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Allen & Overy LLP has the critical mass, international reach and market knowledge to handle many of the biggest lender mandates across the capital structure. This was underscored by the firm’s work for the lenders, including Bank of America, on the financing to support Royal Dutch Shell’s £47bn purchase of BG Group. Other lender-side highlights included advising the lending syndicate on the $75bn acquisition financing of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s takeover of SAB Miller. On the sponsor side, the firm has handled a number of deals for PAI Partners, including the financing of its acquisition of A/S Adventure Group and Snow & Rock. Jonathan Brownson and Philip Bowden jointly head the leveraged finance team, which includes the ‘impressive’ Stephen Kensell and ‘commercial’ David Campbell. Robin Harvey, Timothy Polglase and Nicholas Clark, who re-joined the London office in September 2015 following a stint in the firm’s Milan office, are also recommended.

Clifford Chance LLP supplements its significant capability in London with a wide-ranging international network, enabling it to provide clients with ‘a combination of superior levels of internationally relevant advice with the requisite local knowledge’. In an illustration of the practice’s track record on top-flight deals, Roderick McGillivray and Peter Dahlen advised Anheuser-Busch InBev on the $75bn acquisition financing of its takeover of SAB Miller. Other highlights included James Butters and Jim MacHale’s work for the lead arrangers on the financing of Apollo’s acquisition of Verallia, in what was one of the largest covenant-lite Term Loan B transactions in Europe in 2015. Also recommended are Charles Cochrane, Mark Campbell, Michael Bates, Taner Hassan and the ‘commercial and understanding’ Emma Folds.

Latham & Watkins provides ‘technical and knowledgeable’ advice across loan and bond transactions for both banks and sponsors, making the firm ‘a highly valued partner for large, cross-border, multi-tranche transactions’. Christopher Kandel advised JP Morgan as underwriter and arranger on the €6.8bn debt financing to facilitate ChemChina’s acquisition of Pirelli. Other recent highlights include Dan Maze’s work for Goldman Sachs and other arrangers and lenders on the Term Loan B, revolving credit facility (RCF) and senior bond offering in connection with Altice’s acquisition of PT Portugal SGPS. Other recommended partners include the ‘very personableRoss Pooley; the ‘responsive and commercialRoss Anderson; Dominic Newcomb, who has ‘a real understanding on what is important and what is not on a deal’; and the ‘superbSam Hamilton, who regularly acts for sponsors including Nordic Capital in addition to his lender-side work.

Linklaters LLP’s balanced creditor and debtor practice handles matters across the capital structure, and is able to combine high yield and loan products to great effect. The ‘experienced and highly skilledNick Syson recently acted for the lead arrangers on the £45m senior facilities and £85m second-lien facility to assist Figaro Holdco’s (a KKR-sponsored vehicle) acquisition of shares in LGC Science Group and LGC Whirlwind. Also recommended are Brian Gray, the ‘very effectiveAdam Freeman, ‘impressive and amenableAnnette Kurdian, and ‘hardworkingEdward Aldred, who is recognised for his strength in Term Loan B facilities.

Strong on both the lender and borrower side’, Ashurst is recognised for its ‘commercial approach’ to transactions in the mid and upper markets. Mark Vickers has strong ties with numerous banks including RBS and HSBC. Helen Burton advised Apollo on the £150m Term Loan B and RCF for the refinancing of one of its portfolio companies, Aurum Group. Burton is also increasingly involved in the growing credit fund market, as is the ‘commercial and detail-oriented’ Ross Ollerhead, who recently advised BlueBay on its provision alongside HSBC of unitranche and super-senior facilities to fund the acquisition of Synexus by LDC. Other recommended partners include Nigel Ward, who has ‘an immense brain, which never gets overheated when the going gets tough’ and specialises in complex inter-creditor arrangements, and the ‘commercial and client-friendly’ Martyn Rogers and Paul Stewart.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP was strengthened on the high yield side by the recruitment in June 2015 of the ‘superb’ Ward McKimm from Kirkland & Ellis International LLP, giving the firm greater leverage to handle work for its sponsor client base – including CVC and Warburg Pincus – which frequently involves both bank and bond elements. Aided on the high yield front by US-qualified London-based partners Denise Ryan and Simone Bono, the ‘very commercialAlex Mitchell acted for CVC on the complex debt financing of its acquisition of Douglas from Advent International. Sean Pierce worked with the New York office to act for CVC on the acquisition financing of Linxus Group; this deal was notable as the terms of the financing migrated from English law to New York law to take advantage of better terms in the US market. Michael Steele joined Kirkland & Ellis International LLP in August 2015.

Although Kirkland & Ellis International LLP has experienced some turnover in the last 18 months – including the notable departures of Philip Crump to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and high yield expert Ward McKimm to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP – the practice still benefits from a ‘deep bench’ of practitioners who are ‘well-versed’ on bank and bond financings, as well as US Term Loan B. The ‘experienced and highly creativeNeel Sachdev and Christopher Shield advised Bain Capital on the €485m financing of its acquisition of the Wittur Group. ‘Highly knowledgeable and charismatic’ team head Stephen Lucas advised Pamplona Capital on the €315m financing of its acquisition of Partner in Pet Food from Advent International. John Markland* and Michael Steele, who recently joined from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, are also recommended. *Since publication, John Markland has joined Dechert LLP.

Praised for its ‘flexible approach’ and ‘great grip on market trends’, Weil, Gotshal & Manges provides ‘an excellent service’ to banks and sponsors, and is well placed to take advantage of the increasing convergence between US and European documentation, as well as on mandates which involve New York law governed debt products as part of the capital structure. ‘Excellent team leaderMark Donald acted alongside Reena Gogna, and Patrick Bright on the high yield side, for Hellman & Friedman on the multibillion-euro bank and bond financing of its acquisition of Bain Capital’s stake in Securitas Direct. Other highlights included Tom Richards’ advice to Goldman Sachs on the financing of CVC’s £800m acquisition of SkyBet from Sky plc, which was one of the first all-sterling New York Yankee financings to be syndicated entirely in Europe. Chris McLaughlin and James Hogben are also recommended.

Headed by the ‘excellentLee Cullinane, White & Case LLP’s London team is able to leverage the firm’s very good bank and bond offering, as well as solid US and English law expertise. The ‘affable and experiencedJeremy Duffy provides ‘sensible yet robust advice’. Gareth Eagles regularly handles work for GSO Capital Partners, including its financing of Oaktree Capital Management’s acquisition of Ainscough Crane Hire group. Colin Harley, Martin Forbes and Jacqueline Evans are also recommended.

Now headed by US-qualified Ronan Wicks following his arrival from the firm’s New York office in September 2015, the ‘knowledgeable and technical’ team at Shearman & Sterling LLP provides ‘a strong service’ to lenders and sponsors including Bank of America, Barclays, Bridgepoint and Credit Suisse. Caroline Leeds Ruby represented a lending syndicate on the $15.9bn combined bond and bridge acquisition financing of International Game Technology by GTECH. Other recommended partners include the ‘commercial and personableIain Goalen, the ‘highly respectedAnthony Ward, Peter Hayes and Mei Lian.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP handles a regular flow of high-quality leveraged finance mandates for a heavyweight private equity client base that includes Apax Partners and Blackstone. The ‘very accomplished’ Ian Barratt acted for key client KKR on its respective financings to fund the acquisitions of LGC and Webhelp Group. The ‘very talented’ Antti Pesonen, ‘excellent’ Stephen Short and Gil Strauss are also recommended.

Baker McKenzie LLP provides ‘responsive and commercially focused advice’ to sponsors and banks including HSBC, Macquarie and Europa Capital. The ‘commercial and responsivePaul Hibbert regularly handles acquisition finance in the infrastructure space, and recently advised RBS on Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Partners’ acquisition of Wightlink ferries from Macquarie. Nick Tostivin, Bernard Sharp, Sebastien Marcelin-Rice and Lynn Rosell Rowley are also recommended.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP’s five-partner borrower-focused practice handles a significant amount of acquisition finance mandates for sponsors including TPG and Warburg Pincus, in addition to advising investment grade corporates including ArcelorMittal. The ‘excellent’ Andrew Shutter and David Billington are recommended.

DLA Piper has strong connections with UK clearing banks including HSBC and Lloyds, and also regularly acts for alternative lenders including Hayfin and Ares, which are becoming increasingly important players in mid-market leveraged finance deals. Julie Romer (who is noted for her ‘practical and robust advice’) advised Investec on the financing of Mayfair Private Equity’s acquisition of the Fox International Group. Philip Butler is recommended for unitranche financings, while the ‘excellent’ David Miles is recommended for conventional debt deals.

Leveraging its strong corporate client base as well as a growing roster of private equity clients, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP is ‘well attuned to market trends’, particularly in the infrastructure and energy sectors. The ‘impressive’ Heather Culshaw recently advised Antin Infrastructure Partners on the financing of BP’s acquisition of a stake in the Central Area Transmission System gas pipeline in the North Sea. Other recommended partners include the ‘excellent’ Kristen Roberts and Will Nevin.

Hogan Lovells International LLP’s five-partner team is noted for its ‘strong commercial service underpinned by sound legal skills’. In addition to acting for traditional lenders such as Lloyds, Barclays and HSBC, the practice is a leading player in the direct lending space for core clients including Ares, which it recently advised along with Lloyds Bank on an innovative unitranche and super senior refinancing of Verastar group. Penny Angell is ‘a leader for leveraged finance’ who ‘marries superlative technical knowledge with commercial pragmatism’. Angell heads the practice, which includes Matthew Cottis and Jo Robinson, who have ‘a strong awareness of market trends’; and Paul Mullen, who is recommended for unitranche deals.

Christopher Lawrence leads Macfarlanes LLP’s ‘knowledgeable and commercial’ seven-partner team, which excels at handling mid-market transactions for sponsors including Duke Street, Vision Capital and Better Capital. Lawrence recently advised Exponent Private Equity on the debt financing of its €194m acquisition of Big Bus Tours. The ‘smart and responsiveKirstie Hutchinson, Andrew Perkins and Bronwen Jones are also recommended.

Led by the ‘exceptional’ Suhrud Mehta, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP’s practice provides ‘pragmatic, constructive and effective advice’ to a lender-focused client base that call on it to advise on complex big-ticket deals, thanks in part to its ability to leverage bank and bond expertise out of London and New York. Recent highlights include advising the lead arrangers, including Unicredit Bank, on the €1.3bn covenant-lite Term Loan B financing supporting Wendel’s acquisition of Constantia Flexibles. Neil Caddy and Tim Peterson are also recommended.

Ropes & Gray LLP’s seven-partner finance group is praised for its ability to ‘provide innovative advice and structuring’ on unconventional deals and for its ‘commercial and solutions-oriented’ approach. Benoit Lavigne has a growing reputation in the market and, in an illustration of the practice’s strong borrower workload, recently advised Altice on the €7.4bn financing of its acquisition of Portugal Telecom Group. Other key figures include Maurice Allen, who ‘has a willingness to roll up his sleeves and get in the trenches’; the ‘strategic and commercial’ Matthew Cox; and US-qualified Mike Goetz. Liberty Global, Blackstone and CVC Capital are also clients.

Although less well known than the more traditional leveraged finance players, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (UK) LLP’s three-partner team nevertheless regularly handles complex, cross-border mandates for borrowers including Permira and Colony Capital, and has benefited from the increased convergence of US and European market terms. Mark Darley advised Capgemini on the financing of its $4bn acquisition of iGate Corporation. Clive Wells and Pete Coulton round out the team.

Slaughter and May leverages its heavyweight corporate client base to handle borrower-side acquisition finance mandates. The ‘hardworking and pragmaticEdward Fife advised Cable & Wireless Communications on the financing of its $1.85bn acquisition of Columbus International. Team head Philip Snell and Matthew Tobin are also recommended.

The ‘experienced’ team at Travers Smith LLP provides ‘sage advice’ to a private equity sponsor client base, which includes Bridgepoint, The Carlyle Group and Exponent Private Equity. ‘Industry thought leader’ Matthew Ayre is ‘a first-class financing lawyer who is up to speed on the latest market trends’. He recently advised Bridgepoint Development Capital on the financing of its acquisitions of tastecard and Gourmet Society. Other recommended individuals include sponsor-facing partners Andrew Gregson and Jeremy Walsh, as well as Charles Bischoff, who is acting for an increasing number of lender clients including RBS and Investec.

