Clifford Chance and Macfarlanes wade into Rio Tinto battle

Clifford Chance and Macfarlanes have won key roles in battle for control of Rio Tinto, the UK-listed mining giant.

Last week Rio saw 12 per cent of its London shares snapped up by Chinese rivals Chinalco and US aluminium group Alcoa, in an audacious $14bn (£7.1bn) dawn raid.

Chinalco was represented by Clifford Chance, led by corporate partner Kathy Honeywood, and Macfarlanes acted for Alcoa in the acquisition.

Then on Tuesday (6 February) UK-listed mining company BHP Billiton entered the fray with a formal £75bn offer for Rio. BHP and Rio Tinto are being represented by Slaughter and May and Linklaters respectively.

Last week’s dawn raid was widely seen as an attempt by the Chinese government to scupper BHP’s plan to take control of Rio and create vast global mining group.

The Chinese government, which owns Chinalco, is concerned about the prospect of a single company dominating its iron ore supplies.

Clifford Chance corporate partner Nigel Wellings, who was on the Chinalco team, said the state-owned miner had been seeking a “significant strategic stake” in Rio.

He added: “We are very pleased to have acted on the deal. We will certainly be discussing further opportunities with them.”

It was the first time the firm had been instructed by Chinalco in a London deal, although it represents the company in China.

The Macfarlanes team was led by Graham Gibb with head of debt finance Julian Howard and senior partner Robert Sutton.

Alcoa was advised by Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton on antitrust issues and Watchell Lipton Rosen & Katz in the US.

Chinalco was advised by Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in the US and Mallesons in Australia.