Banking and finance in Colombia
Full-service firm Brigard Urrutia handles all types of financial transactions and structured operations. The experienced 18-strong practice, led by four partners, advises both private and public entities on project finance, capital markets and private equity, derivatives and structured products, and syndicated and club-deal loans. Practice co-head Carlos Fradique-Méndez led the advice to Cementos Argos in connection with an amended and restated credit and guaranty agreement for $600m. Manuel Quinche advised a group of financial institutions, as lenders, on the financing of the rehabilitation, construction and improvement of the ‘Ruta del Cacao’ (Bucaramanga–Barrancabermeja–Yondó) toll road, including review and negotiation of the terms and conditions of the financing and the transaction’s legal structuring. Carlos Urrutia Valenzuela and César Rodríguez, who was promoted to partner in January 2019, also co-head the team. Clients include Crédit Agricole, Ashmore Investment Management, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Santander and BlackRock. Luis Gabriel Morcillo is also a name to note.
Gómez-Pinzón Abogados (GPA)’s 20-strong practice group handles sophisticated and innovative matters across the full range of banking, finance and capital markets transactions, including complex, cross-border deals. Ricardo Fandiño heads the department, which recently acted as Colombian counsel to a banking syndicate comprising Banco Nacional de México, Santander, Scotiabank Perú, Cofide and Bancapital on the financing granted to Grupo Auna for the acquisition of Grupo Las Américas and the refinancing of Peruvian healthcare institution Oncosalud. Managing partner José Luis Suárez advised Scotiabank and Mizuho Bank on granting a credit line of up to $665m to Ecopetrol for corporate financing. Daniel Londoño, Adriana Moreno (who has over 20 years’ experience in capital markets and heads the firm’s Medellín office) and senior associate Cristian Cruz are also key members of the team. Other clients include JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Sura Asset Management and Deutsche Bank.
‘Very well known’ for its ‘capacities, deep knowledge and highly qualified lawyers’, Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría is praised by clients for its lawyers' ‘approachability and kind treatment’, despite its being a big firm. The 13-strong department is co-led by Juan Fernando Gaviria; held in high regard by the market, he led the team’s advice to Cementos Argos on its role as guarantor of Argos USA in connection with a short-term financing of $100m. Other recent mandates saw the practice group assist HSBC Securities Services and JP Morgan Securities, as underwriters, on a $750m notes issuance by public utility TGI. In addition to Gaviria, key practitioners Claudia Barrero, Hernando Padilla and Javier Valle co-head the practice. However, senior associate Carolina Duque and associate Camila Quintero left the firm in February and April 2019, respectively: Duque to co-found Medellín-based law firm Duque Velazquez Abogados and Quintero to become chief legal counsel at Ashmore CAF–AM Management.
Posse Herrera Ruiz’s highly recommended team is led by Mariana Posse; ‘strategic and very committed to clients’, she led on recent advice to Terpel regarding its $345m bond issue. The team also advised ING Bank on the structuring, negotiation and subscription of a revolving credit facility under English law for the acquisition of Proenfar. Other mandates included advising Banco Davivienda, Banco de Occidente and Banco de Bogotá, as lenders, on an approximately $90m loan to APP Gica to fund a portion of the Girardot-Ibagué-Cajamarca toll-road concession. José Alejandro Torres and associate Adriana Cabal are also key practice members. However, senior associate Mateo Mendoza left to found his own firm, Mendoza Abogados. Clients include Grupo Energía Bogotá, Inverlink and Construcciones El Cóndor.
The practice group at Baker McKenzie S.A.S. has ‘unrivalled knowledge’ of banking and securities law; 2018 highlight mandates saw a team led by ‘excellent’ practice co-head Ricardo Trejos advise Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP) on a $140m investment in real estate investment PE vehicle Fondo Inmobiliario Colombia, managed by its fiduciary subsidiary. In other work, the team continues to advise Brookfield Infrastructure Group on the financing of its acquisition of Gas Natural. The department, while small, has been strengthened notably: April 2018 saw the arrival as partner of Andrés Crump from Brookfield Asset Management; he now co-leads the practice in conjunction with Trejos and highly regarded acting global chair Jaime Trujillo. Subsequently, in October 2018, Sebastian Boada was hired from the Office of Financial Superintendence; both he and fellow senior associate Daniel Botero are noted members of the team. Other clients include Sacyr, JP Morgan, Banco Itaú and Scotiabank Colpatria.
Recommended for its handling of international transactions, Dentons Cardenas & Cardenas' practice is experienced across an array of different industries but has particular expertise in the energy and natural resources-related sectors. ‘Committed and with excellent negotiation skills’, the team acted as counsel to Frontera Energy on obtaining a $100m revolving credit facility letter to be used to provide letters of credit to fund exploration and transportation commitments in Colombia and Peru. Bernardo Cárdenas and Eduardo Cárdenas are both recommended and co-head the eight-strong department, in which energy head Santiago González is also active; he recently led advice to Gran Colombia Gold on a $98m debt financing. Other 2018 work highlights included assisting Bancolombia and Banco Davivienda on a $67m loan agreement with PA Centro Comercial Nuestro Bogotá for the construction of a commercial venue. The ‘increasingly experienced’ Catalina Pinilla - who made partner in July 2018 - and associate Felipe Molano are also key team members. Clients include Société Générale, Opic, Corredores Davivienda and Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC).
