From the alleged doping cover-up of more than 1,000 Russian athletes in the Olympics to President Barack Obama ordering America’s intelligence agencies to investigate the Russia’s alleged involvement in the recent U.S. presidential election, Moscow has dominated news headlines within the last week.
And in a deal announced on Dec. 7, the Kremlin once again defied expectations. The Russian government has agreed to an $11.3 billion deal that will see it sell a 19.5 percent stake in state-owned oil giant NK Rosneft PAO to Swiss commodities trader Glencore plc and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund of the Persian Gulf country.
“It is the largest privatization deal, the largest sale and acquisition in the global oil and gas sector in 2016,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in televised remarks.
The long planned partial privatization will provide Russia with much needed capital as it struggles from weak oil prices and a two-year recession due to Western economic sanctions stemming from Moscow’s military actions in neighboring Ukraine.
The American Lawyer reported in October on Rosneft’s $13 billion acquisition of a 49 percent stake in Indian oil refiner and fuel retailer Essar Oil Ltd. Rosneft partnered with Russian investment bank United Capital Partners LLC and Swiss commodities trader Trafigura AG on that deal, which was structured to avoid sanctions levied by the U.S. and European Union.
While Linklaters advised Rosneft on the Essar deal, The American Lawyer reported earlier this year on the Moscow-based company’s hire of White & Case to handle its proposed plans to sell a 20 percent stake for some $7.5 billion. In the end, the Kremlin got more than it bargained for in finding partners in Glencore and the QIA, perhaps signaling that foreign investors are reassessing opportunities in Russia following the electoral victory of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.
As first noted by the U.K.’s Legal Business, Linklaters and senior partner Charlie Jacobs are advising longtime client Glencore on the current transaction, while White & Case has taken the lead for Rosneft through Doha-based M&A partner Michiel Visser, who once spent a year as counsel to the QIA. (White & Case advised the QIA in August on its $622 million purchase of a 9.9 percent stake in the owner of New York’s Empire State Building.)
White & Case has previously advised Rosneft on several key matters, having taken over from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton the company’s defense in a $50 billion dispute with shareholders in now-defunct Yukos Oil Co. (The American Lawyer had more on that case last month.) Cleary Gottlieb, which has also enjoyed close ties to the Kremlin, is representing the QIA on the Rosneft deal.
Intesa Sanpaolo SPA, Italy’s largest retail lender, is advising Rosneft on the sale of its 19.5 percent stake and has reportedly teamed up with Russian banks to provide financing to Glencore and QIA for their acquisition of a slice in the company. The Russian state will continue to have a controlling stake in Rosneft.
In other M&A news…
Quad Gas Group / National Grid plc
On Dec. 8, the U.K.’s National Grid, the only operator of the electric transmission system in England and Wales, announced it had agreed to sell a majority 61 percent stake in its gas network to the Quad Gas Group, a consortium comprised of the sovereign wealth funds of China and Qatar. London-based sibling publication Legal Week reported that the acquirers include the QIA, Australian investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd., China’s CIC Capital Corp., Allianz Capital Partners GmbH, Amber Infrastructure Ltd./International Public Partnerships, Dalmore Capital Ltd. and Hermes Investment Management. National Grid’s gas unit serves nearly11 million homes and business across Great Britain. The deal, which is subject to clearance from the European Commission, is expected to close in March 2017.
Legal Advisers: Clifford Chance and CMS Cameron McKenna for the Quad Gas Group; Linklaters for National Grid
Equinix Inc. / Verizon Communications Inc.
Redwood City, California-based Equinix, the world’s biggest provider of data centers, just got a little bigger. In an all-cash deal announced on Dec. 6, Equinix agreed to pay $3.6 billion to buy 29 data centers across the U.S. and Latin America from Verizon, according to sibling publication the Daily Business Review. The deal, which is expected to close mid-2017, comes as the nation’s largest wireless carrier seeks to focus on mobile video and advertising. In July, nine firms scored roles on Verizon’s proposed $4.83 billion buy of Yahoo! Inc.
Legal Advisers: Davis Polk & Wardwell for Equinix; Jones Day for Verizon
Roper Technologies Inc. / Deltek
Sarasota, Florida-based IT services provider Roper Technologies Inc. also announced on Dec. 6 its $2.8 billion cash buy of Herndon, Virginia-based business software company Deltek from private equity firm Thoma Bravo LLC. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2016.
Legal Advisers: Davis Polk for Roper Technologies; Kirkland & Ellis for Thoma Bravo
Sibanye Gold Ltd. / Stillwater Mining Co.
South African gold mining company Sibanye Gold announced on Dec. 9 its $2.2 billion cash acquisition of Montana-based Stillwater Mining. The target company is the largest primary producer outside of Russia and South Africa of palladium and platinum metals, commonly used in the auto industry to reduce emissions. The deal will make Sibanye the third-largest producer of palladium and the fourth largest platinum metal groups miner.
Legal Advisers: Linklaters and ENSafrica for Sibanye; Jones Day and Holland & Hart for Stillwater Mining
GoDaddy.com LLC / Host Europe Group
In its largest acquisition ever, GoDaddy has picked up Host Europe Group (HEG) from London-based private equity firm Cinven Group Ltd. in a $1.8 billion deal, according to Legal Week. HEG is the largest privately-owned web services provider in Europe. The deal, announced Dec. 6 and expected to close in the second quarter of 2017, will help accelerate GoDaddy’s international expansion and help the Scottsdale, Arizona-based cloud platform broaden its customer base.
Legal Advisers: Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch, Slaughter and May and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett for GoDaddy; Davis Polk for Greenhill & Co. as financial adviser to GoDaddy; Siwe Sinzger & Partner for Host Europe; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for Cinven
Ctrip.com International Ltd. / Skyscanner Holdings Ltd.
In an effort to expand beyond its home market, Ctrip.com, China’s largest online travel company, announced on Nov. 24 that it would buy Edinburgh, Scotland-based travel search website Skyscanner for $1.74 billion, as noted by sibling publication The Asian Lawyer. The deal, the largest in Scotland so far this year, is expected to close by year’s end.
Legal Advisers: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Travers Smith for Ctrip.com; Pinsent Masons for Skyscanner
Consolidated Communications Inc. / FairPoint Communications Inc.
Mattoon, Illinois-based Consolidated agreed to purchase Charlotte, North Carolina-based FairPoint in a $1.5 billion deal, including debt, announced on Dec. 5. The transaction will expand Consolidated’s fiber optic network into northern New England. The deal, which is Consolidated’s fifth in the past two months, is expected to close in mid-2017.
Legal Advisers: Schiff Hardin for Consolidated; Davis Polk for Morgan Stanley as financial adviser for Consolidated; Paul Hastings for FairPoint
Solvay SA / The Blackstone Group LP
Legal Week reported last week on Belgian chemical company Solvany’s $1.07 billion sale of its Acetow unit, which creates cellulose acetate used in cigarette filters, to private equity giant Blackstone. The deal, announced Dec. 7, is expected to close in the first half of 2017.
Legal Advisers: Freshfields for Solvay; Simpson Thacher for Blackstone
Contact Meghan Tribe at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @TribeMeghan