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New Zealand > Banking and finance > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Banking and finance
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next generation lawyers

Leading individuals

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Next generation lawyers

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Bell Gully is 'first class and has an exceptionally strong finance team that is commercial and responsive, and provides fantastic service'. 'The advice is always spot on, every time', remarks one client. Derivatives and structured finance partner David Craig in Wellington leads the practice, which calls on experienced partners in Auckland, including securitisation expert Murray King (who has 'unparalleled knowledge of the law and years of experience at the top'), debt restructuring specialist David McPherson (who is 'always very responsive and can turn his mind to any type of deal'), and special counsel Liz Lim (who handles both debt and equity funding matters). Lim and associate Fran Burley are 'excellent assets to the practice; both have great commercial acumen'. In Wellington, Hugh Kettle advises on major infrastructure projects and finance transactions, including property finance project finance, acquisition finance and the sale and purchase of debt portfolios. The firm's highlights in 2017 included advising Fletcher Building on a NZ$750m fundraising through an underwritten offer to shareholders, and acting for HNA Group in the financing of its NZ$660m acquisition of UDC Finance from ANZ Bank.

Buddle Findlay has 'a very, very strong finance practice, in which all of the partners are excellent in their own right and together make a formidable team'. One client notes that the firm is 'efficient and commercial in its approach and very good value for money'. The 'efficient, accurate and cost-effective' Paul Farrugia leads the team from Auckland, where key partners Miriam Andrews (who is 'a great asset - commercial, responsive and collaborative') and Peter Owles (who is 'exceptionally smart and a "go-to" person for any complex, structured transaction') are highly recommended. Farrugia and Andrews acted for Bank of New Zealand and ANZ Bank New Zealand in the provision of a NZ$100m syndicated loan to Xero Limited. Owles acted for ANZ Bank and a syndicate of banks in the restructuring of retirement village operator Summerset group's NZ$600m syndicated loans. Insolvency partners David Perry and Scott Abel also play key roles in the practice. New arrival from DLA Piper New Zealand Terence Ng brought his market-leading Asia practice to the firm in early 2018. 'One of the top senior associates in the market', Daniel Collins, joined from MinterEllisonRuddWatts. Simon Jensen in Wellington is president of the Banking and Financial Services Law Association.

Chapman Tripp has 'an excellent national finance practice and ensures first-class advice'. The firm counts local and international banks among its clients and acts for some of New Zealand’s largest corporates in complex financing transactions. Cathryn Barber in Auckland leads the eight-partner practice and is 'highly efficient and accessible on general banking matters'. She advised Precinct Properties on its issuance of NZ$150m in convertible notes. Ross Pennington, who advised ANZ Bank on the NZ$125m issuance of Kauri green bonds by IFC, is also recommended. Senior associate Gerard Souness is 'one of the best - clearly operating at partner level'. Senior associate Luke Ford is 'a gifted lawyer - one to watch'. In Wellington, the firm has experienced partners in Mark Reese, who is 'an all-round excellent lawyer with a calm, reasoned approach' and has more than 30 years' experience, and the 'very thorough and responsive' Emma Sutcliffe. Reese advised oil and gas company Beach Energy on local aspects of its senior secured corporate refinancing and acquisition financing in connection with its AUD1.585bn acquisition of Lattice Energy. Sutcliffe acted for Summerset Group Holdings in its first regulated debt offering, which raised NZ$100m.

Mayne Wetherell is 'up there with the best in the market' and is known as a top performer in areas such as securitisation, structured finance, capital markets, leveraged finance and syndicated loans. The four-partner practice, which is led by acquisition financing and special situations expert Will Tipping, is on the panel of New Zealand's leading banks, including ANZ and ASB. It is also the main provider of banking and finance advice to New Zealand’s largest company, Fonterra Co-operative Group, and counts Auckland International Airport and national electricity grid operator Transpower Limited among its clients. Tipping recently acted for ASB Bank in the provision of NZ$200m in funding to NZX-listed company BIL, which entered into a sale and purchase agreement for the acquisition of TIL. Dave Wetherell recently advised Fonterrra on receivables transactions with BTMU and Westpac. Mei Nah, who focuses largely on securitisation and debt capital markets matters, assisted Eclipx Group on the restructuring of a NZ$460m auto receivables warehouse structure. Daniel Meikle is also recommended.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts¬†is 'one of the top firms in the market; it has¬†fantastic depth ‚Äď both at a partner level and associate level - and the service and advice are always of the highest standard'. One client remarks that it has 'a top-tier finance practice ‚Äď no doubt'. The firm is on the panels of the four major trading banks in New Zealand, including Bank of New Zealand and Westpac, and also acts for Kiwibank, Co-operative Bank and many others. The firm has had a role in all of the country's major PPPs and is also a leading player in asset finance and financial restructuring transactions. A key highlight in 2017 was its work for Airwork Holdings on the refinancing of its NZ$195m debt facilities. Leading light Kate Lane¬†and senior associate Sam Gunson, who¬† is 'an outstanding prospect, an experienced practitioner who brings a common-sense approach', led that transaction. Lane and project finance partner¬†Tom Fail¬†are 'exceptionally strong, responsive, good value and have commercial nous'. They sit in Auckland, where the 'highly rated' Michael Langdon¬† leads the practice, and where Steve Gallaugher¬†is praised for his¬†'ability to cut to the heart of any issue and drive an outcome that is consistent with commercial principles'. Chris O‚ÄôBrien¬†leads the practice in Wellington, where senior associate Ian Mackenzie¬†is also recommended.

