Simmons wins top role on Vivendi buy

Simmons & Simmons’ corporate department is reaping the rewards of its relationship with utilities giant Vivendi Environment, acting on Vivendi’s first major acquisition since last year’s UK panel review

Simmons has acted for Vivendi Water UK on the £2bn acquisition of First Aqua JVCo, the holding company of Southern Water. The corporate aspects of the deal are now largely complete because the acquisition agreement was signed last Tuesday (7 May).
Fellow panel firm Allen & Overy (A&O) has been instructed to handle the refinancing of existing First Aqua and Southern Water debt. However, Simmons will project manage the deal alongside the Vivendi in-house legal team.
Last year, Vivendi Water’s UK legal director Mike Butcher carried out a five-month panel review for Vivendi, the most important UK component of which is utilities subsidiary Vivendi Environment. In April 2001, both A&O and Simmons were appointed to the panel, together with Macfarlanes, Pinsent Curtis Biddle, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, Theodore Goddard and several regional firms.
Simmons’ relationship with Vivendi pre-dates Butcher’s appointment in the mid-1990s. The relationship is currently managed by Ken Woffenden who co-led the First Aqua deal with Steven Bryan.
Butcher, who led this deal for Vivendi alongside the company’s international counsel Victoria Rigby, said: “Simmons is a relationship firm and we were very pleased with the last deal it did.” Simmons acted on the £23m disposal of Bristol Water in March.
While the A&O team, led by partner Anne Baldock, is on the deal in a secondary role, it is the first time that the firm has been brought in on an M&A transaction since the panel review. Butcher said A&O was instructed because of the firm’s unique expertise in water industry financing. First Aqua is using Clifford Chance on the deal, which was code-named Project Alba.