A&O steals BT contract for e-commerce float

British Telecommunications (BT) is instructing Allen & Overy for the first time to work on its radical corporate restructuring.

BT has long-standing relationships with Freshfields and Linklaters, but it selected A&O in a beauty parade for work on the flotation of its international directories and e-commerce business Yell.

BT is planning to complete the flotation by the end of the year.

A&O head of corporate Richard Cranfield refuses to comment on whether BT plans to continue instructing the firm in the future.

He says: “This is a substantial transaction. It will involve a full team from the corporate and US groups and will draw on other specialist groups.”

Cranfield refuses to provide further details on the deal, adding that he does not know who the firm was bidding against.

But he says that during the process the firm thought it was “an outsider” because it had not done any work for the company in the UK.

BT's head of legal Alan Whitfield says that it is rare for the service provider to use outside lawyers because it has a large in-house team.

He adds: “This is the first time we will have used them [A&O] on a big transaction – we beauty paraded the firms and on the day, they were the firm we felt was the best for this particular job.

“The project is being led by BT in-house lawyers,” he adds.

Cranfield says A&O equity capital markets partner Jonathan Lang will head the firm's team. Other partners working on the team are likely to include corporate partner Richard Slynn.

The plans for the company to list a minority interest in internet venture Yell were announced in April when BT revealed that it was setting up four new businesses to concentrate on broadband intellectual property, internet, mobile phones and directories.

BT also uses Lawrence Graham and Ashurst Morris Crisp for property advice, but all other work is done in-house.