Slaughter and May corporate lawyers Nigel Boardman and Andy Ryde have had their hands full lately thanks to the firms roles on two of the hottest deals in town.
Within days of Slaughters success fending off entrepreneur Philip Greens bid for Marks & Spencer (see page 29), the firm scooped a major instruction on the battle for Abbey. Its no wonder then that Slaughters has a reputation for being one of the best corporate law firms in the City.
The top 10 City firm won the mandate to advise longstanding client Abbey on Spains Banco Santander Central Hispanos proposed 8.9bn acquisition of the bank. Magic circle firm Clifford Chance is advising Banco Santander alongside Spanish firm Ur쟠& Men譤ez. Meanwhile, Slaughters has teamed up with Spains P豥z Llorca.
Although Banco Santanders offer for Abbey was recommended by the UK banks directors, it has not deterred City analysts from predicting counter bids from other interested parties. If a bidding war is triggered then the takeover could turn hostile something that has not been seen in UK banking circles since Bank of Scotlands hostile offer for NatWest.
This would then see a flurry of law firm activity as rivals sought to secure the best ticket on the deal. One potential bidder is HBOS, which has already instructed magic circle firm Allen & Overy for advice on a possible bid. Others include Lloyds TSB, HSBC and Citigroup.
However, corporate deals are never straightforward, especially when banks are involved. Any bid from a UK bank will most probably throw up competition issues. Indeed, Lloyds offer for Abbey in 2002 was blocked by the UK competition regulators.