Deals comment

Slaughter and May‘s decision to accept the sell side mandate on Mitchells & Butler’s and Punch Tavern’s potential joint £2.5bn bid for Spirit Group has left the role to advise Punch up for grabs. Slaughters, which has longstanding relationships with Spirit and Punch, is understood to have opted to act for Spirit because its policy when its clients are on both sides of a deal is to advise the target. For instance, Slaughters turned down an instruction to advise regular client Kaupthing Bank to act for the target UK bank Singer & Friedlander, which is also a client. Which firm will land Punch is anyone’s guess. But the firm with the best chance is probably Ashurst, although it is understood not to have handled any corporate work for Punch since it advised the company’s main institutional investor Texas Pacific Group on its reorganisation and IPO in early 2002. Slaughters declined to comment.

Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS) continues to land high-profile work in the competitive futures market, having worked on the launch of a new European commodities exchange. The firm advised the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) on the opening of the Nymex Europe exchange in London. The exchange will be used to trade oil and other energy-based commodities. Nymex Europe is unusual in that it operates as a floor-based trading platform, with most exchanges having now switched over to electronic trading. The exchange gives Nymex its first foothold in Europe and puts the company in competition with the International Petroleum Exchange. DWS has also won a role advising Nymex on a joint venture to open an exchange in Dubai. Robert Finney (pictured), head of financial markets and regulation, led on the deal, with partners Dan Burge (technology, media and telecoms) and Jonathan Dawe (corporate) also advising. Only a handful of firms operate in the futures market, so competition for work is fierce. But DWS, with its focus on metals and oil, has managed to secure a number of high-profile mandates, including deals for Man Financial, Refco and Fimat.