Lovells bags Ericsson work

Lovells is advising on the first pan-European property outsourcing deal involving the £200m sale of property owned by cash-poor Swedish telecoms company Ericsson.

Ericsson is close to sealing a deal to take a swathe of European properties off its balance sheet. The deal plays to Lovells’ strength as a leader in the property outsourcing business and as an international firm. Only one of the properties involved is in England.

The consortium comprises Servus, backed by Japanese investment bank Nomura, outsourcing consultancy Faro and private property investor Rotch. Ericsson has granted a period of exclusivity to the group. The teams are understood to be working towards an aggressive financial close. The move follows a similar decision by debt-laden telecoms giant British Telecommunications to outsource its property to Trillium Land Securities.

Lovells head of property Robert Kidby confirmed that the firm is advising on the groundbreaking deal. Kidby is unable to comment on the details of the transaction, but says: “This shows that the Preps [Private Real Estate Partnerships] market is advancing very rapidly and internationally. It’s a fledgling market, but there’s enormous opportunity for it. It also shows that it’s a good decision for a law firm to have an international property capability.”

Property partner Francis Giacon will head the team when Kidby goes on a three-month sabbatical at the end of the month.

News of the deal comes as Lovells proposes the idea of an association of professionals involved in outsourcing. The aim is to simplify the way transactions are put together, reducing costs and thereby widening the available market.

Kidby says: “The property industry has been criticised for many years as being long-winded, illiquid and slow off the mark. We have an opportunity with a new concept to change that on a collective and openhanded basis between the various professional organisations involved. Whether the time’s right now remains to be seen.”

An informal gathering was held last week to discuss the idea of an association. Clifford Chance property partner Iain Morpeth was among those to voice his approval of the idea.