Russell McVeagh 'operates at an excellent level' in the banking and finance market and is highly regarded for its work in debt capital markets, project finance, financial markets regulation, and corporate and acquisition finance. The firm acts for four of the five largest banks in New Zealand in external fundraising issues, and for all five in their internal funding arrangements. Its highlights in 2017 included acting for New Zealand Local Government Funding Agency in the establishment of a A$2bn medium-term note programme. Auckland-based DCM specialist Deemple Budhia and highly recommended senior associate Ling Yan Pang handled that transaction. Among the firm's other key partners is the asset, development, corporate and acquisition finance specialist John Powell. In Wellington, DCM expert, financial regulation partner and practice head Guy Lethbridge acted for Heartland Bank in the issuance of Tier 2 convertible notes to institutional investors in Australia. Regulatory expert Tom Hunt is also recommended, while David Weavers has been made partner. John-Paul Rice has left to set up his own firm Vince & Rice.

DLA Piper New Zealand's finance, projects and restructuring practice is 'excellent - its industry knowledge and understanding of market trends mean that its advice is cutting edge, practical and smart'.¬†Practice head¬†Katie Carson¬†has 20 years of experience in domestic and international transactions and frequently acts for¬†Westpac New Zealand, ASB Bank, Heartland Bank, TSB Bank and Foodstuffs North Island. Her advice is 'always tailored for practical use', according to one client. Her recent highlights include advising Barclays Bank on the local law aspects of the ‚ā¨325m secured financing of Swissport International's acquisition of aviation services provider Aerocare, and assisting Stantec Incorporated with local matters arising from its $1bn credit agreement with a syndicate of lenders for the acquisition of MWH Global. Newly promoted partner¬†Michael Thompson,¬†who joined in early 2018 from¬†MinterEllisonRuddWatts, added extensive experience in corporate, leveraged and development finance to the practice.

Simpson Grierson in Auckland is 'very strong - good value for money and the responses are always prompt; I can’t fault their knowledge and they are able to translate complex issues into easy-to-understand language', remarks one client. 'They always overlay advice with a commercial perspective and I can’t rate them highly enough', says another. The firm is highly experienced in leveraged finance, real estate finance, local government borrowing transactions, asset finance and distressed debt restructuring. It counts Westpac, Bank of New Zealand and Kiwibank among its clients, and among its recent highlights it has advised United Overseas Bank on a NZ$72m debt facility for an onshore fund to purchase a commercial building in Auckland, and assisted Mercury Capital Investments with the financing of its purchase of a stake in volunteer tourism operator IVHQ. Real estate finance partner Stuart Evans, who led the first of those matters, is 'very competent and professional', and he and Andrew Harkness, who led the second, 'offer practical solutions with a commercial approach'. Senior associate Dominic Toomey plays a key role in the practice, acting for both lenders and borrowers.

Anderson Lloyd 'provides an excellent level of service and the lawyers are always very responsive, take the time to understand clients' requirements and provide clear advice in an easy-to-use manner'. The banking and finance practice is a relative newcomer to the Auckland market, having opened in 2014, but the firm has built on its strong South Island presence to become a strong player in corporate and acquisition finance, structured and asset finance, and property finance transactions. In 2017, the firm assisted Cornerstone Infrastructure Partners consortium with the syndicated debt financing of its successful bid for the Waikeria Prision PPP, and handled the syndicated financing of CITIC Capital's public-to-private acquisition of Trilogy International on behalf of Bank of China. ANZ Bank and Foodstuffs South Island are also among the firm's clients. Practice head Geoff Busch is 'very responsive and can be relied upon to provide clear and technically good legal advice in a timely manner'. Senior associate Rachel Brown works closely with Busch on the practice's most significant transactions.

