Leboeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae has won a series of roles in the wave of privatisation sweeping the former Soviet Union.
The firm is advising Commerzbank, which is leading the consortium acting for the Georgian government on the privatisation of Telecom Georgia (TG) and Georgian Local Lines Company (GLLC). The consortium includes the Bank of Georgia and ARC Associates.
Brian Zimbler, a partner who splits his time between London and Moscow, says that it is the first time the firm has acted for Commerzbank. “It isn't a long-term client, but our firm is well placed throughout the former Soviet countries,” he says. “I also think that Commerzbank had difficulty in finding a firm with knowledge of Georgia.” There are no law firms in the region.
The privatisation of TG and GLLC is now at a due diligence stage, whereby businesses have until April to investigate whether to invest in the projects.
Zimbler says that international telecoms companies may be interested in investing in the country. “The sort of investors that would be interested would be strategic investors – major US or European companies,” he says. Although he admits that the timing of the project is “not the best”, since telecoms companies are fighting to reduce debt incurred after bidding for 3G licences, and in some instances are proposing to demerge or sell subsidiaries.
British Telecommunications is reportedly considering demerging the mobile phone unit that it was previously going to float. However, it has to reduce £30m of debt, and any plans to float have been blighted by the recent disappointment with the performance of Orange's initial public offering two weeks ago.
On the back of its work with Commerzbank, LeBoeuf is also acting for the government of Uzbekistan on the privatisation of the state telephone company.