Clifford Chance and Simpson Thacher share KKR job on UK water buy

Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett have acted on the sale of the owner of South Staffordshire Water and Cambridge Water to US private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).

Brendan Moylan
Brendan Moylan

The deal sees KKR buy South Staffordshire Group from infrastructure fund manager Alinda Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum. Together the Central England water suppliers serve around 1.3m customers.

The London office of Freshfields advised Alinda, led by corporate partner Martin Nelson-Jones and senior associate Richard Burrows. The team also included antitrust partner David Aitman and tax partner Richard Ballard.   

KKR turned to longstanding advisers Clifford Chance and Simpson Thacher, with the latter advising on US law. Simpson Thacher partner Alvaro Membrillera, who moved to the firm’s London office from New York in 2002, is understood to have led for Simpson Thacher, while London corporate partner Brendan Moylan led for Clifford Chance.

Background to this deal:

In the UK, KKR has traditionally turned to Clifford Chance for advice on M&A matters, with longstanding US counsel Simpson Thacher handling the financing side of deals.

However, in 2010 Clifford Chance lost out to Simpson Thacher on KKR’s buyout of Pets at Home after partner Adam Signy picked up the mandate to give M&A advice (27 January 2010). Signy was one of the magic circle firm’s biggest hitters when he left Clifford Chance for the London office of Simpson Thacher in 2009.

Freshfields advised Alinda on the merger of the South Staffordshire Water and Cambridge Water licences in 2012, said to be the first unconditional merger clearance from the Competition Commission. The firm also advised on Northumbrian Water’s £2.4bn cash sale to a Hong Kong consortium controlled by billionaire Li Ka-Shing in 2011 (2 August 2011).