Bird & Bird has won the lead role on a major corporate deal for BT, shunting the telecoms giant's main corporate firm Linklaters into a role advising on pensions.
Bird & Bird advised BT on the $70m (£49m) sale of its 50 per cent stake in human resources outsourcing business e-peopleserve to its joint venture partner Accenture. Accenture was advised by Clifford Chance.
BT could also gain up to $222.5m (£156m) in extra payments from Accenture if e-peopleserve hits revenue targets during the next five years.
Bird & Bird is one of BT's preferred advisers, but usually works on telecoms-related matters. The firm won this piece of corporate work after it advised BT on the original deal with Accenture.
Justin Forsell, BT's legal head of the group strategy department, led the team on the e-peopleserve sale. He said: “We chose Linklaters to handle the pensions work, but Bird & Bird handled the sale because it acted on the joint venture when it was set up 18 months ago. We used Bird & Bird for its specialist knowledge of e-peopleserve as well as its generally very high standard of legal expertise.”
“We mainly do joint venture work for BT, but it's rare for us to be involved in a straight corporate sale”
Grant Powell, Bird & Bird
Corporate partner Grant Powell, who led the Bird & Bird team, said: “We mainly do joint venture work for BT, but it's rare for us to be involved in a straight corporate sale.”
He said that this deal reinforces Bird & Bird's profile as a niche firm which provides a full service to telecoms clients. “We do offer a full service, but we're also very sector-focused and the two things are not incompatible,” he said.
BT uses Linklaters as its main corporate adviser along with Ashurst Morris Crisp for property, Bird & Bird for telecoms and Wragge & Co for general work. But it is not rare for the telecoms giant to shop around for corporate advice. Linklaters advised BT on its £5.9bn rights issue, the largest ever in the UK. But when BT offloaded Yell, its directories business, to Hicks Muse Tate & Furst in June 2001, it turned to Allen & Overy, which had also advised BT on the Yell flotation. The company also involved Freshfields on some corporate deals in 2001.