Insolvency and restructuring in Belgium
Clients appreciate the 'knowledge, competence and availability' on offer from DLA Piper's finance, projects and restructuring department. With a particular focus on matters concerning asset recovery and credit reorganisation, the members of Ilse Van de Mierop's team are often appointed as receivers, provisional directors and liquidators. Van de Mierop is an aviation sector expert; she has been particularly active in this space as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and is currently assisting Sabena Aerospace Engineering in a wrongful termination-related creditor-liquidator dispute. Litigator Joris De Vos is another name of note for shareholder and real estate-related proceedings.
Ilse Van de Mierop
Other key lawyers:
Joris De Vos
‘Knowledge, compentence and availability.’
CDE (Centre for the Development of Enterprise)
Sabena Aerospace Engineering
KBC Asset Management
Hyosung Heavy International Corp
- Advised Casa International NV on its judicial reorganisation through a collective agreement with its creditors.
- Assisting with the bankruptcy of major Belgian airline Sabena as receivers.
- Advising Aviapartner on its relations with airport authorities, suppliers and clients throughout the Covid-19 crisis, which led to a standstill of activities at Brussels, Liège, Antwerp and Ostend airports.
NautaDutilh's 'connections with the ministries and main judicial institutions make it a partner of choice' for insolvency and restructuring mandates in the Belgian market. Sophie Jacmain and Stan Brijs head a practice that counts financial institutions, real estate companies and debtors seeking reorganisation among its clients; this includes retailer Celio, ground-handling agent Swissport and toy distributor Asmodée – all of which have encountered difficulties in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Bankruptcy administrator Jacmain is praised for her 'keen business sense and pragmatic character', while Brijs 'offers really hands-on advice combined with academic insights'.
Sophie Jacmain; Stan Brijs
‘A multi-domain, results-oriented law firm. They search for tailor-made solutions and have good negotiation skills.’
‘Sophie Jacqmain shows a lot of expertise; she is to-the-point and a strategic thinker.’
‘Probably the leading team on the Belgium market, thanks to its technical ability, knowledge of the key players, reputation and involvement in significant matters.’
‘Sophie Jacmain and Stan Brijs are both exceptional. They have the ideal mixture of strong theoretical knowledge with sound pragmatism.’
‘Stan Brijs offers really hands-on advice combined with academic insights. Sophie Jacmain is always seeking the best solution (and also has excellent knowledge of the real estate sector).’
‘NautaDutilh is recognised on the Belgian and Dutch markets as one of the leaders in restructuring and insolvency. The firm has extensive experience in these types of situations. On the Belgian market, its connections with the ministries and main judicial institutions make it a partner of choice.’
‘Sophie Jacmain stands out from the crowd, not only for her perfect knowledge of restructuring procedures and her connections in legal circles, but also, and above all, for her keen business sense, her pragmatic character, her will and her energy to move forward to find concrete and actionable solutions. She is not just a lawyer but a real business partner. She was absolutely decisive in the complex situation we had to manage.‘
Swissport Belgium/Swissport Cleaning Belgium
White & Case LLP's financial restructuring and insolvency department is praised for its 'commercial awareness, dedication and attention to clients' needs', particularly on mandates with cross-border elements. The team's most significant recent work involves the Swissport Group, which it has advised on global insolvency contingency planning aimed at protecting the group's worldwide assets, while also reorganising its debt following the Covid-19 crisis. Practice head Thierry Bosly leads on all matters, and regularly assists debtors and lenders with distressed situations, acts for creditors during bankruptcy cases and defends parties facing liability claims.
‘Great commercial awareness, dedication and attention to clients’ needs.’
Bank of Indonesia
Standard Chartered Group
- Advising the international chain Le Pain Quotidien in connection with its complex cross-border restructuring, including its credit facilities and the filing of insolvency proceedings in several jurisdictions.
- Advising Swissport in connection with its cross-border insolvency contingency planning by formulating a global strategy to protect the assets of various entities of the group, while also allowing a restructuring of its debt.
- Advising Standard Chartered in connection with the complex cross-border insolvency filing of Exelco, an international Belgian diamond group.
