How Linklaters & Alliance must have breathed a sigh of relief when BT rang up and asked it to do the rights issue it completed last week. Not only was it the biggest ever rights issue in the UK – at £5.9bn, £1bn more than the City was expecting – thus a tasty deal, but it was evidence that it's not out in the cold as far as BT is concerned.
Ever since BT moved its work from Slaughter and May to Linklaters in the early 1990s, there was a strong relationship – until a couple of years ago that is. Since then, BT has, to be honest, been putting it about a bit. It has instructed both Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Allen & Overy (A&O) on major corporate deals that never went ahead (the Yell float in the case of A&O), sending a clear sign to Linklaters that it shouldn't be resting on its laurels.
Maybe it's Linklaters' relationship with Vodafone that has set the cat among the pigeons. Now that BT Wireless is being demerged from the rest of the company it might be less of an issue, but it's hardly a comfortable situation. After all, it was because Slaughters was made to choose between Cable & Wireless and BT that Linklaters nabbed the work in the first place.
BT has found itself in a bit of mess lately, to put it mildly, but it still hasn't been shy to think out of the box. The appointment of two non-telecoms investment banks, Cazenove and Merrill Lynch, for the rights issue will have irritated the specialist telecoms bankers no end.
So well done Linklaters. For two years in a row now it has been at the heart of Europe's largest and most interesting deals – who could forget Vodafone's £112bn Mannesmann deal last year? Advising BT will mean plenty of disposals work for the forseeable future.
And maybe the change of leadership at BT means more settled times ahead. It's been turbulent for the in-house team during the past few months, with the shock departure of general counsel Alan Whitfield to KLegal and Anne Fletcher, his deputy, reversing her decision to go to the BBC and taking the helm. Fletcher led the in-house team working with Linklaters on the rights issue, so it'll be hoping she was suitably impressed. Then it might just get away with juggling that BT/Vodafone thing a little bit longer.
Fingers must be crossed on Silk Street.