Nortons close Net on Euro consortium

Norton Rose has completed one of its most complex media deals to date by advising on the merger of seven European Internet service providers.

The companies are forming a new group called EUNet International, which intends to seek a public listing on the Nasdaq Exchange in New York.

“This was a most complicated transaction given that the companies were spread around Europe, each within a separate jurisdiction,” said Keith Hyman of the firm's media group.

The companies decided to merge their operations after being linked in a loose Pan- European confederation, trading under the EUnet brand name. Until the merger, each group had been owned by a myriad of different shareholders in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Norway and Switzerland.

Hyman said that the move represented an attempt to consolidate in a market where big players such as Virgin and US phones group AT&T have announced plans to launch Internet services of their own.

Venture capital group Advent International has paid about £8 million for a stake in EUNet International.

Said Hyman: “This complex acquisition involved more than 40 shareholders around Europe and required local corporate and taxation considerations.”

The Norton Rose team was headed by Francis Sumner, a senior corporate finance partner, assisted by Jeremy Barton and Trevor Ingle.

Sumner said: “The injection of money from Advent gives the company access to new capital with which it can expand its business.”

Norton Rose's growing media group has advised on a number of high profile City deals which include the £2.9 billion merger of United News & Media and MAI.