Allen & Overy LLP
At Allen & Overy LLP, the 'flexible and responsive' restructuring team consists of banking and finance, corporate, litigation and contracts specialists who assist creditors and debtors both in and out of court proceedings. Dividing his time between the Antwerp and Brussels offices, Filip Tanghe has overseen a recent influx of non-contentious matters from the retail, automotive and energy sectors, with 'strong negotiator' Thales Mertens mostly handling contentious cases for banks and corporate multinationals, often concerning complex global reorganisations. Tanghe and Mertens co-head the practice alongside litigation specialist Koen Van Den Broeck.
Filip Tanghe; Thales Mertens; Koen Van den Broeck
‘High-level legal analysis together with a very no-nonsense approach. Very flexible and responsive.’
‘A strong team in terms of negotiation skills. They go beyond strictly legal matters as they understand the economics behind deals and negotiations very well.’
‘Thales Mertens is a very strong negotiator who can respond quickly to positions put on the table by other parties. He is very good at understanding during discussions what we ultimately want to get out of a deal. He is also a very nice personality which makes collaboration very pleasant.’
- Advised a holding company and its shareholders in relation to the financial restructuring and sale of a major fashion retail chain.
- Advising the lenders on the restructuring of a major Belgian fashion group.
- Advised a client in the aviation sector on an emergency convertible loan from the Belgian state (through SFPI-FPIM), in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Liedekerke Wolters Waelbroeck Kirkpatrick's insolvency and restructuring team benefits from 'technical expertise and great commercial awareness' when advising debtors on bankruptcies and handling directors' liability cases. Practice head Roel Fransis 'delivers exactly what the client needs' and focuses on domestic and international transactional matters, as well as financial litigation. Recent work includes handling the recovery of Brussels Airlines' claim after Thomas Cook’s collapse and bankruptcy proceedings, along with reorganising the carrier's activities in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Roel Fransis and his team have technical expertise and great commercial awareness and knowledge of the court insolvency process in Belgium, which makes cross-border working with the team seamless.’
‘The team is high-quality and does an excellent job. We receive the information requested in good time and the partners are also available. The team also has good business understanding.’
‘Roel Fransis delivers exactly what the client needs, when they need it. He is able to deal with complex issues and makes the client feel comfortable.’
‘A solid firm. Roel Fransis is a safe bet in Belgium.’
‘Roel Fransis is helpful, practical and a good insider in a Belgian situation.’
- Advised Inno on the restructuring and refinancing of its activities in response to the Covid-19-caused insolvency proceedings of its parent company, Galeria Karstadt Kaufhof.
- Advised Brussels Airlines on the restructuring of its activities in the Covid-19 crisis.
- Advised Esprit on the restructuring of its activities in the Covid-19 crisis.
The insolvency and restructuring department at Loyens & Loeff specialises in financial reorganisations, with a cross-practice set-up drawing on the firm's aviation, employment and real estate know-how. Well versed in transactional work and litigation relating to companies experiencing financial distress, the team has regularly been instructed following the introduction of the Belgian government's Covid-19 response measures. Led by new hire Vanessa Marquette, who joined the firm from Simont Braun in March 2020, the team also includes Marc Vermylen, newly promoted disputes partner Olivier van der Haegen and of counsel Laurent Mertens, who are praised for their 'professionalism, flexibility and know-how'.
Other key lawyers:
Marc Vermylen; Olivier van der Haegen; Laurent Mertens
‘Professionalism, flexibility and know-how.’
‘Good lawyers who provide clear and commercial advice.’
‘Marc Vermylen is very good.’
FCR Media Belgium
National Bank of Kazakhstan
- Assisting Brussels Airlines with a massive restructuring as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, involving the loss of the jobs of 1,000 employees.
- Representing Mr Jesus Fernandez and Mr Christopher Cox in court proceedings initiated by minority shareholders of the listed company Nyrstar against its (former) directors and managers.
- Assisting a syndicate of banks represented by KBC Bank NV, as global facility agent, in relation to the offshore wind farm C-Power NV, which is faced with the insolvency proceedings of wind turbine manufacturer Senvion GmbH.
Clients describe Stibbe as 'leaders at what they do', with further praise for the 'commercial and pragmatic solutions' on offer from Oliver Stevens and Paul Van der Putten's team, which fields experts from the separate corporate, restructuring, labour and tax practices. Work typically includes advising banks and leasing companies during periods of financial distress. Counsel Pieter Wouters 'punches above his weight on cross-border matters' and 'understands the bigger picture', often when handling litigation. All named lawyers are also instructed as liquidators in domestic dissolutions.
