Herbert Smith gets ahead of REIT pack

Herbert Smith is in pole position to pick up real estate investment trusts (REITs) work after becoming the first UK law firm to advise a UK company on a French-style REIT.

The firm’s London and Paris offices advised Hammerson on a plan to bring its £1.1bn portfolio of French properties into a SIIC – France’s equivalent of the REIT.

Hammerson is applying for a secondary listing of its shares on the Euronext Premier Marché so it can qualify for SIIC status.

REITs, which are attractive vehicles because of their improved tax status, are not yet available in the UK, but the Government is discussing their introduction and is due to release a consultation paper on them on 17 March.

“There’s been considerable interest in what has been viewed as the Holy Grail of the industry for some years,” said Herbert Smith real estate partner Chris de Pury. “Of course, this has been stimulated primarily by the remarks made in the Barker Report, but it looks as though the Government has accepted in principle the merits of such a vehicle in the UK.”

The team advising on the deal was led by London partner David Paterson.