Linklaters beats magic circle rivals in contest for Celtel IPO

Linklaters has beaten Allen & Overy (A&O) and Slaughter and May to the IPO of pan-African mobile phone company Celtel, which is to join the London Stock Exchange early next year.

The company and Linklaters both declined to comment on which firms took part in the three-firm beauty parade, but it is understood that magic circle rivals A&O and Slaughter and May pitched.

Celtel is a Netherlands-based company with assets in 13 African countries and an annual turnover of $446m (£249.1m); the company is expected to list 25 per cent of its shares, although no final decision on the float has yet been made.

Celtel has also appointed Goldman Sachs and Citigroup as its financial advisers. Unusually, however, the lawyers were put in place first on this deal.

Linklaters has worked with Celtel previously on regulatory issues and Charlie Jacobs, the partner leading on the IPO, has built up an extensive repertoire of work in South Africa, mainly through relationships with mining companies operating in the region. Jacobs did not take the opportunity to comment.

Goldman Sachs called in regular counsel Christopher Mort of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to work on the deal. Like Jacobs, Mort has a wealth of experience in South Africa. He advised the underwriters on the privatisation of South Africa’s national phone operator Telkom in 2003, for example.

It has been a good month for Linklaters and Freshfields, which grabbed the equivalent roles on the IPO of Britvic, which is also expected in January.

Linklaters has retained its position as adviser to Britvic’s majority shareholder InterContinental Hotels, despite the transfer of key partner Chris Kelly to Hong Kong. Kelly advised on a restructuring of the company in March this year in preparation for the IPO. InterContinental will lead the flotation.

Britvic’s financial advisers Citibank and Deutsche Bank have turned to Freshfields.

Britvic has four shareholders: InterContinental holds 47.5 percent, Whitbread and Allied Domecq each own 23.75 per cent and PepsiCo has a 5 per cent stake.

Former Freshfields partner Tim Emmerson of US firm Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy is expected to be instructed by Allied Domecq after advising on the earlier restructuring. Emmerson retained Allied Domecq as a client from his days at Freshfields.