Lovells team wins £70m for Abbey National in £460m leaseback deal

Lovells’ property team has steered Abbey National to a £70m profit in the first-ever sale and leaseback deal for a UK bank, worth around £460m.

Abbey National has sold its branch network and offices and agreed a 20-year contract to occupy them on a flexible basis. The preferred bidder was Mapeley Columbus, backed by Soros Real Estate Partners, Fortress Investment Group and Delancey Estates.

Mapeley was advised by a Linklaters team led by James Knox, including real estate head Simon Clarke, senior property assistants Lynne Walkington and Joe Conder, finance partner Fiona Rice and senior finance assistant Stuart Thomas.

The other bidders, Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund and LRP, were advised by Herbert Smith and Wragge & Co.

Abbey National’s innovative lease structure overturns the traditional sale-and-leaseback model by achieving the optimal combination of flexibility of tenure and cost certainty, elements not yet achieved on other portfolio deals without incurring significant costs.

Abbey National will be able to vacate properties early or extend leases using a cost formula that is unaffected by market conditions. Abbey National was also advised by accountants Ernst & Young and property consultants Nelson Bakewell.

Led by head of property Robert Kidby, the Lovells team scooped the work in a pitch last year (The Lawyer, 7 August). It comprised property partners David Lane and Nicholas Cheffings, assisted by Katherine Watts, tax partners Kevin Ashman and Greg Sinfield, corporate lawyer Katie Boysen and paralegal James Phipps.

Kidby says: “This is the first of the big corporate property restructuring transactions. Abbey National have had the foresight to move to a more sophisticated and innovative approach to managing its property portfolio. In doing so, it is showing the way the UK property market is moving for major corporate occupiers.”