DLA Piper Martinez Beltrán works across the finance spectrum and is especially active in acquisition and project finance and capital markets matters. Camilo Martinez Beltran and Juan Manuel de la Rosa co-lead a six-strong practice which provides ‘prompt and quality’ advice. Headline work saw the team act as legal counsel to Sociedad Concesionaria Vial Andina with regard to the financial closing of the Chirajará-Fundadores PPP project. Other highlights included assisting the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) with the project finance of the ‘Ruta del Cacao’ (Bucaramanga–Barrancabermeja–Yondó) toll road. Senior associate Sebastian Celis is also noted, but former senior associate Andrés Afanador moved in house as counsel at IDB Invest. Clients include Grupo Aval Acciones y Valores, Corficolombiana, Banco Colpatria and BBVA.
With its ‘highly capable and business-oriented team’, Garrigues is particularly highlighted for project finance and financial regulatory matters. Recommended practice co-head Roberto Borrás, a former chief financial superintendent, led advice to CMIG on obtaining an approval from the Colombian financial regulator to acquire four financial institutions previously owned by Old Mutual. Borrás' fellow practice co-head, counsel Camilo Gantiva, is noted for his ‘deep knowledge’ and ‘practical approach’; he acted for state entity Financiera de Desarrollo Nacional (FDN), as structuring agent, and Empresa Metro de Bogotá, as borrower, in the negotiation of credit agreements with multilateral organisations to obtain financing for the development of the first line of the $4.2bn Bogotá Metro project. The practice group’s third co-head, Francisco Noguera, who is ‘extremely capable in project finance’, assisted a syndicate of local lenders, including FDN, with the $570m project financing of the Coviandina PPP toll road project. Other clients include Zurich Insurance, BlackRock, Bancolombia, the World Bank and Alianza Fiduciaria.
CMS Rodríguez-Azuero advises national and international entities such as credit institutions, financial service companies, insurance companies and other market players (notably, multilateral finance institutions) in connection with complex financing and regulatory issues. With an ‘extraordinary knowledge of financial services’, Sergio Rodríguez-Azuero and Daniel Rodríguez jointly lead the nine-strong practice group, which recently acted as counsel to Banco Santander on the structuring, negotiation and drafting of an $87m-per-month finance facility granted to Emgesa. Other mandates included advising the IDB on the structuring of the initial financing and a trust scheme in connection with the loan the client extended to payroll-pledged loans business Bayport. Other clients include Banco de Chile, Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) and the IIC.
‘With deep understanding of how the public sector works’, infrastructure-focused firm Durán & Osorio Abogados Asociados is experienced in advising public and private clients involved in major public-private partnerships, concessions and infrastructure projects in Colombia, such as the capital’s first metro-line project. Indeed, the firm is currently advising FDN and Empresa Metro de Bogotá on the negotiation and closing of various loan agreements with the IDB, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB); the final credit closure is expected to reach $1.68bn. Jorge Gabriel Taboada leads the practice, with key name Álvaro Gasca leading the assistance to FDN and Empresa Férrea Regional on the structuring of the financial closure of the second and third stages of the TransMilenio transportation project in Soacha, near Bogotá. Álvaro Durán is also noted.
Contexto Legal Abogados
With a broad service offering, Medellín-based Contexto Legal Abogados advises local and international clients on deal structuring, capital markets securities placements and the creation or modification of securities funds; it also handles financial due diligence and debt matters. Carlos Andrés González heads the department, which recently assisted BTG Pactual with the design and legal structuring of a collective investment fund for the acquisition of money orders. Other mandates included advising Factor Dinero on the structuring of the company’s factoring and confirming operations.
Holland & Knight’s ‘highly qualified’ Colombian office advises domestic and foreign financial institutions - including multilaterals - on bank regulatory and financing matters including financial services, credit transactions, project finance and syndicated loan facilities. Praised for its ‘deep knowledge and experience in several transactions’, which generates ‘valuable efficiencies’, the cross-border investment and financing department is led by office managing partner Enrique Gómez Pinzón. Recent matters saw the team act as counsel to FDN regarding a liquidity credit agreement obtained by Concesionaria Ruta del Cacao in connection with the $590m financial closing of the Bucaramanga-Barrancabermeja-Yondó toll road. The team was strengthened with the hire of Carolina Arciniegas, formerly legal counsel at Diageo, who joined as senior counsel in February 2019. ‘Outstanding’ associate Juliana Saa is also noted. Other clients include Bancapital, Goldman Sachs, Inverlink, Bancolombia, Banco Itaú and Fondo CAF-Ashmore.
