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Firms take fees on rail IPO

Firms take fees on rail IPO

A selection of Australia's leading capital markets lawyers are tipped to earn their law firms some significant fees from their involvement in the largest IPO since the Telstra share float in…

A selection of Australia's leading capital markets lawyers are tipped to earn their law firms some significant fees from their involvement in the largest IPO since the Telstra share float in 1997.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh launched the prospectus for Australia's largest rail freight business, QR National, in Brisbane on Sunday (10 October).

Allens Arthur Robinson is acting for the Queensland government, with Stuart McCullough, John Greig and Erin Feros leading the team. Mallesons Stephen Jaques and Minter Ellison are acting for QR National. David Friedlander and Brisbane partner John Humphrey are the two main partners involved from Mallesons, with Khory McCormick and Bruce Cowley leading the Minter Ellison team.

Clayton Utz is advising the five joint lead managers, which include Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. In demand capital markets lawyer Stuart Byrne and Tim Reid from the firm's Brisbane office are the lead partners.

The Financial Review reported today that Allens could earn close to $5 million in fees from the float, with Mallesons and Minter Ellison expected to earn $1 million and $750,000 respectively.

The float is part of a $15 billion privatisation program with the QR National share float hoping to raise over $5 billion.

"I would say that Allens has been the main player involved in this deal [from the law firms], doing around 70 per cent of the work," Mallesons David Friedlander told Lawyers Weekly.

Despite this share float being part of the Queensland government's privatisation process, Friedlander was of the view that the QR National IPO was indicative of a more buoyant capital market. He acknowledged that the withdrawal of the $1.3 billion Valemus float in July and less than enthusiastic reception to the $2.3 billion Myer float last year, which many analysts believed was over priced, meant the Australian market took a hit.

"Many investors turned their attention to offshore debt markets, which was not good for the Australian market," he said. "This IPO is so important for the Australian capital market and I am reasonably confident that this won't just be a one-off big listing ... In the last few months we have seen more activity right across the corporate and M&A sector, not just in Australia, but throughout the whole Asia-Pacific region."

Tim Reid, one of the Clayton Utz partners involved in the QR National IPO, said his firm was engaged by the joint lead managers in April. He said that despite the logistical problems that could arise by engaging with five broking houses, there were no major logistical issues that delayed getting the offer to market.

"All parties worked closely together and approached the float with a common view."

Like Friedlander, Reid was of the opinion that activity in the Australian capital market would continue to accelerate over the coming months.

Despite the QR National IPO being lauded by market analysts and law firms, there has been significant criticism of the proposed capital raising from the Queensland Opposition and unions. The Electrical Trade Union, in particular, has expressed concerns that its members could lose jobs under the privatisation program of the Queensland government.

Shares are being offered at between $2.50 and $3.

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