples in the public sector and goes further than the first private real estate partnership (Prep) agreed between Abbey National and Mapeley Colombus. The Abbey National deal is worth around £460m.

Ashursts' real estate department has a longstanding relationship with BT.

Lawrence Graham and Addleshaw Booth & Co, BT's other property advisers, are thought to be carrying out due diligence on the deal.

Ashursts' head of real estate Simon Cookson is leading the Ashursts team with real estate partner Anthony Burnett-Scott.

Former managing partner Ian Nisse will be closely involved when he returns from sabbatical in April.

Cookson says: “Because of the deal's size and the importance to BT it will show the way for the many corporate outsourcing deals that will surely follow. To my personal knowledge this is the first true property outsourcing in the private sector, in a business environment where these things have been much talked about, but, as yet, have not happened.”

The team also includes real estate partner David Perks, head of telecommunications and investment banking Christopher Ashworth, telecoms partner Clive Tucker, corporate partner David Kershaw and commercial group partner Ian Mason. Schroders is believed to be acting as financial adviser to BT.

Outsourcing experts Mapeley and Trillium, now part of Land Securities, are both thought to be arranging bids for the portfolio. Mapeley divides its instructions between Linklaters & Alliance and Nabarro Nathanson, while Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is Trillium's preferred adviser. Nomura's Principal Finance Group is also thought to be interested in bidding for the portfolio.