Charting a course

Daniel Bastide, a partner at law firm Thomas Eggar, talks to James Harris about new finance structures and a ship called the Hebridean Princess.


Daniel Bastide, a partner at law firm Thomas Eggar, talks to James Harris about new finance structures and a ship called the Hebridean Princess.

Daniel Bastide, a partner at law firm Thomas Eggar, talks to James Harris about new finance structures and a ship called the Hebridean Princess.

It’s no secret that corporate practices at law firms have taken a beating this year. Daniel Bastide, a partner at Thomas Eggar, says: ‘M&A reached a high watermark in 2007, and deal activity has retreated significantly from there.’

The practice was forced to make some tough choices: ‘We had to slim down to respond to market conditions, but I don’t think anyone has avoided making those decisions,’ says Bastide.

The M&A team, which focuses on mid-market private company deals, comprises eight of the firm’s 74 partners, who are spread across offices in Gatwick, Newbury, Southampton and London.

As businesses struggle to obtain crucial growth capital, the firm has seen some alternative arrangements emerging. Bastide says: ‘We’ve seen a lot of high-net worth individuals, often using offshore tax structures, making loans and investments into businesses where they see potential.’

Bastide notes that unlike business angel networks, these private investors are not making equity investments, but instead they are making debt investments with ‘quite racy interest rates’.

Thomas Eggar acquires the Hebridean Princess

Thomas Eggar has also seen its fair share of distressed deals. This year the team represented All Leisure Group in its acquisition of the Hebridean Princess, the boat the Queen took around Scotland on her 80th birthday celebrations, out of administration for £1.4 million.  

The Hebridean Princess offers luxury cruises around the Scottish isles as well as the Norwegian fjords, but according to Bastide the deal was no pleasure cruise. All Leisure had to try and reinstate the contracts with holidaymakers as quickly as possible, as well as untangle complex insurance policies.

Says Bastide: ‘The key point to make is buyer beware. When buying out of administration, you may think you’re getting a good price, but there will be some unexpected things that will cost you.’

Although there is no shortage of companies tipping into financial distress, deal-hungry businesses looking to pick up a bargain may be disappointed. Bastide points out that banks are reluctant to provide funding for distressed deals and the rules on pre-packaged administration sales have tightened.

The deal environment has clearly been tough, but there are signs of an improvement: ‘Price expectations have come down and there is a bit more credit available thanks to government action. People have more confidence that we’re in a recession rather than a depression.’

Bastide is uncertain about next year: ‘Until the election, we’re all living in a phony war because we don’t know what the economic drivers will be. In particular any changes to capital gains tax could make quite a difference to the market.’

To contact Daniel Bastide for more information,
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