Whenever a U.S. firm is tapped as lead counsel to act on a bid for a major British company, the market takes note. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom's role representing Qatari investment fund Delta 2 on its £12 billion ($24 billion) offer for British supermarket chain J Sainsbury Plc has been London's most high-profile M&A assignment of recent weeks.
U.K. corporate partner Adrian Knight is leading the Skadden team, while Linklaters is advising long-standing client Sainsbury through relationship partners Mark Stamp and David Barnes. Shearman & Sterling's Peter King is acting for Delta 2's financial advisers, Credit Suisse. Skadden declined to comment on its involvement, but a source close to the deal confirmed the New York firm's role.
Knight joined Skadden from Shearman & Sterling's London office last year to give the firm more exposure to the British M&A market. Skadden has generally been successful in picking up European bid work from its stable of U.S. clients, but now the firm also has a burgeoning collection of assignments generated by its European network. Last year, for example, it acted for pan-European steel giant Arcelor S.A. on its $33 billion takeover by rival Mittal Steel NV.
The Delta 2 offer is the latest takeover attempt of Sainsbury. Earlier this year, the supermarket chain was the subject of an approach by a private equity consortium led by British buyout house CVC Capital Partners, which was advised by Clifford Chance. The £11.4 billion bid was ultimately abandoned.
Another recent high-profile M&A deal was a decidedly all-British affair, with Linklaters and Herbert Smith facing each other across the table on the proposed £8.6 billion ($17.5 billion) tie-up between financial services companies Friends Provident plc and Resolution plc. Herbies has acted for both companies in the past, but opted to act for Resolution on this latest transaction, with corporate partners James Palmer and Malcolm Lombers leading the team. Linklaters' senior partner David Cheyne and M&A specialist Owen Clay are advising Friends Provident.
On the laterals front, Clifford Chance has been busy building up its Eastern European practice with the hire of M&A partner David Griston from CMS Cameron McKenna's Moscow office. Griston is the latest partner to join Clifford Chance from Cameron McKenna's highly rated Central and Eastern Europe practice following the recent move of finance specialist Jared Grubb and the move last year of a four-partner real estate team in Poland.
Although Cameron McKenna, one of the 15 highest-grossing firms in the United Kingdom, is a strong player in the CEE region, the firm's profits per partner of £502,000 ($1 million) are dwarfed by those of Clifford Chance, which reported PPP this year of just over £1 million ($2 million).
Adopting a decidedly upbeat tone on the latest loss, Cameron McKenna's managing partner for Central and Eastern Europe Duncan Weston, said: "It's always a shame to lose colleagues, but it's an indication of our strength in the region that we are competing head-on with the Magic Circle for talent." The firm has confirmed its commitment to the region with a new office due to open in September in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine.