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The ‘flexible and results-orientated’ team at A&L Goodbody is highlighted for their ‘excellent industry knowledge and very good response times’. The group primarily acts for local and international banks and investment firms, but is also experienced in advising borrowers. The group handles a wide range of matters including refinancings, loan portfolio sales, financial services regulatory matters and project financings for a client base that includes real estate, energy and retail sector players. Highlights included advising real estate investment management firm, Tristan Capital, on the refinancing of two retail outlets worth £20m. The team also acted as Northern Ireland counsel for the European Investment Bank on a £150m bilateral loan provided to Choice Housing Ireland Limited to finance a number of social housing schemes in Northern Ireland. Other key clients include Ulster Bank, which the firm advises on significant project financing in Northern Ireland; Bank of Ireland, which the firm assisted with the refinancing of a large property portfolio owned by the McGeown property group; and Danske Bank. The ‘knowledgeable and responsiveJudith Brown heads the team, which includes project finance expert Ciaran McAlinney and Louise Bailey, who are recommended for their ‘proactive attitude to dealing with issues and their commercial approach’.

The ‘highly competent’ finance team at Arthur Cox Belfast attracts praise for its ability to provide a full service and for its ‘high standard of professionalism and excellent response times’. The team acts for traditional lenders such as Danske Bank, as well as investment funds and private equity firms such as Cerberus European servicing, making it a natural choice for distressed debt purchases and refinancings. In a highlight matter for 2016, the firm acted for Promontoria Eagle, a special purpose vehicle established by Cerberus, on a high-value debt restructuring connected to the acquisition of loans from NAMA. Real estate continues to be an active area; highlights included advising Danske Bank on the multimillion-pound financing of Starplan Limited’s acquisition of retail units in Belfast. The group also acted for Nationwide Building Society on a syndicated loan provided to Forest Commercial Limited for the financing of a hotel, office and residential project. The highly regarded Kieran McGarrigle leads the team, which includes associate Colm McElroy.

Carson McDowell’s team, which is ‘quick to respond and reliable’, acts for lenders and borrowers on a range of financings and securitisation transactions spanning the real estate, renewable energy and infrastructure sectors. Housing is a particular growth area; highlights included acting for Bank of Ireland in a £65m facility to the Northern Ireland Co-Ownership Housing Association to provide 2,800 new homes across the region. In an illustration of its refinancing capability, the team acted for Belfast International Airport on the refinancing of its £30m banking facilities with the AIB Group. Other highlights included advising NTR on the financing of wind farm projects, and acting for a consortium of investment funds on the acquisition of mortgage loans and security and the subsequent sale of GE Money’s residual mortgage book in the UK. Recent team changes include the recruitment of Emma Copeland, who joined from John McKee Solicitors in August 2016; and the retirement of Tom Adair in April 2016. Sinead McGrath heads the practice, which includes associates Graeme McKee and Naomi Gaston.

One of the best in the region’, Tughans’ ‘very knowledgeable and commercial’ team acts for a range of banks, investment firms and corporates on corporate finance, restructurings, project finance and property development, among other areas. Highlights included acting for key client Stranmillis Investments on the refinancing of a £30m commercial and residential property portfolio; the team is also advising the same client on equity loan capital and refinancing for a joint venture company, Straben Limited, worth in excess of £24m. David McAleese has been leading for Stranimillis Investments and is recommended for his property and corporate finance and restructuring expertise. He jointly leads the practice with the ‘very organised, responsive and commercialFearghal O’Loan. Other clients include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which the firm advised on the amendment and restatement of loan facilities, confirmation of securities and revision of corporate guarantees relating to the acquisition of a portfolio of 23 hotels; First Trust Bank, which the firm is continuing to advise on the financing of wind turbines across Northern Ireland; and corporate MJM Damolly, which the firm advised on the financing of the purchase of a retail park in Newry.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s finance practice predominantly acts for lenders, and its client base, which includes Nationwide, Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland and Royal Bank of Scotland, represents a who’s who of the major financial institutions active in Northern Ireland. The practice’s expertise spans corporate finance, acquisition finance, debt financing and loan portfolio disposals, and is able to draw on the firm’s wider expertise in real estate, environmental and planning law, as well as litigation, where necessary. Christopher Neill led the team acting for Danske Bank on the £30m asset financing provided to the LacPatrick group to fund the construction of a new manufacturing plant in County Tyrone. In another highlight, Deborah Archer led the advice to HSBC on a £95m financing package to fund Wiggle Group’s acquisition of Chain Reaction Cycles, which was one of the largest acquisition financings in Northern Ireland in 2016. Project finance expert Stephen Cross heads the practice and is praised for being an ‘excellent lawyer with deep industry knowledge’; he led the team advising Royal Bank of Scotland on £94m of facilities to finance the development of Northern Ireland’s first utility-scale solar firm.

