Watson Farley handles Vivendi restructuring

Watson Farley & Williams has advised Vivendi Universal on the restructuring of its investment in leading Polish mobile telecommunications operator Elektrim Telekomunikacja.
The firm’s relationship with Vivendi is linked to the managing partner of the Paris office David Syed, and this deal is the first time that the London office has been closely involved in a transaction for the client.
Watson Farley was brought in to restructure the original investment in summer 1999. Because of this, it already understood the structure of the deal and was the logical choice of counsel.
Under the terms of the deal Elektrim SA transferred shares representing 2 per cent of Elektrim Telekomunikacja to an independent company. After the necessary regulatory approvals have been granted the shares will be transferred to Vivendi. The value of the transfer was e100m (£61.84m).
Elektrim Telekomunikacja is a joint venture between Vivendi and Elektrim and transferring 2 per cent of shares to Vivendi will make it a majority shareholder.
Watson Farley also advised Elektrim Telekomunikacja on a number of acquisitions. Elektrim’s holdings in fixed-line companies El-Net, Tv-Tel and Telefonia Regionalna were bought for e491m (£303.62m) and Elektrim’s shares in cable television companies were acquired for $150,000 (£102,532).
Watson Farley London-based partner James Wilkinson said that the essence of the restructuring was to create a more consolidated entity which includes fixed-line as well as mobile operations.
The restructuring, which has raised v600m (£371.02m), will help meet the company’s various commitments, which include bonds and payments that need to be made for litigation claims. It will also provide the company with working capital.
The Warsaw office of Salans Hertzfeld & Heilbronn acted as Polish counsel for Vivendi Universal. Elektrim was advised by Beata Gessel & Partners.
Wilkinson said that Watson Farley required detailed knowledge on local law in order to understand the transfer. “Structuring the deal so it didn’t fall foul of regulatory aspects was a challenge,” he said.
Syed led the deal for Watson Farley out of the Paris office, while Wilkinson led a team in London.