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Who Represents Who

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Norton Rose Fulbright has particular experience in export credit financings, but also advises its bank and shipowner client base on asset and acquisition finance, corporate lending, tax lease transactions and structured finance. The team handles a significant number of ship financings, especially cruise vessels and cargo ships, including LNG vessels, container vessels and VLCCs, but also assists with the financing of offshore and port equipment, containers and port facilities. Recent work includes advising Société Générale on the recourse financing of ten medium-range tankers for Oman Shipping Company. Other clients include BNP Paribas and Bourbon Maritime. Practice head Christine Ezcutari is the main contact. Alexandre Roth was promoted to of counsel in May 2017.

Stephenson Harwood advises financial institutions, leasing companies, shipowners and cruise lines. Tax lease financings are a key expertise, but the team, which has a broad international reach taking in the US, Canada, the UK and Italy, also has strength in refinancing mandates, such as the work undertaken for Silversea Cruises and BNP Paribas on a $550mn senior-secured notes issuance. Practice head Alain Gautron is supported by counsel Aude de Chavanne and tax partner Stéphane Salou. The team advised BNP and La Banque Postale, as senior lenders and hedge counterparties, and Caisse d’Epargne, as bridge lender, investor and lease co-arranger, on the complex re-financing of two Ro-Pax ferries through a tax lease with purchase option. CIC, Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank and Corsica Ferries are other clients.

The ‘clearly very knowledgeable’ team at Watson Farley & Williams LLP acts for banks, export credit agencies and shipowners on the full gamut of ship financing matters. The group has recently handled restructuring, work-out, and enforcement matters and has notable strength in mandates pertaining to cruise ships. Laurence Martinez-Bellet, who covers the French law side, jointly heads the practice with Alexia Russell, who advises on matters under English law. Recent highlights include acting for Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, the Italian export credit agency Sace and a number of other banks on the financing and delivery of a cruise ship via a $374m loan facility. HSH Nordbank, Natixis and RBS are also clients.

HFW’s ship finance practice has a strong focus on tax leases, but the team has also recently handled restructuring and refinancing mandates. Practice head Jean-Marc Zampa is supported by senior associate Serge Rastorgoueff. The pair advised Baja Ferries on the bidding process for the acquisition of the Société Nationale Maritime Corse Méditerranée (now Maritima Ferries). Other work included handling the financing of four expedition vessels for Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, which combined a French tax lease and a secured loan facility. Ingepar and Natixis are other clients.

Following the arrival of dual-qualified practice head Alexander Premont in 2015, Hogan Lovells (Paris) LLP has built a solid high-end financing practice that has ‘expert knowledge and skills in various jurisdictions’. Premont, who is noted for his ‘in-depth knowledge, pragmatism and responsiveness’, and his team ‘are good at anticipating issues before they arise’ and handle instructions pertaining to a large number of vessel types, including container ships, cruise liners, ferries and offshore oil and gas vessels, with a portfolio of expertise that covers debt and project finance, shipping loan securitisations, Islamic finance and capital markets finance instruments. Associate Joseph Newton is ‘an excellent lawyer’ who ‘always thinks a step ahead’. The group advised Société Générale on the French tax lease financing of a vessel chartered to Corsica Ferries. Other clients include BNP Paribas and A. P. Moller – Maersk.

Ince & Co France SCP has positioned itself as an adviser to shipowners, including high-net-worth individuals, but also works for financial institutions. The team has particular strength in issues concerning yachts and superyachts. Practice head Andrew Charlier and recently promoted partner Aymeric de Tapol are the key names. Louis Dreyfus Armateurs is a client of the firm.

White & Case LLP’s shipping practice has a highly international footprint with cases often involving Middle Eastern jurisdictions. Asset and export finance feature prominently in the firm’s workload, including recent advice to Société Générale regarding the merger of the United Arab Shipping Company and German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd, which included assistance with existing French tax leases regarding two ships. The group also acts for K-Sure. Victoria Westcott joined Reed Smith.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP acts exclusively for shipowners, mostly liners and shipyards. Practice head Brice Pommiès is noted for his ‘knowledge and understanding of complex structures which are positive factors for the overall success and viability of the transactions’; his expertise includes sale and operating leasebacks, high-yield financings and restructurings. Recent work includes acting for STX France on a construction financing mandate concerning three new cruise ships ordered by Royal Caribbean Cruises. Neptune Orient Lines and CMA CGM are other clients.

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Legal Developments in France

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