Anthony Harper has improved its standing among the key financial institutions in New Zealand and now sits on the panels of six of the country's largest banks. ASB Bank, Bank of New Zealand and Westpac are among its key clients. It also acts for commercial finance companies such as Dealer Finance and Gold Band Finance, as well as corporates such as Hilton Haulage and Scales Corporation. The practice is led from Christchurch by Nigel Oliver, who is 'one of the best banking and finance lawyers I have ever dealt with', according to one respondent, and  'as a client you always feel you are in extremely good hands'. Senior associate Pip Breitmeyer is 'very client-focused and strives to ensure risks are covered, but always with the knowledge of commercial reality'. Insolvency partner Crispin Vinnell also plays a role in the practice. Key Auckland partner Grant Goldsmith recently acted for a bank in the NZ$100m refinancing of a large NZX-listed healthcare group, and advised Bank of China as lender to a large property holding group. The hire of Nick Summerfield from Kensington Swan added expertise in debt capital markets and financial services regulation.

'Response times are excellent, as is the technical skill and the level of pragmatism', says a client of Kensington Swan. The team frequently acts for financial institutions and corporates on structured finance transactions and securitisations, acquisition and development financing, and regulatory matters, as well as advising banks on the development of new products. The firm is 'focused on building relationships' and has a 'reputation for consistent and high-quality work'. An example of that work from 2017 was a NZ$125m bond issuance by Kiwi Property, in which the firm acted for trustee and programme supervisor Public Trust. 'Calm and unflappable' practice head Nicole Xanthopol led that deal and is also a key adviser to HSBC. She is 'very experienced, commercial and technically proficient as well as dedicated to client care', reports one client, while another remarks that she is 'an absolute delight to work with'. Nick Summerfield moved to Anthony Harper and Gerald Fitzgerald left to work as an independent legal consultant.

Lane Neave joins the ranking having invested in its banking and finance team in Auckland with the hire of experienced partner Evelyn Jones, who was previously an independent legal consultant following a seven-year stint at Buddle Findlay. Clients report 'superb service' from the practice and note that Jones has 'a forensic eye for detail and a really impressive ability to anticipate issues'. One remarks that 'she is very active in managing all work that goes through the firm and adds value at every stage; her work is exceptional'. She recently helped FlexiGroup update its consumer credit disclosure statements, cardholder terms and conditions for its Q Mastercard and Flight Centre Mastercard products. She also assisted IPH Limited with the financing of its acquisition of a law firm. The firm is one of the key players in the South Island and key partner Gerard Dale is based in Christchurch. The practice is well known for its expertise in finance matters in the mining and technology sectors, and is a key adviser to credit unions. The firm counts Bank of New Zealand, ANZ Bank and NZCU Baywide among its clients.

Lowndes in Auckland has built on its strong reputation in insolvency and restructuring over the last four years with the development of a dedicated finance practice. It has key relationships with trading banks, insolvency practitioners, trustees and corporate borrowers, and is well known for its expertise in specialist security arrangements, cross-border transactions and debt capital markets trustee matters. Michael Anderson leads the practice and his work encompasses banking, insolvency and restructuring matters. Paul Hartland, who is a chartered accountant, is the key partner for complex banking matters, and principal Jennifer Tunna is also recommended. The practice recently acted for a large property company in the replacement of loan facilities and securities through a new bank in order to fund the acquisition of key assets, and advised a construction company on extending existing finance arrangements and arranging new funding to service corporate debt requirements.

Meredith Connell joins the ranking this year having built on its reputation for major PPP and concession-based financing transactions to broaden its scope of work for public sector clients, including central and local government agencies, and also develop a growing profile among private sector clients. It acted for private sector consortium bidders on both the Waikeria Prison PPP Project and the Christchurch Social Housing Project, which were among the most high-profile infrastructure projects in 2017. It counts among its clients Bank of New Zealand, ASB Bank, Macquarie Capital, John Laing Investments, AMP Capital Investors and Fletcher Building. Cameron Peachey leads the practice and is 'focus-driven and enthusiastic to deliver a great outcome'. Key infrastructure and projects partner Mark Godfrey plays a prominent role in the practice and has 'a deep understanding of project finance documents'. Associate Hannah Lee is also recommended.

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