Paul Van der Putten; Oliver Stevens
Other key lawyers:
‘Leaders at what they do and very well connected. Exceptional knowledge of the system. Very professional.’
‘Exceptionally approachable and knowledgeable, very easy to communicate with, even for someone who has zero legal background.’
‘The team is excellent. Sharp legal advice combined with a deep commercial understanding. Hands-on and to-the-point.’
‘Pieter Wouters is an excellent lawyer. He always has the big picture in mind and gives to-the-point legal advice.‘
‘They do not work superficially, but render quality work and can think together with you. Very responsive and reliable, they rightly challenge their clients and their ideas and strategies to ensure all possible options and consequences are understood. They give clear and honest advice, and are not shy about telling the client the truth, even if truth may not be what the client likes to hear.’
‘Paul van der Putten is very experienced. He advises on overall strategy, understands the bigger picture and gives clear and honest advice.’
‘Pieter Wouters is very dedicated and reliable, delivers impressive work and is extremely responsive. He thinks ahead and points out potential pitfalls, considering and taking care of every aspect of a case.’
‘The team at Stibbe is incredibly efficient in dealing with client queries. Their commercial and pragmatic solutions really stand out. Pieter Wouters is a superb lawyer who punches above his weight on cross-border matters. His ability to deal with complex legal issues is exceptional.’
Brussels Airport Company
Elavon Financial Services
National Bank of Belgium
UK Administrators of Nortel Networks
- Assisting Nyobe, one of the biggest producers of high-grade nylon 6 polymers and PA6 BCF yarns in the world, with its judicial reorganisation procedure.
- Advised Swissport Belgium’s board of directors on all legal issues in relation to possible restructuring and insolvency scenarios.
- Representing the National Bank of Belgium in several lawsuits pursuant to the bankruptcy of Optima Bank.
Strelia's restructuring and insolvency department leverages the firm's full-service offering to benefit from a range of corporate, tax and employment expertise. Led by the 'exceptional' Bart De Moor, the practice handles judicial reorganisation and bankruptcy-related matters, with a strong reputation for defending debtors during litigation proceedings. Clients recognise the firm's 'great network in Belgium', with De Moor and associate Marine Callebaut also regularly appointed as administrators or liquidators by the court.
Bart De Moor
Other key lawyers:
‘Professional, targeted advice and implementation.’
‘Bart De Moor is multilingual and friendly, with outstanding technical skills.’
‘Great network in Belgium.’
‘Bart De Moor is exceptional.’
Photo Hall Multimedia NV
Free Record Shop (Mega) Store België
- Acting as the court-appointed office holder in the judicial reorganisation of Flamant Group companies, including a total transfer of undertakings.
- Appointed as bankruptcy liquidator by the Brussels court.
- Appointed as liquidator in voluntary liquidation proceedings initiated by the General Assembly and the president of the Bar Association.
ALTIUS advises creditors and companies in financial distress, along with the business partners of those nearing insolvency. Alexander Hansebout specialises in liability and insurance matters, along with the cross-border recovery of debts; he co-heads the practice with counsel and 'brilliant thinker' Bart Heynickx, who handles asset takeovers before any onward transfer. Carine Van Regenmortel stepped down as a partner in July 2020, but still holds an of counsel position at the firm.
Alexander Hansebout; Bart Heynickx
Other key lawyers:
Carine Van Regenmortel
‘Altius is very professional and always fully committed to the case.’
‘Bart Heynickx has excellent in-depth knowledge of Belgian insolvency law, being strategic and proactive.’
‘Bart Heynickx is easy to approach and a skilled guy who knows his way around the Belgian insolvency wonderland.’
‘The communication of the team is very clear and state-of-the-art.’
‘Bart Heynickx is a brilliant thinker. His strategy is clear and strong. That gives the client every advantage in litigation.’
Belgian Judo Federation
Association European Airlines
- Assisted Apple during the reorganisation of its principal premium reseller on the Belgian market, Switch.
- Assisted De Jong with the takeover of a former competitor on the Belgian market that was in financial difficulty.
