Ashursts lands Virgin in Australia

Ashurst Morris Crisp has just completed its first Australian telecom deal for Virgin Mobile.

This is the second telecom deal Ashursts has completed for the company, and is nearing completion on a third. All the deals concern the launching of Virgin Mobile in different countries via a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), with an alliance partner.

Last year the firm advised on the establishment of the first-ever MVNO when Virgin Mobile entered into a joint venture with One 2 One.

But Richard Branson’s corporation has since retained Ashursts to roll out Virgin Mobile in Australia and Asia.

Joe Connellan, who relocated to Ashursts’ Singapore office due to the Virgin Mobile deal, says: “There really was no precedent for the Virgin model for MVNO. It’s not something that you can easily transfer to another legal team.”

On the initial One 2 One

deal, Ashursts advised on the joint venture as well as establishing the model. But on the subsequent Australian and Singapore deals, it is mainly working on the alliances and is simply adjusting the MVNO to fit in correctly with the countries’ telecoms regulations.

In Australia, Virgin Mobile entered into an agreement with Cable & Wireless Optus, while in Singapore it is in talks with SingTel.

Although Ashursts has no Australian presence, it does have an operation in Singapore. The UK team in Australia spent six months working from the offices of Virgin’s Australian counsel Clayton Utz, which concentrated on local law.

Connellan is optimistic that the firm will be used in Europe and the US, which are Virgin’s next targeted roll-out areas.

Ashursts has a long-term relationship with various arms of the Virgin empire, predominantly through corporate and insolvency partner Nick Angel. He acted on the initial One 2 One deal, although he has since relocated to the Frankfurt office as managing partner. Angel also acts for the Virgin Entertainment Group.

As well as Connellan and Angel, London-based telecoms partner Clive Tucker worked on the Australian deal, as well as heading the Singapore tranche.