BLP in pole position for RBS work as bank buys new headquarters

Berwin Leighton Paisner

(BLP) has emerged as the frontrunner to represent the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) on a £242m real estate purchase in the heart of the City.

It is understood that BLP, one of a number of firms on RBS’s legal panel, which was finalised last November, will act for the bank on the purchase of one of its two headquarters, 280 Bishopsgate, EC2.

Sources indicate that the firm, which provides a mixture of real estate and finance advice to the bank, will shortly be handed the mandate for the deal, which will see RBS pay £242m for the 280 Bishopsgate building.

The price tag signals a 10 per cent increase on the value the original owners, a private investor client of HSBC Republic Bank, paid the then owner, office and retail group Hammerson, two years ago. Mark Waghorn, one of the RBS relationship partners at BLP, said the firm represented RBS on the financing of the original transaction.

Hammerson first purchased the site back in 1999 for just £27.5m and subsequently pre-let the 270,000sq ft space to RBS for a 25-year period at £56 per sq ft.

At the same time, Clifford Chance looks set to pick up the work on the acquisition of RBS’s other headquarters, Premier Place, Houndsditch, EC3.

It is expected that tenant RBS could pay around £190m for the 240,000sq ft space, a 12 per cent premium on the price that the current owners, property group Rotch, owned by longtime Linklaters client billionaire Robert Tchenguiz, paid in 2001.

RBS would not comment on the deals, but it has also since emerged that the bank has shelled out around £200m for a forward purchase of two plots, earmarked for development by Tishman Speyer’s Aldgate Union, to house its back office staff.