Top firms act as big four bank’s global asset management arm sells for $4.2bn

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Global law firms Baker McKenzie and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) played key roles in the billion-dollar sale of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) global asset management business.

Baker McKenzie acted for Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation (MUTB), which paid $4.2bn for Colonial First State Global Asset Management (CFSGAM). HSF advised CBA in the deal, which closed last Friday.

CFSGAM has $218.4bn in assets under management, including substantial investments in infrastructure assets. Also known as First State Investments outside of Australia, the company operates across the Asia Pacific, the UK, Europe and the US.

Baker McKenzie said that its team worked closely in Australia and Japan, with legal work also done in other jurisdictions around the world. It team in Australia was headed by M&A partner Ben McLaughlin, who said that the deal is a landmark transaction with strategic importance to MUTB. Lead Japanese M&A partner Tetsuo Tsujimoto said that the deal showcased Baker McKenzie’s global strength in M&A and financial services.

The HSF team was headed by partner Tony Damian, who coordinated lawyers across the firm’s global network, including in London, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid, Hong Kong, and Singapore, HSF said. The deal involved work in 27 jurisdictions, the global firm said.

From the firm’s corporate practice, the team included associates Nicole Pedler, William Chew, and Li-Lian Yeo; solicitor Tim Coorey; and graduates Jennifer Xue and Zoe Dutton. Partner Robert Bileckij, consultant Jim Graham, and solicitor Curtis Vella assisted from the firm’s funds practice.

Partner Kat Gregor, special counsel Amalia Stone, and solicitor Mark Khouri advised from the HSF IP and technology practice. Partner Michael Gonski and senior associate Rommo Pandit from the firm’s employment practice also worked on the deal.

HSF said that London corporate partner Mike Flockhart, London employment partner Rachel Pinto, and Tokyo corporate partner Damien Roberts were also instrumental in advising CBA.

“I’d also like to recognise the great contribution of Mark Alexander, who leads the M&A Legal function at CBA, and his team, in particular Kirsty Cox, Will House, Louise Baldwin and Simon Teh. We know the team well and it is always a pleasure to work with them to help CBA achieve its goals on important transactions,” Damian said.

HSF has been a longstanding adviser to CBA, particularly with the options for the CFSGAM business. Damian advised CBA on the proposed IPO of the global asset management arm, as well proposed demerger of the wealth management and mortgage broking businesses of the big four Australian bank.

“After exploring a number of options for the CFSGAM business, it has found a great home in MUTB – one of the largest asset managers in Japan. The seamless execution of this significant transaction is a testament to all involved,” Damian said.