Linklaters joins Norton Rose and new SA ally on £1.3bn Barclays Africa sale

Linklaters and Norton Rose have advised alongside the magic circle firm’s new South African ally Webber Wentzel as Johannesburg bank Absa Group buys Barclays’ African operations for £1.3bn.

Charlie Jacobs
Charlie Jacobs

Linklaters and Webber Wentzel acted for Absa, making it the first deal that the two firms have acted on together following the announcement that they will form an exclusive alliance from 1 February next year (3 December 2012).

The transaction will see the major South African bank purchase Barclays Africa, the holding company of Barclays’ entire African portfolio, in an all-share deal. In turn Barclays will increase its stake in the South African bank from 55.5 per cent to 62.3 per cent.

The Linklaters team was led by London corporate partner Charlie Jacobs and Webber Wentzel corporate partner Sarah Adcock in Johannesburg. Linklaters managing associate Tracey Lochhead and Webber Wentzel Johannesburg private equity partner Ziyanda Ntshona supported them.

Norton Rose was retained to advise Barclays on the deal, with South Africa corporate head Kevin Cron, Abu Dhabi corporate partner Alan Bainbridge and London corporate partner Emma de Ronde all leading the team.

It is understood that Bainbridge temporarily relocated to London for several weeks to help close the deal.

Norton Rose London corporate head Martin Scott also provided additional support to the team. Others involved were Johannesburg regulatory partner Bridget King, London-based tax partner Dominic Stuttaford, Johannesburg-based tax head Andrew Wellsted, London IP partner Jonathan Ball and City employment partner Catrina Smith.

Clifford Chance also took a role for Barclays on the transaction, although Norton Rose was the lead adviser. Clifford Chance London corporate partner Patrick Sarch and City-based financial institutions partner Narind Singh acted for the bank, with partner Christopher Bates providing regulatory advice.

Absa is set to be rebranded as Barclays Africa Group. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2013 subject to approval from Absa’s shareholders.

Linklaters’ Jacobs said: “We look forward to closing out this deal and working on many other deals together [with Webber Wentzel]. This is further evidence of both firms working together on high-profile deals in the financial institutions sector.”

Background to this deal:

Webber Wentzel’s track record of acting for Absa on domestic deals has helped cement Linklaters’ relationship with the bank. The duo acted together on Barclays’ original investment in Absa in 2005, when it paid $4.5bn in exchange for a majority stake in the South African bank.

Then Clifford Chance was the firm chosen to act for Barclays (4 October 2004). This was as a result of its close relationship with legacy South African firm Deneys Reitz, which merged with Norton Rose in 2011 (15 November 2010).

While Norton Rose is a longstanding adviser to Barclays, the firm’s relationship with Barclays on South African deals was given a further boost by the merger with Deneys Reitz. Cron, head of Norton Rose’s South Africa corporate group, was one of the main partners involved in the 2005 Barclays-Absa deal (4 October 2004).

For more on Barclays’ relationship with law firms, see feature