Boutique firm Mendoza Abogados enters the rankings on the strength of excellent feedback from market sources and clients alike; it is particularly recommended for the negotiation of ISDA agreements with banks. Previously a senior associate at both (the former) Gómez-Pinzón Zuleta and Posse Herrera Ruiz, Mateo Mendoza founded the firm in March 2018. Despite its small size - it currently houses four lawyers - the firm has gained traction in the niche area of complex financial transactions, recently advising Bodytech, for example, on a $90m syndicated refinancing of its Colombian, Peruvian and Chilean operations, requiring the Chilean and Peruvian subsidiaries to modify the terms of their guarantees, a credit enhancement by the company’s shareholders with a partial guarantee of the loan, and novel additional structuring due to regulatory constraints. In other mandates the team represented Grupo Argos, as borrower, in a revolving $50m credit loan granted by Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and involving an ISDA master agreement currency swap. Other clients include Avianca, Banco Davivienda and SoEnergy International.
A well-established boutique, Mosquera Abogados, S.A.S. provides advice covering the entire spectrum of structuring and negotiating domestic and international financings to financial institutions, both national and global. Recent matters saw the seven-strong practice group advise regional public entity Grupo Energía Bogotá on the structuring and negotiation of a debt management operation involving the recall of a long-term international Rule 144A/Reg S bond issuance and its refinancing with a $750m long-term syndicated loan from international commercial banks. Juan Pablo Mosquera is the name to note.
‘Knowledgeable and responsive’, Muñoz Tamayo & Asociados’ practice has particular expertise in the structuring and restructuring of debt across multiple jurisdictions. Felipe Trias, who has significant experience in the sector including executive roles in major Colombian private financial institutions, co-leads the practice with founding partner Diego Muñoz. Recent matters include advising a banking syndicate led by Société Générale in connection with the local aspects of the refinancing of a €750m senior secured financing granted to Applus Services. The team, which welcomed back associate Alonso de Reyes following his LLM in international business and finance law, also continues to advise a multinational gaming company on the restructuring of significant debt. Clients include Talanx International, RC Law and Banvivienda.
Parra Rodríguez Abogados
The ‘sophisticated’ Parra Rodríguez Abogados is particularly recommended for its niche expertise in aviation matters; Bernardo Rodríguez - ‘the dean and leading light of Colombian aviation finance law’ - heads the six-strong department; recent matters include advising on revolving credit facilities, and a complex asset-backed securitisation structure permitting the efficient sale of multiple aircraft and their subsequent leasing to Colombian airlines. Senior associate Cesar Barajas Ruiz (who specialises in structured finance, asset-based financing, cross-border transactions and aircraft financing) is also noted.
Primarily focused on the energy sector, Chalela | Abogados acts for international and multilateral financial institutions, underwriters and sponsors on project finance, capital markets and derivatives, among other matters. Federico Chalela heads the 12-strong team, which acts for clients such as Repsol, Petrosud, Quala, Frontera Energy and Gran Tierra Energy.
Esguerra Asesores Jurídicos has a long-established reputation in securities and regulatory matters, but the practice - under the direction of the highly regarded Juan Pablo González - is increasingly experienced and has a broader offering, and receives praise for possessing ‘knowledge on both legislation and the actual practices of interested parties in the financial sector’. The four-strong practice advised Scotiabank on a Basel III protocols-compliant subordinated bonds issue, the first of its kind in Colombia. Other mandates included representing a broker-dealer in the liquidation of two investment funds due to major fraud caused by a securities originator.
Lloreda Camacho & Co.’s ‘forward-thinking’ practice is led by Santiago Gutiérrez (‘with excellent soft skills’) and senior associate Juan Sebastián Peredo (‘proposes unique solutions to complex problems’). Both lawyers are advising crypto-currency exchange Bitso on structuring different alternatives for the company’s operations in Colombia, given the stringent financial and foreign exchange regulations applicable to this type of asset. The practice group is also assisting crowdfunding platform Mesfix on structuring and implementing a new operational model in order to take advantage of recent regulatory developments applicable to factoring transactions. Other clients include Colombia Fintech, BTG Pactual, BBVA, American Express and Cámara de Comercio de Bogotá.
Palacios Lleras advises banks, insurers and other financial institutions on a range of finance matters, particularly transactional work and regulatory issues. The firm’s dispute resolution practice also has a good standing in the finance sector, representing its players in arbitral, administrative and judicial proceedings. Hugo Palacios Mejía and Oscar Gutiérrez co-lead the team, which continues to advise several Colombian banks regarding the liquidation of a large Colombian electricity company which has substantial debts with several financial institutions.
Praised for its ‘specialised knowledge in capital and stock market’ matters, Ustáriz & Abogados Estudio Jurídico is recognised for its strength in the negotiation of derivative and structured products, including the negotiation of ISDA and CSA contracts, and is also noted for its advice on regulatory compliance issues. A former legal vice-president of Central de Seguros (now QBE Seguros), Luis Humberto Ustáriz is ‘always available’; he co-leads the eight-strong team in conjunction with José Federico Ustáriz. Recent matters saw the team provide advice on regulatory compliance issues to stockbroker BBVA Valores Colombia, and undertake a regulatory audit of the customer service system for stockbroker Old Mutual Valores.