Cleary and Freshfields win roles as MegaFon plans $4bn London IPO

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have taken advisory roles as Russian telecoms group MegaFon prepares to list on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in the coming weeks, with an IPO tipped to raise up to $4bn (£2.5bn).

Peter Allen
Peter Allen

The Russian mobile phone operator filed for permission to float a 20 per cent stake in the company that could be worth up to $4bn. The stake is set to be sold in both Moscow and London via global depositary receipts, according to reports.

If the deal goes through as planned in the next few weeks it will be one of the biggest IPOs since Facebook went public in May (2 February 2012).

A Cleary team including London-based capital markets and finance partner Raj Panasar is understood to be advising MegaFon, the Russian mobile phone giant, as it gears up for the LSE float. It is thought that members of the firm’s Moscow office including capital markets partner Yulia Solomakhin are also involved in the deal.

Freshfields is acting for the underwriters, which are understood to include Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley as co-managers, as well as Citi, Credit Suisse and Russian banks Sberbank and VTB.

London debt capital markets partner Peter Allen, who joined the firm from Linklaters in 2010, is understood to be leading the Freshfields team.

Background to this deal:

Cleary has a track record of advising major Russian clients on their London IPOs. The firm was drafted in to advise Russian property company Etalon Group on its £353.96m IPO in April last year, with Linklaters advising the banks on this occasion (2 April 2012). Cleary’s Panasar was one of the main lawyers acting for Russian e-mail service in its £630.7m listing in November 2010, while Sullivan & Cromwell advised the banks (18 October 2010). The firm is also acting for Sberbank in relation to its proposed London secondary public offering, which may go ahead later this month, according to recent reports (21 May 2012),

Freshfields’ Allen joined the Fleet Street firm in 2010 after practising in Linklaters’ Moscow office (13 December 2010), where he and London-based Tom O’Neill acted for the banks, including Goldman Sachs and VTB, on Russian retailer O’Key Group’s £267m London listing. Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom advised O’Key on the 2010 deal (2 January 2012).

Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov took control of MegaFon in April this year when his company AF Telecom increased its interest in the Russian mobile operator through purchasing Altimo’s 25.1 per cent stake. The shareholder restructuring also saw TeliaSonera reduce its 43.8 per cent interest in MegaFon to 35.6 percent.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Skadden and White & Case all landed roles on the MegaFon’s $8.5bn shareholder restructuring earlier this year (25 April 2012).

Meanwhile, MegaFon’s board has approved plans for the company to purchase a 50 per cent stake in Russia’s largest mobile phone retailer Euroset, which has been valued at around $1.25bn (£776m).

For more on the Freshfields-Linklaters battle for Goldman Sachs’ ECM instructions, see City analysis