Norton Rose has been left out in the cold on the massive $3.5bn disposal of two Eastern European mobile phone operators to Vodafone after its regular client, Montreal-based Telesystems International Wireless (TIW), turned to Herbert Smith.

The mandate came to Herbert Smith through a referral from its Dutch ally Stibbe. It is the first time TIW has instructed Herbert Smith. London partner Alex Kay led the Herbert Smith team on the deal. Norton Rose is TIW’s regular UK adviser, but the firm was not approached to act on the deal.

Linklaters, with whom Vodafone has a famously close and longstanding relationship, advised the mobile company on the two acquisitions.

The deal sees Vodafone acquire TIW’s 79 per cent stake in Romanian mobile operator Mobifon. Vodafone is also picking up the Czech Republic’s third largest mobile operator – Oskar Mobil – in which the TIW owns just under 100 per cent.

The disposals follow TIW’s sale of its mobile interests in India and Brazil and the collapse of its UK operation Dolphin Telecom, in 2001.

Vodafone has long been aiming to expand in Eastern Europe, where it currently has interests in Vodafone Hungary and Poland’s Polkomtel.