Aviation finance in France
Norton Rose Fulbright has well-established capabilities across a broad range of asset financing work, with key recent developments for the practice including the increased implementation of French 'optimal lease' structures, as well as a growing use of innovative new funding sources for aircraft, such as insurance companies. The group's strong bench includes practice head George Paterson, Marc Hamilton and Alex Wass, all of whom have an extensive track record in assisting with cross-border cases.
With the French-English dual-qualified Alexander Premont at the helm, Hogan Lovells (Paris) LLP has a strong international practice. The group impresses with its rich experience in a large number of financing instruments, ranging from export credit agency financings to acquisition financings and securitisations. Islamic finance and tax-based financings, in particular French, German and Japanese tax-based financings. Recent highlights include advising Swissport Financing on the financing and acquisition of ground handling operator Aerocare, an international instruction which saw the firm leverage its global footprint. The client roster also features Société Générale, UBS and Natixis.
Watson Farley & Williams LLP
Watson Farley & Williams LLP stands out for its 'high professionalism and availability' and remains one of the most active players in the market. The team advises a diverse range of clients including export credit agencies, manufacturers, banks, arrangers and lessors, often on instructions with a pronounced cross-border element. The promotion of practice head Charles Viggers to the role of global aviation group head bolstered the group's international presence. Alexia Russell is also noted. Arnaud Troizier, a specialist in economic public law, took a lead role in advising the French Ministry of Defence on contracts for military transport aircraft involving Airbus. Other clients include China Aircraft Leasing Group Holdings and BNP Paribas.
HFW has a strong emphasis on instructions from airlines, with a large number of French airlines among its clients. However, the group expanded its portfolio with a mandate from HBG Mont Blanc Helicoptères, which it advised on its first operating lease transaction relating to a new helicopter leased to GECAS Milestone. Practice head Pierre Frühling splits his time between Paris and Brussels, and the group often cooperates with its Belgian colleagues. Cargolux Airlines International instructed the practice to advise on the purchase of a Boeing 747-400 ERF from Wells Fargo Bank Northwest, while French Blue turned to the firm for advice on the financing of an Airbus A330-300 aircraft in the context of the launch of the new French Blue airline. Aigle Azur, Aircalin and Waypoint Leasing also feature on the firm's client roster. Richard Jadot joined Ravet & Associés in December 2019.
Ince Gordon Dadds LLP
International finance structuring is an area of particular expertise for Ince, which also offers a well-rounded skillset to commercial and specialist operators alike. While instructions from lessees constitute the majority of the firm's recent caseload, the team is also adept at acting for lessors. Laurence Hanley directs the practice, with key support coming from the recently promoted Aymeric de Tapol. Recent standout mandates include advising Air France both on the financing of a B737-800 aircraft via a conditional sale and on the novation of nine lease agreements to its new subsidiary Joon, as well as several instructions regarding Japanese operating leases. Wijet and HOP! also feature on the client list. Andrew Charlier relocated to the firm's Monaco office. In July 2019 the firm changed its name and is now operating as Stream – Avocats and Solicitors.
French aviation boutique Odi-Sé Avocats entered the French market in September 2017 under the helm of former Mayer Brown aviation head Matthieu de Varax , and has built up a strong reputation for its work advising lenders, manufacturers, airlines and lessors alike, with the financing of aircraft purchases and disposals and the leasing of aircraft at the core of its practice. In recent work, de Varax advised Bred Banque Populaire on the leveraged lease financing of an ATR 72-600 aircraft for Air Tahiti. Air Austral, Nova Capital and Aigle Azur are also clients of the firm.
Reed Smith's team consists of the former White & Case LLP practice under the lead of Victoria Westcott. The group acts for banks and other lenders as well as for export credit agencies, leasing companies and airlines. Tax-driven finance structures are an area of particular strength, but the team is able to assist with a wide range of finance instruments, including capital market transactions and fund platforms.
Stephenson Harwood has a strong record for its advice on financings, restructurings, operating leases, as well as sale and leasebacks, with a particular focus on operating lessors, as well as asset-backed securitisations funded on the US market . Practice head Edward Campbell, a member of the Paris, New York and English Bar, has an international practice and recently acted for Air Côte d'Ivoire on the financing of an Airbus A320-CEO by the African Development Bank. He also advised Lion Air Group on the acquisition and financing of multiple Boeing 737 and ATR 72 aircraft, a case which required US legal advice. Investment firm Castlelake recently joined Airasia and Crédit Industriel et Commercial on the practice's client list.