- Appointed as liquidator of the Association of European Airlines.
ASTREA's collection, attachment and insolvency practice advises on cross-border and company group restructuring matters, as well as domestic judicial proceedings for smaller businesses and start-ups. Headed by Louis Verstraeten, a recognised litigator, it has recently seen an increase in instructions from foreign administrators. Another key name to note is commercial and liability law expert Marc Van Looveren.
Other key lawyers:
Marc Van Looveren
BHP Billiton Marketing AG
Schulze & Braun
Hi-Tech Radiators (India)
- Acting for InBev Belgium before the Supreme Court, seeking a novel interpretation of the 2018 Insolvency Code concerning the position of secured creditors and landlords.
- Assisting Cobepa with the execution of a restructuring strategy regarding the worldwide activities of Le Pain Quotidien through a capital increase and share transfer.
- Assisting Headlime with the judicial reorganisation proceedings for a subsidiary of a group of companies and reduction of its indebtedness.
At CMS, the 'extremely thorough' insolvency and restructuring department leverages its multi-disciplinary expertise – particularly in employment and insurance law – to assist clients with safety precautions following obtaining ailing company status, and with the management of any related litigation. Practice head Jean-François Goffin specialises in directors' and officers' liability issues, while Virginie Frémat has experience in distressed M&A and restructuring transactions.
Other key lawyers:
‘I would recommend the team strongly for the following reasons: they are real experts, who know what they are talking about and have very broad experience in handling these types of cases. Showing up at a court with CMS as your lawyers already gives the client an advantage: the courts know their seriousness and appreciate it. They are extremely thorough when working on a file and don’t overlook anything.’
‘Very professional experts and very responsive; they always try to revert to you within 24 hours. Very open and accept a challenge.’
‘They are very responsive to queries and have broad in-house coverage of various legal areas, as well as flexibility in working out practical solutions.’
La Grande Récré
- Assisting the Maxi Toys group in Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland on a cross-border restructuring.
- Acting for Dalkia Biogas Belgique in a dispute against a bank claiming funds from the takeover of an insolvent company by a joint venture created by Dalkia and a German company.
Janson assists distressed enterprises, their managers and shareholders in all potential crisis situations, ranging from preventative judicial reorganisations to bankruptcy petition filing and voluntary liquidations. Cédric Alter, recognised by clients as 'a very good insolvency professional', often acts as a court-appointed trustee in various proceedings. He co-heads the practice alongside litigation specialist Dominique Blommaert, who divides his time between the Brussels and Ghent offices, and Emmanuelle Bouillon. The team also has experience in negotiating out-of-court settlements where necessary.
Cédric Alter; Dominique Blommaert; Emmanuelle Bouillon
‘Cédric Alter is an excellent lawyer, a very good insolvency professional and a respected individual.‘
Le Pain Quotidien
- Appointed as mediator of Le Pain Quotidien’s holding company during a judicial reorganisation procedure.
- Advised ING as lender to the Biion group during a judicial reorganisation.
- Advising Profirst as one of the bidders to take over a business.
Lydian is best known for advising on corporate restructurings and domestic and cross-border workforce reorganisations, as well as the recovery of assets from distressed companies. Practice head Yves Lenders handles both transactional and litigation matters, specifically advising directors and shareholders on insolvency-related liabilities.
Monard Law typically assists companies in distress with obtaining protection against creditors and through liquidation proceedings, as well as advising on claims by creditors and temporary administrators. Headed by Inge De Haes, who is often appointed as a bankruptcy trustee by the Commercial Court, the practice also handles transactional and litigation matters. Corporate partner Pieter Van den Broeck offers strong support.
Inge De Haes
Other key lawyers:
Pieter Van den Broeck
Cardi Fashion Group
Equatorial Congo Airlines
Jan De Nul
- Assisting Cardi Fashion Group with the reorganisation of its business and liquidation in the interest of creditors and shareholders.
- Assisting Landal Greenparks with the acquisition of a holiday leisure park, facilities and activities in Zutendaal.
Quinz's insolvency and restructuring team 'is able to perform in-depth analysis of difficult legal issues', with 'exceptional quality' at partner level and below. Jointly headed by Benoît Allemeersch – noted for his 'excellent legal brain' – and Vincent Van Obberghen, whose 'perfect mastery of insolvency proceedings is downright impressive', the practice is best known for its handling of contentious matters. This includes litigation against debtors, as well as assisting creditors in cases involving fraudulent or wrongful trading.
