Wolters looks to A&O to advise on sale of bonds

Allen & Overy‘s (A&O) Amsterdam office has scooped its first instruction from Stibbe client Wolters Kluwer.

A&O has acted for banks on previous transactions involving the publisher, but never for Wolters itself. In-house counsel Maarten Thomson brought A&O in to advise on the launch of a public offer for

its bonds, due in 2005-06. The company opened a public bid on 31 October for the e550m (£376.3m) in 6.125 per cent bonds, due in 2005, and the e750m (£513.2m) in 5.5 per cent bonds, due in 2006.

Wolters is also planning a buyback of its 1 per cent convertible unsubordinated bonds, due 2006. The terms are dependent on Wolters’ planned issue of a new eurobond and on market conditions. Stibbe advised on the original bond issues, while A&O advised the banks. This time, Linklaters‘ sole Amsterdam partner Richard Levy advised lead managers Credit Suisse First Boston and Rabobank.

Lead corporate partner Jan Louis Burggraaf described the structure of the proposed public offers and the linkage between them and the bond issue as “a novelty in the Dutch market”. He added: “It’s not common to have a public bid – not an invitation to bid – on your own bonds. The other novelty is that we made the second offer dependent on the success of the issuance. Wolters will place bonds in the market and… pay the existing bondholders who tender under the offer. This is a smart way of extending the maturity.”

New chief executive Nancy McKinstry also has a three-year plan to turn Wolters around. With the bond market still attractive, Burggraaf said other Dutch companies are likely to want to take similar steps.