Law firm Stephenson Harwood LLP has successfully represented Mitsui & Co., Ltd. (Mitsui) and Abellio Transport Group Limited (Abellio) in securing EU merger clearance for Abellio's sale of a 40% stake in the East Anglia rail franchise to Mitsui.
The deal, which completed on 21 March 2017, fulfils Abellio's long-standing objective of finding a joint venture partner to run the East Anglia franchise and is notable as the first time a Japanese company has become a shareholder of a British train operating company.
“We were delighted to be instructed by both parties having previously only advised Abellio. This is a strategically significant transaction for the parties and we were extremely pleased to have been able to secure a very swift approval, well before the European Commission's Phase I deadline," said Marta Isabel Garcia, partner, Stephenson Harwood.
“It was the first time the European Commission was reviewing the acquisition of a partial stake in a rail franchise from a rail operator. This transaction demonstrates our capabilities to support clients on market leading deals.”
Abellio is a significant player in the UK transport market, operating rail and bus franchises across the UK. The company re-won the East Anglia franchise in August 2016, having first operated it from February 2012. It will continue to have a majority stake in the business (i.e. 60%). Mitsui is a global conglomerate, which has built up vast experience in railway infrastructure construction and freight car and locomotive leasing in the railway industry in the Americas, Europe and Asia.
The Stephenson Harwood team was led by partner Marta Garcia, head of competition, who was supported by associate Rhiannon Davies.