Paul Hastings acts on bank sale proposal as Links, Slaughters wait on Lloyds calls

Paul Hastings’ London office has taken an advisory role for the corporate finance group behind a plan to distribute shares in RBS and Lloyds Banking Group to the public as part of the banks’ planned privatisations.

George Osborne
George Osborne

London partner James Cole is advising Portman Capital Partners on the proposal, under which qualifying UK taxpayers would be able to register for shares for free.

They would do this at a pre-determined price, with the Treasury then taking back the base price when investors sell them at a later point. The taxpayer would be able to earn any profit above this level.

However. recipients who sell their shares below the price the Government paid for the shares when buying them for the state in 2008 would have to repay the difference to the Government.

Portman Capital has described the idea as a method for the Government to transfer a large proportion of its stake in RBS and Lloyds to private ownership in one go while enabling taxpayers to potentially benefit.

It has been adopted by Policy Exchange, the think tank, and has been backed by Liberal Democrat backbench Treasury committee co-chairman Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West.

Cole, who joined Paul Hastings from Weil Gotshal & Manges’ City office earlier this year (18 January 2013), has acted for Portman Capital for five years, including on a number of deals and other matters while at Weil.

He worked on the latest instruction alongside consultant Thomas O’Riordan and associate James Gray, both in Paul Hastings’ London base.

The plans come amid increased media speculation that Chancellor George Osborne will announce a plan to reprivatise Lloyds and RBS at his Mansion House speech on 19 June.

A first 10 per cent stake in Lloyds could be sold before the end of this year, according to the Financial Times. The Sunday Times first reported over the weekend that a sale was imminent.

It is understood no legal advisory jobs have formally been dished out in relation to the potential Lloyds sale, with Slaughter and May corporate partner Nilufer von Bismarck tipped to take the role for the Government after soon-to-retire partner Charles Randell led for the client on the original deal in 2008 (13 July 2009).

Linklaters is also in a strong position to win the work from Lloyds after corporate partner Jeremy Parr advised the bank on the merger with HBOS and privatisation (17 September 2008).