Shipping finance in France
Norton Rose Fulbright primarily acts for financial institutions, and is also experienced in advising export credit agencies and shipping companies. With the French-English dual-qualified Christine Ezcutari at the helm, the practice demonstrates particular strength in structured financing and export credit financing work. Counsel Alexandre Roth is also noted.
Stephenson Harwood 'can handle a ship financing from A to Z' and is 'a real partner' for its clients with 'the whole team available for on-the-spot questions and longer projects'. The practice 'provides clients with strict and professional analyses of risks and opportunities' and 'really is adapted to an international context', which is demonstrated through the group's global work for clients including major financial institutions, ship operators and transport service providers. Practice head Alain Gautron advised Silversea Cruises and BNP Paribas on a $550m senior secured notes issuance to refinance Silversea Cruises' existing debt and repurchase a cruise ship. The team also negotiated the construction and financing of ten small Arctic and Antarctic expedition cruise vessels for SunStone Ships. Other clients include Jifmar Offshore Services, Corsica Ferries and La Banque Postale. Counsel Aude de Chavanne is another key contact.
Watson Farley & Williams LLP
Watson Farley & Williams LLP has seen an increase in restructurings, workouts and enforcements for lenders, and continues to handle notable export credit agency financing work. Recent matters include advising Brittany Ferries on the €178m financing of the 'Honfleur' ferry, which involved a consortium of banks including Société Générale Corporate and Investment Banking as main arranger; and assisting Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, SACE and a syndicate of banks with the export credit agency-backed financing of four cruise vessels. The French-qualified Laurence Martinez-Bellet and the English-qualified Alexia Russell jointly head the practice. Clients also include BNP Paribas, HSH Nordbank and Danish shipping and logistics player DFDS.
HFW is particularly experienced in structured and tax-advantaged finance work, which is a specialism of practice head Jean-Marc Zampa. In recent work, Zampa advised Ingepar on the French tax lease financing and delivery of four new bulk carrier vessels for Sucden, and assisted Crédit Industriel et Commercial with the refinancing of two vessels for CMA CGM. Natixis is also a key client. Senior associate Serge Rastorgoueff joined Bignon Lebray in 2018.
The 'dedicated' team at Hogan Lovells (Paris) LLP impresses with its 'extensive experience'. 'As a go-to team in the field', the practice combines 'good knowledge of the market with the capacity to adapt and find workable solutions'. The group's portfolio of expertise comprises all vessel types, with substantial debt, tax-structured and capital market financing expertise. In a recent highlight, Société Générale instructed the team on the structuring of the unwinding of the existing financing for two container ships chartered to Cosco, including the drafting of indemnity provisions for different creditors and the unwinding of tax leases and hedge agreements. BNP Paribas Suisse, UBS and Natixis are also clients. 'Excellent lawyer' and practice head Alexander Premont 'is very much available for his clients' and 'very reliable'.
Ince Gordon Dadds LLP
Ince exclusively acts for shipowners, which it assists with a broad spectrum of financing instruments ranging from bilateral loan facilities to syndicated financings, lease financings and export credit agency financings. Led by Aymeric de Tapol, the team is especially active in matters in the luxury yacht sector and work with a cross-border element; the group recently assisted Louis Dreyfus Armateurs with the negotiation of the sale and leaseback of two bulk carriers with Norwegian investor Ocean Yield involving issues in France, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malta and Norway. Hapag-Lloyd, Société Générale Private Banking and new client EDF are 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.
At Reed Smith, the arrival of the former White & Case LLP team under the leadership of Victoria Westcott signals the beginning of the firm's shipping finance practice in the French market. With the combined track records of Westcott and counsel Florent Rigaud, the practice provides wide-ranging financing expertise including tax-driven financing structures, restructurings, vessel portfolio securitisations, export credit agency-backed financings, and tax leasing structures.
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP focuses on acting for liners and shipyards, and handles a wide variety of mandates including debt financings, sale and leaseback issues, high-yield financing work and restructuring matters. Brice Pommiès heads up the practice and advised CMA CGM on a $205m revolving credit facility to strengthen the group's liquidity. Chantiers de l'Atlantique and Neptune Orient Lines are also clients.