John McKee Solicitors attracts praise for its ‘breadth of experience and knowledge’ and for its ‘long history of working with banks and financial services firms’. The group acts primarily for lenders including Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and Danske Bank, a new client for the firm. Renewable energy and social housing have been key areas for the firm; Alison Reid and Philip McBride have been advising their lender clients on security issues arising from wind farm options and leases, while practice head Avril McCammonacts for a number of housing association. In a standout transaction for 2016, McCammon led the team acting for Bank of Ireland on a funding package provided to RiverRidge Recycling to support the company’s continued growth strategy and its existing treatment and operations infrastructure. In another highlight for 2016, McCammon assisted Ulster Bank with the financing for the purchase of Open and Direct by insurance group Prestige. Julie Huddleston left the firm in early 2017 and Emma Copeland joined Carson McDowell in July 2016.

The finance practice at Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP is praised for its ‘strong business understanding and excellent response times’. The group acts primarily for institutional lenders such as Dankse Bank and Bank of Ireland, but also acts for borrowers; recent highlights include advising Tristan Capital Partners and its JV partner Ellandi on a £37m loan to finance the acquisition of Bloomfield Shopping Centre in Bangor. Lender-side highlights included advising Royal Bank of Scotland on £30m-worth of syndicated development and investment facilities provided to Curlew for the purposes of developing student accommodation. Other clients include Barclays Bank and AIB. The ‘thorough and informative’ Caroline MacLaughlin and Jane Boyd are praised for being ‘efficient and proactive’.

TLT’s well-respected finance team acts for borrowers as well as lenders. Property continues to be a key area of activity, and the firm has been engaged in a number of energy and project financing transactions. In a highlight for 2016, practice head Richard Houliston advised a consortium of Hong Kong-based investors on a £10m mezzanine loan related to the acquisition of a portfolio of properties in Scotland. The group also advised the lenders on a multimillion-pound financing of a wind turbine. Other banking clients include Royal Bank of Scotland. Senior associate Anna Vangrove is another key name.

DWF’s banking and finance team acts for a range of traditional and alternative lenders and has been active in acquisition financing transactions and refinancings. Recent clients include US investment fund, Fortress, and lenders including AIB and Bank of Ireland. Finance expert Ian Stanfield leads the team.

Elliott Duffy Garrett’s ‘thorough and very professional’ team attracts praise for being ‘excellent on urgent matters and good value for money’. Social housing has been a key area of activity for the firm, which has been advising housing associations on a range of financings for property development purposes, with values in excess of £30m. Other clients include Leeds Building Society, Danske Bank and Tennent’s NI. Kevin McVeigh leads the practice, which includes associates Patricia Beckett, Cathy Murphy and John McElrone.

Millar McCall Wylie LLP’s finance team, which acts for a balanced client base of borrowers and lenders, has been particularly active in numerous refinancing transactions and loan sales. Highlights included advising Fairfield Real Estate Finance on the financing of its £6m acquisition of the Tower Centre, one of Northern Ireland’s largest shopping centres, which involved the purchase of the property from administrators; and advising Sycamore Heights on a £3m mezzanine loan provided to refinance debts owed by Straben Limited to Cerberus Capital Management. Other clients include the Bank of Ireland and AIB Group. Andrew Kerr leads the team.

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