The Work

October 27, 2011 7:25 PM

Cleary, Slaughters Advise as Sony Buys Ericsson's Stake in Joint Venture for $1.5 Billion

Posted by Tom Huddleston Jr.

UPDATE: 10/28/11, 10:50 a.m. EDT. Further information regarding Slaughter and May's representation of Ericsson has been added to the post's final paragraph.

Swedish electronics manufacturer Ericsson announced Thursday that it has agreed to sell its half of the Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications brand to partner Sony in a $1.5 billion deal that ends the ten-year-old joint venture.

The transaction marks the end of Ericsson's involvement in the mobile phone business after 20 years, according to The New York Times's DealBook blog.

Sony and Ericsson joined forces in the mobile-handset joint venture in 2001. After enjoying some early success with such products as the Walkman phone and the Cyber-shot phone, Sony Ericsson has fallen well behind Apple, Nokia, and makers of devices based on Google's Android operating system in trying to command a share of the booming smartphone market. As of the second quarter of this year, Sony Ericsson's share of the market had dwindled to just 2.1 percent. The joint venture employs 7,500 people and reported $8.9 billion in sales last year.

Tokyo-based Sony will pay $1.5 billion cash to make Sony Ericsson a wholly owned subsidiary. The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to close in January 2012.

New York–based Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton corporate partner Christopher Austin is advising Sony on the deal, with assistance from corporate partner Simon Jay in London. Brussels-based Cleary partner Robbert Snelders is advising on antitrust issues. The firm's past work for Sony includes the initial public offering of Sony Financial Holdings, the largest IPO in Japan in 2007.

Slaughter and May is advising Ericsson on the deal. Corporate partner Jeff Twentyman is leading the firm's team, while the head of Slaughter and May's intellectual property group, Rob Sumroy, is also advising. The firm previously advised Ericsson on a seven-year partnership agreement Hutchison 3G in 2005 and a joint venture with STMicroelectronics in 2008.

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