Benoît Allemeersch; Vincent Van Obberghen
‘The Quinz team are really hands-on and give practical advice, while having an academic background which enables them to perform in-depth analysis of difficult legal issues and to handle complex litigation.’
‘Quinz is an excellent law firm where the client can count on partner involvement.’
‘The team has exceptional quality. Partners are very involved in the projects. Excellent price-quality ratio.’
‘Benoît Allemeersch shows an exceptional degree of quality.’
‘This is a young and proactive practice which helps companies deal with their legal issues on the front foot. The team have been excellent in considering not only the legal issues, but how these issues affects the company. They are flexible and very proactive in their approach, which made us feel, as clients, very well advised. Their legal advice is clear, concise and practical.’
‘Benoît Allemeersch has an excellent legal brain and provides first-class strategic legal advice in fast-moving and complex environments. He really understood the issues facing the company and has been of great assistance in helping us navigate complex legal waters. He is always available even at short notice and as a company we have felt very well supported by him and his team.’
‘The strength of Quinz is that they are capable of analysing a situation and proposing the necessary solutions in a very short time. During proceedings, they re-analyse the facts on a day-to-day-basis. Additionally, they work closely as a team and no time is lost on internal discussions.’
‘Vincent Van Obberghen’s perfect mastery of insolvency proceedings is downright impressive. Thanks to his very thorough knowledge of our case, he was able to make the right and most efficient strategic choices.’
BNP Paribas Fortis
Krea Sales CPM
Intercommunale van de Woluwe
- Represented Euronext-listed Nyrstar, the world’s second-largest zinc smelter, in all Belgian procedures relating to its global restructuring, in cooperation with Freshfields in London and Brussels.
- Advised PMV, a venture capital fund wholly owned by the Flemish regional government, on the restructuring and subsequent insolvency of Euronext-listed FNG, Belgium’s leading fashion retailer.
- Acted as court expert for Hema’s scheme of arrangement under UK law, whereby its €600m debt was restructured.
At Racine, the focus is primarily on insolvency and restructuring-related litigation, with practice co-heads Joan Dubaere and Stijn Vanschoubroek often appointed as trustees and liquidators in various domestic proceedings. The team's client roster includes both debtors and lenders, and it has a further ability to handle distressed M&A-related matters. Counsel Rubben Lindemans is another key name; he specialises in reorganisation proceedings and enforcement.
Joan Dubaere; Stijn Vanschoubroek
Other key lawyers:
Besix Sanotec/Flamant Design
BNP Paribas Fortis Factor
BNP Paribas Fortis Lease
Goldman Sachs International
Hervé Hubert Group
Saey Home & Garden
- Advised CG Power Systems and CG Holdings Belgium in respect of its financial difficulties caused by the problems the group faced in India.
- Advised Saey Home & Garden on the restructuring of its business, most notably the sale of its famous “Barbecook” brand.
- Assisted the trustee of Rolsa in levying attachments on the Belgian assets of the former director of Rolsa to secure a claim valued at €200m.
Seeds of Law
Seeds of Law's specialist insolvency practice regularly assists businesses facing financial difficulties or in liquidation proceedings, drawing on its firm-wide experience in commercial, real estate and construction law. Led by 'outstanding, no-nonsense lawyer' and 'lateral thinker' Leo Peeters, the team advises on restructurings and distressed tradings of debt, as well as compulsory and voluntary bankruptcy arrangements. Toon Rummens and Leila Mstoian are the other key contacts.
Other key lawyers:
Toon Rummens; Leila Mstoian
‘Leo Peeters and Toon Rummens are excellent partners.‘
‘Leo Peeters is an outstanding, no-nonsense lawyer. He is very reliable and knows what he is talking about. He is a lateral thinker. He very much involves his team. In comparison with his competitors he is truly efficient, knows what he is talking about, and has a clear goal which is in the interests of his client. He is approachable and extremely friendly.‘
‘Leo Peeters is very knowledgeable and very good to work with.‘
- Assisting Belleheide Sport Center with filing for a judicial reorganisation due to hidden debts created by the former shareholders and management.