The once shunned cannabis sector now offers attractive PE opportunities in many jurisdictions.

By Stuart Alford QC, Tom D. Evans, Eveline Van Keymeulen, Elizabeth Richards, David J. Walker, and Catherine Campbell

In years gone by, the prospect of significant PE investment in the cannabis industry would have been unthinkable for many. However, regulatory and legal developments have created opportunities for medical cannabis businesses and legalised new non-medical cannabis applications in many jurisdictions. According to Pitchbook, buyout firms invested US$3.54 billion into the cannabis sector in 2021 across 223 transactions, showing significant appetite for deals. PE firms now have scope to embrace growing medical and consumer interest in certain jurisdictions, while in others, such as the US, evolving legal restrictions continue to challenge investors.

PE investors may like the sound of music deals but complex issues remain.

By Tom D. Evans, Andrew Gass, Kem Ihenacho, David Little, Lisbeth Savill, David J. Walker, Jonathan West, Rachael Astin, Amrita AhujaOscar Hayward, and Catherine Campbell

Music deals, particularly the acquisition of rights to songs and recordings by popular music artists, continue to be attractive investments for PE. Recent transactions underscore the ongoing demand for large-cap music assets.

The continued popularity of global streaming services and the music rental economy have helped to reduce the threat of online piracy, made revenues easier to track and predict, and ensured that strong revenues continue to flow to rights holders. Music rights will likely become even more attractive as revenues are increasingly derived from a growing number of sources, including social media platforms, video games, exercise platforms, video streaming, and virtual reality. As the use of popular music continues to broaden, rights holders will reap the dividends.

Private equity’s growing appetite for UK-listed targets comes with the need for Takeover Code-savvy dealmakers.

By Doug Abernethy, Richard Butterwick, Tom Evans, David J. Walker, and Catherine Campbell

Amid stiff competition for attractive private targets, PE firms are competing more regularly against corporates and rival sponsors for listed targets, requiring skillful navigation of the dynamics of a contested UK take-private within the tight confines of the Takeover Code.

Several deals underline appetite for listed targets at mid-market and large-cap levels, including Towerbrook and Warburg Pincus’ £219 million takeover of The AA, CD&R’s £7 billion acquisition of W M Morrison, and Blackstone’s £3.5 billion acquisition of Signature Aviation, with PE bidders also recently involved in high-profile competitive situations around Sanne Group and Vectura. Once a rarity, Takeover Panel formal auction procedures have become more frequent in recent years, highlighted by the multibillion-pound Morrisons deal.

Under the new legislation, BEIS may block or impose conditions on deals.

By Tom D. Evans, Jonathan Parker, David J. Walker, Stephanie Adams, and Catherine Campbell

The UK’s National Security and Investment Act (NSI Act), is now officially in force, granting powers to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to screen a broad range of transactions on national security grounds, allowing BEIS to block or impose conditions on deals. Due to its retroactive application, the NSI Act is already impacting deals.

The NSI Act arrives at a time of heightened scrutiny of foreign direct investments (FDIs) across Europe. According to the latest edition of Latham & Watkins’ Private Equity Market Study, the prevalence of FDI approval conditions in deals continues to grow, reflective of the increased number of jurisdictions with FDI approval regimes and the high value, high profile, and strategically significant nature of the deals surveyed. With the advent of the NSI Act, we anticipate that this trend will continue, bringing new considerations and challenges to deals.

The expansion would include Shenzhen Stock Exchange and potentially European stock exchanges, and would permit overseas issuers to raise capital in China through CDR listings.

By Chris Horton, James Inness, Anna Ngo, Terris Tang, Cathy Yeung, and Johannes Poon

On 17 December 2021, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) launched a consultation that proposes a major expansion to the scope of the Shanghai London Stock Connect programme. The Stock Connect currently allows eligible companies listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange or the London Stock Exchange to list depositary receipts on the other exchange that can be traded under local rules in the local time zone.

The new rules aim to make London a more attractive listing venue for founder-led and other innovative IPO candidates.

By Chris Horton, James Inness, Anna Ngo, and Johannes Poon

On 2 December 2021, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published a Policy Statement (PS21/22) confirming the following key changes to its listing rules that took effect from 3 December 2021:

  • Limited form of dual class share structure permitted under the premium listing segment

Premium-listed issuers can now adopt a targeted and time-limited form of dual class share structure (DCSS) which would operate to prevent the removal of a director and deter takeovers during a five-year period following admission.

The judgment clarifies the Court’s approach to proposed transfers under Part VII of FSMA, as well as the scope and application of s. 110(1)(b). 

On 24 November 2021, the High Court of England and Wales (the Court) sanctioned a £10.1 billion annuity book transfer from The Prudential Assurance Company Limited (PAC) to Rothesay Life Plc (Rothesay) under Part VII of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA).

The Court previously declined to sanction the transfer following an initial sanction hearing in July 2019. The Court of Appeal then overturned that decision in December 2020 after an appeal by PAC and Rothesay, and the transfer was remitted to the Court for a further sanction hearing between 8-10 November 2021 before the honourable Mr Justice Trower (the Remitted Sanction Hearing). The Court’s judgment following the Remitted Sanction Hearing was handed down on 24 November 2021 (the Judgment), and provides useful guidance on certain aspects of the Part VII process.

The priorities will impact non-US companies who may face a US DOJ with a renewed emphasis on combating corporate crime.

By Stuart Alford QC, Nathan H. Seltzer, and Christopher M. Ting

In a recent speech that has garnered significant attention, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, Lisa Monaco, highlighted several important changes regarding how the US Department of Justice (DOJ) will pursue corporate crime during the Biden Administration. Latham’s in-depth analysis of the speech and its potential impact can be found here.

In addition to reinforcing prior statements that the Biden Administration will prioritise the prosecution of corporate and white collar crime, the speech touched on several areas that may be of particular relevance to UK and other non-US companies. This blog post highlights some of those areas.

Businesses must review the Green Claims Code and accompanying guidance to determine whether their environmental claims are in compliance.

By David Little and Anuj Ghai

Background: The need for a Green Claims Code

The Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA’s) recent publication of the Green Claims Code (the Code) and its final guidance (the Guidance) in respect of environmental claims represents the culmination of extensive consultation and investigation into claims about “green” goods and services.

In recent years, consumers have paid greater attention to the environmental footprint of the products and services that they buy and consume. In 2019, UK consumers spent £41 billion on ethical goods and services — almost four times the amount spent two decades previously. In light of increasing demand for green goods and services, in 2020 the CMA launched an investigation under its consumer protection powers into the impact of green marketing on consumers and carried out inquiries into potentially misleading environmental claims. At the end of its investigation, the CMA found that up to 40% of online green claims could be misleading. As a result of these findings, the CMA published draft guidance on environmental claims on 21 May 2021, and the final Guidance on 20 September 2021.

The strategy sets out plans to reduce emissions from key sectors of the UK economy to ensure that the UK remains on track for net zero by 2050.

By Conrad Andersen, John Balsdon, David Berman, Paul A. Davies, Nicola Higgs, Sam Newhouse, Simon J. Tysoe, Michael D. Green, James Bee, and Anne Mainwaring

On 19 October 2021, the UK government published its climate change strategy, “Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener” (the Strategy), which outlines plans to support the UK economy’s transition to a greener and more sustainable future. On 31 October, the UK will host the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow.

Last year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out a 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”, which laid the foundation for a green economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19. The Strategy builds on that approach to align the UK with its carbon budget and nationally determined contribution to the Paris Agreement, both of which aim to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels. Further, the Strategy details the UK’s vision for a decarbonised economy by 2050.