Eversheds Sutherland on board for £1bn Network Rail commercial property sale

Eversheds Sutherland is advising Network Rail on the sale of its UK commercial property portfolio as it looks raise funds to invest in its railways.

The sale of the portfolio, which includes more than 5,000 properties primarily based in London, is expected to raise more than £1bn. The sale officially began on 17 November.

Eversheds has been working on the sale, dubbed ‘Project Condor’, for more than 12 months, alongside Network Rail’s business and legal teams.

The firm’s London-based head of real estate investments Nick Bartlett is leading the team advising Network Rail, working with property general counsel Cathy Crick.

Financial adviser Rothschild & Co is handling the sale process, which is expected to close next summer.

Bartlett said that there has been interest shown by an “extensive number of bidders”, which, according to reports, are likely to include private equity and sovereign wealth funds.

He added: “We are advising on every aspect of the transaction from real estate issues, through to transaction structuring, tax and business separation, which involves not only the grant of a 150-year lease, but also the TUPE transfer of around 100 commercial estate staff.”

Other Eversheds lawyers working on the deal include London real estate partner James Roberts, London real estate consultant Stephen Manson, tax head David Jervis, Cardiff real estate partner Andrew Burns, Birmingham real estate partner Matthew Storer and Leeds litigation partner Alison Oldfield.

The firm is also employing artificial intelligence technology for data analysis at the request of Network Rail.

Eversheds is one of four firms on Network Rail’s panel, alongside Addleshaw Goddard, Dentons and Bond Dickinson.

Last year the quartet were reappointed to the panel for another five-year term, following a 2013 review which saw the lineup cut from 12 firms to five. The panel has now shrunk to four firms as a result of this year’s merger of Dentons and Scottish firm Maclay Murray & Spens.

In October, Legal Week reported that Eversheds is also working for the UK Government on a large project to rationalise the civil service’s real estate portfolio.

The ‘Hub’ programme is aiming to reduce the government’s estate from about 800 buildings to 200 by 2023, saving approximately £2.4bn over 10 years. That project is being led by the firm’s corporate real estate head Helen Thomas.