AS PRIVATE equity firms turn to Australia for investment in regulated industries, top-tier firm Freehills anticipates firms will have to better combine their various practice areas to deal with the workload.
Freehills is still recovering from the work that was the joint venture between Seven Network Limited and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR), the legal work of which was conducted this month in three weeks.
Upon being given the deal, which Freehills was approached directly by Seven to undertake, the firm’s mergers and acquisitions (M&A) team pulled in emergency expertise from various other practices from various offices. It was not just a media deal, or an M&A deal, Fiona Gardiner-Hill, a partner in the firm’s M&A practice told Lawyers Weekly.
“We had to put together teams on transactions that have the capability to bring together the skills in M&A, the particular private equity experience and expertise when it comes to what the private equity investors are looking for and what they will live with,” she said.
Gardiner-Hill anticipates firms will need to bring more to the table, and in one package, as private equity investors are willing to invest in regulated industries in Australia. “And they have clearly shown this, in both the PBL and Seven deals, by being prepared to take a look at regulated industries as soon as the foreign ownership restrictions were going to be lifted,” she said.
“If ownership legislation follows the trend that Broadcasting Services Act legislation has, as in the lifting of restrictions of foreign control, then we should see more investment of this type.”
For the Seven deal, the firm’s varied expertise was brought to the table and it was “absolutely prepared” for the short time limitations, said Gardiner-Hill.
“It was all over in a matter of weeks, and two very intense weeks at the end … This was the perfect outcome where you’ve maintained a relationship, and when the client wants to do something big, they look to you with their something big. So we gathered the team together very quickly; it all fell into place. I won’t pretend that there is not an element of luck in that sort of thing. [Damien Hazzard]was earmarked to get involved in the next transaction with Seven and luckily he was available.”
The deal was time consuming for the lawyers involved, who worked some days around the clock. “It’s the most time intense transaction that I have had for a while. We certainly had one night where we worked around the clock … Now that we’ve upgraded our client floors, we had cool air on the hot nights.”
The Qantas deal is another example, according to Gardiner-Hill, where various practice areas had to be combined in order to effectively work. In that case, the firm included expertise in private equity investment, regulation industry, foreign investment, and public company issues, particularly disclosure and any verbal requirements.
See Deals & Litigation this week on page 16.