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Who Represents Who

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Clients of Birketts LLP rate the firm for its ‘excellent, cost-effective and attentive service’; it is ‘the best firm in East Anglia’, according to one. Mark Henry (who is ‘technically extremely capable and very pragmatic’) leads a team that is ‘proactive in raising potential issues and delivering practical solutions’ to a broad range of corporate borrowers. It is on numerous bank panels and is active in property and agricultural development financings, acquisition financings, and asset-based lending. Banking partner James Allen, ‘excellent’ corporate partner Greg Allan and real estate finance specialist Chris Schwer are all highly regarded. The team advised Lloyds Bank on the multimillion-pound refinancing of a life sciences group, and HSBC on a revolving credit facility for a regional motor dealer group. The firm also counts Clydesdale Bank and Santander among its clients.

Mills & Reeve LLP attracts praise for its ‘focus on clients’ requirements, ability to work to tight deadlines and for its commercial advice, which goes over and above the legal aspects’. The firm has the only national banking and finance practice in the region and is particularly well known for its specialist real estate finance team; according to one client it ‘rightly has an unrivalled reputation in the region’, and singles out its ‘balanced approach and good value for money’. Team head William Roles and asset-based landing expert Zak Virgin are recommended for their ‘industry knowledge, commercial approach and for being readily at clients’ disposal for ad-hoc advice’. Sarah Seed is recommended for not-for-profit finance and Laura Holdaway for real estate finance. Holdaway advised AgFe UK Real Estate and ReAssure Limited as senior lenders on a £124m refinancing of property portfolios. Seed acted for Cardiff University in a £300m public bond issue. Other clients include HSBC and ABN AMRO Commercial Finance.

Ashtons Legal is ‘a very professional firm with a personable team that carries out work in a timely manner’. The ‘excellent’ team is ‘extremely prompt, helpful and knowledgeable, working hard to achieve a successful outcome and proactive in offering workable solutions’. The firm excels in work for lenders, notably in agricultural finance and secured lending, and counts National Westminster Bank and HSBC among its clients. Among the ‘experienced practitioners providing reliable commercial advice’ are Ron Clare (who is ‘calm and unflappable, with a wealth of knowledge’), Geoff Hazlewood, secured lending expert Genie Barham, agriculture finance specialist Jeanette Dennis and ‘prompt and keen’ solicitor Scott Hilton. Highlights included acting for Svenska Handelsbanken on the refinancing of a regional property investor, which included a £3m loan and £5.6m in securities.

Hewitsons is ‘responsive, experienced, knowledgeable and good value for money’. It has a busy secured lending practice that often handles development project financings using property as security, and is also known for corporate acquisition finance and debt funding for SMEs. The firm is on the regional banking panels of Lloyds Banking Group, Santander and Handelsbanken. The national practice is led from Northampton by Neil Harpham, with Cambridge-based partners James Lawrence, James Simpson and Charles Stevens all playing key roles. Highlights included advising a borrower on a £1.5m facility backed by property assets, acting for a large education institution on an investment finance loan, and securing a multimillion-pound loan for a listed company to fund overseas investments.

Clients ‘have no hesitation in recommending the team’ at Howes Percival LLP, citing its ‘consistency and efficiency’. Head of team and real estate finance specialist Joanna Nicholls, commercial property and banking partner Tessa Haskey and property finance partner Steven Beach are all part of a team that regularly acts for banks, private equity lenders and corporate borrowers such as RQ Capital, National Westminster Bank, Barclays Bank and HSBC. The firm’s many highlights included a refinancing in the real estate sector with a value exceeding £30m; acting for a major bank in due diligence matters concerning a large property portfolio; and assisting with the establishment of a mezzanine finance fund for residential development projects.

Penningtons Manches LLP is ‘very knowledgeable and easy to deal with, responding quickly and always willing to talk through existing and prospective deals’. The firm, which can call on expertise across its network, including offices in Oxford, London and San Francisco, has several of East Anglia’s go-to practitioners in Cambridge-based Helen Drayton and real estate finance specialist Sarah Coates (who is ‘extremely pleasant, practical and willing to go the extra mile’). ‘The quality of advice is superior’, say clients of Drayton’s team, which counts Svenska Handelsbanken, Allied Irish Banks and property services company Almaren Ltd among its clients. Coates advised an institutional lender on the £1.2m refinancing of ten residential properties, and acted for another major lender on the refinancing of a £15m property portfolio.

The team at Greene & Greene provides ‘knowledgeable, clear and considerate advice, and it has a robust and in-depth understanding of its clients’ business’. The firm mainly advises borrowers, who remark that it provides ‘excellent service at a reasonable price’, but also plays an active role for lenders and investors. The experienced Simon Ratcliffe leads the department, which includes Neil Walmsley, who undertakes banking transactions as part of a broader practice focusing on corporate finance, acquisitions and restructuring. Corporate partner Mark Daly often advises on fundraising and debt matters; his recent work includes advising a regional property developer on loan funding exceeding £5m in value.

One of the premier league firms in Peterborough’, Greenwoods Solicitors LLP has ‘a tremendously loyal client base and provides good value for money’. Its corporate team is also becoming increasingly prominent in Cambridge. The practice, which advises a wide range of borrowers, commercial banks and other lenders, is led by the ‘very approachableAlastair Gunn, who has ‘great relationship skills, is able to simplify complex situations to get deals over the line’, and who is singled out for his ‘endearingly open and honest style’. Duncan Walker and property finance director Karin Horsley are also recommended. The team acted for a well-known commercial bank on the provision of a loan exceeding £3m in value for the acquisition of property assets.

Steeles Law brings together expertise from its corporate, dispute resolution and property teams to advise borrowers and investors, including high-net-worth individuals and multinational businesses. Head of the company and commercial team Richard Bailey and senior director Nigel Lubbock are the key contacts. Lubbock acted for a high-profile client on the financing aspects of a £50m restructuring following the sale of a subsidiary business. Bailey assisted a client with a large investment agreement for a start-up company. Lindsey Crockett left for an in-house role at Gardline Shipping.


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