Addleshaw Goddard LLP’s practice is noted for its ‘very thorough’ service to clearing banks and sponsors, and for its particular strength in mid-market leveraged finance transactions. Alex Dumphy recently advised ECI Partners on the debt financing necessary to purchase Evans Cycles from Active Private Equity. John Cutler recently retired.

Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP provides a ‘responsive service’ to banks (including Barclays and Lloyds), sponsors (including Patron Capital and Mount Street) and corporates, predominantly in the mid-market space. Derek Hrydziuszko advised Haversham Holdings on its financing of its reverse takeover of British Car Auctions from Clayton, Dubilier and Rice for £1.2bn. The ‘energetic and highly professionalDaisy Reeves is also recommended.

CMS provides ‘a commercial, pragmatic and responsive’ service to a mix of lenders and sponsors including HSBC, RBS and Lloyds Development Capital. Alex Patience advised Crescent Capital on the €53m debt facility to finance Carlyle’s acquisition of Telvent Global Solutions. Also recommended are Peter Crichton, Patrick Donegan and Mark Moseling, who deliver ‘consistent advice across a range of transactions’.

At Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, the ‘excellentAlan Davies advised Clayton, Dubilier & Rice on £360m senior secured facilities to fund its acquisition of Motor Fuel Group. US-qualified Pierre Maugue is also recommended.

Catherine Astruc leads the team at Dentons and has particular expertise in cross-border sponsor-backed deals often involving an ABL component. Richard Garvan regularly handles acquisition finance mandates in Africa.

Now recognised as ‘a significant player in the leveraged industry’, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is well positioned to handle work involving UK and US finance products for sponsors and alternative lenders. Stephen Gillespie has ‘absolute mastery of the subject matter’, and is recommended alongside the ‘very calm and considered’ Philip Crump.

At King & Wood Mallesons, ‘calm and unflappable’ team head Ian Borman provides ‘top-tier technical expertise’ to a range of sponsors as well as direct lenders. As well as new money deals, Borman has been involved in numerous refinancings; recent highlights include advising Lion Capital on a £30m super senior revolving credit facility for GHD Group (one of the private equity sponsor’s recent acquisitions). Lorraine Vaz joined in November 2015 from Clifford Chance LLP, bringing further lender-side credentials to the practice, and offsetting the departure of Simon Fulbrook to Goodwin in July 2015.

Led by Martin Bishop in London and benefiting from its regional offices, Pinsent Masons LLP’s practice provides ‘a strong service’ to clearing banks including HSBC and Barclays, with particular exposure on mid-market sponsor-backed deals.

Simmons & Simmons provides ‘an outstanding’ service to banks and private equity sponsors across a range of leveraged and event-driven financings. The ‘remarkable’ Alistair Hill advised Chiltern International Group on its $447m financing for the acquisition of Theorem Clinical Research – one of the largest unitranche financings in Europe in 2015. Simon Thrower is also recommended.

At Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, the ‘responsive and highly professional’ Nick Benham provides an ‘excellent service’ to banks and borrowers. Its expertise on leveraged finance transactions spans a broad array of debt products; Benham has recently handled a number of bridge financings including for Temenos Group in connection with its €235m acquisition of Multifonds. The firm also benefits from a significant presence in the US as well as the services of US-qualified partner Jeffrey O’Brien in London.

At Eversheds LLP, ‘excellent’ team head Nick Swiss handles acquisition finance work for a range of corporates and banks including HSBC, Barclays and Dairy Crest.

While Mayer Brown International LLP is better known for its real estate finance capability, it does handle some mainstream cross-border leveraged finance work out of London in addition to loan portfolio financings. The ‘commercial and detail-oriented’ Trevor Wood is recommended.

At Norton Rose Fulbright, Michael Black advised Wells Fargo as lead arranger on a £140m ABL facility to assist a private equity purchaser with the simultaneous completion of the acquisition of two separate equipment rental businesses as well as to provide ongoing working capital. Michael Ings and James Dunnett regularly handle mandates in the emerging markets.

Osborne Clarke‘s Dominic Ross is ‘very easy to deal with’ and is active in the mid-market leveraged finance space.

At Taylor Wessing LLP, Martin Yells and Lerika Joubert advised Amino Technologies on a secured loan facility provided by Barclays to facilitate its acquisition of Entone. Ross Caldwell also handles acquisition finance deals as part of his broad finance offering.

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