Linklaters pips Freshfields in China Gold pitch amid African Barrick talks

Linklaters has beaten Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in a pitch to win a first-time role for China National Gold on its talks to buy a stake in UK-listed African Barrick Gold (ABG) from Canada’s Barrick Gold.


Norton Rose and Shearman & Sterling have also won jobs alongside Linklaters on the potential deal that would see the Chinese state-owned resources group acquire parent company Barrick’s 74 per cent holding in the Tanzanian miner.

Linklaters has taken the role for new client China Gold after London partners Iain Wagstaff and Nick Rees, Hong Kong partner Teresa Ma and newly-promoted Beijing partner Annabella Fu took part in a pitch to advise the Beijing-headquartered company on the deal, beating off competition from two firms including Freshfields.

Norton Rose corporate partner Chris Pearson in London is leading for the Toronto-headquartered parent company Barrick, while Shearman London corporate co-head Laurence Levy and fellow City corporate partner Jeremy Kutner are advising longstanding client ABG.

ABG has also turned to in-house lawyers Katrina White, the general counsel and company secretary, and legal counsel Laura Rich.

The usual 28-day ‘put-up-or-shut-up’ deadline required under the revamped City Code on Takeovers and Mergers has been waived, meaning the timescale for the deal is unclear. Barrick confirmed the discussions on 16 August. Press reports estimate the deal value at roughly £2.5bn.

Background to this deal:

China Gold is a new client for Linklaters, which has made a successful push to win outbound work originating in the country. It notably won mandates from China Investment Corporation – to which it has seconded lawyers – on its acquisition of a stake in the UK’s Kemble Water (24 January 2012) and from China’s Bright Food when it bought a majority stake in Weetabix (3 May 2012). The instructions follow a decision last year to send three European corporate partners including City rainmaker Matthew Middleditch to Asia to boost the practice (10 October 2011).

Shearman’s Levy is a longstanding adviser to ABG, leading it and parent Barrick Gold through ABG’s £581m IPO on the London Stock Exchange in 2010 together with City finance partner Mei Lian. Linklaters London corporate partner Charlie Jacobs advised the banking consortium led by JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley (30 April 2012). Levy and Lian recently advised ABG on its first foray outside Tanzania when it acquired Aviva Mining Kenya (25 July 2012).

Norton Rose’s Canadian legacy firm Ogilvy Renault has advised Barrick in the past, for instance on its $7.3bn acquisition of Australia’s Equinox Minerals in 2011. Norton Rose and Ogilvy merged last year (15 November 2010).