Banking and finance in Panama

Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee

Highlighted for its ‘technical excellence‘, Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee counts some of Panama’s largest banks among its clients, as well as acting for foreign banks with operations in Panama and large corporate borrowers. The team’s wide-ranging practice spans leveraged and acquisition finance, asset finance, project finance and real estate finance, and it also has notable expertise in M&A in the banking sector and in day-to-day regulatory matters. Cross-border deals, particularly those governed by New York law, are another area of strength. During the pandemic, the team has also seen an increase in work advising on debt refinancing, particularly for clients in the retail, hospitality and real estate sectors. The ‘always availableArturo Gerbaud, who is also the firm’s managing partner, leads the practice, while Eloy Alfaro B  and experienced senior associates Patricia Cordero and Rita de la Guardia are also key contacts. Since publication, both Cordero and de la Guardia have been raised to the partnership – effective January 2022.

Practice head(s):

Arturo Gerbaud

Testimonials

‘The knowledge and expertise of the lawyers in banking matters is important – they can provide timely and accurate advice and contracts applying the necessary regulations. Likewise, the team is aware of the importance of time, which is essential considering that when banks approve an operation, they require immediate formalisation.’

‘Specifically, the quality of service from Arturo Gerbaud is what makes the firm stand out. He is always available for a call or meeting, answers emails immediately and provides clear and precise advice that offers an instant solution.’

‘Alcogal operates like a boutique firm, with specialised lawyers who have extensive experience. In our opinion, the firm has the best team of specialists in banking law issues. The attorneys are accessible 24/7 and the level of responsiveness is impeccable.’

‘The team stands out for its technical excellence, availability 24/7, and ability to advise on various matters required for financial institutions.’

Key clients

Citibank

Grupo Aval

Banco Nacional de Panamá

Banistmo

Banco General

The Bank of Nova Scotia

Imperia Intercontinental

AES

Credito Real

St George’s Bank

Work highlights

  • Advised Latin American financial group Grupo Aval, through its subsidiary Leasing Bogota, on the acquisition of 96.6% of the shares of Multi Financial Group, a shareholder of Multibank and affiliates.
  • Advised Banco Nacional de Panamá on a loan of up to $360m subscribed with Banconal Covid Relief Facility, as lenders, with a MIGA guarantee, as part of the client’s strategy to provide liquidity to the Panamanian banking system.
  • Advised Banistmo and the Bank of Nova Scotia on a $400m credit facility granted to the Republic of Panama.

Arias, Fábrega & Fábrega

Arias, Fábrega & Fábrega's market-leading practice covers complex banking regulation, cross-border loans (particularly from foreign financial institutions in favour of Panamanian banks), and the financing of M&A in the financial services sector, both in Panama and in the Central American region. The team's extensive client roster includes many of the largest domestic banks, and it also acts for numerous major international financial institutions. The firm's membership of the Lex Mundi, Interlaw and Pacific Rim Advisory Council networks gives it additional international reach, and several members of the team are admitted to practise in New York and Florida. Practice head Estif Aparicio is particularly noted for his strength in project finance, while Ricardo Arango has significant expertise in regulatory matters. Other notable team members include Roy Durling and Rodrigo Cardoze and, at junior level, international senior associate Cedric Kinshots, who has particular project finance expertise, and senior associate Fernando Arias F.

Practice head(s):

Estif Aparicio

Key clients

Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior (Bladex)

Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI)

UBS

Bank of Nova Scotia, Scotiabank

Citibank / Citigroup Global Markets

Banco General

Global Bank

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

JPMorgan Chase

Work highlights

  • Advised JPMorgan Chase Bank and Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior (Bladex) on a $100m credit and guarantee agreement in favour of Imperia Intercontinental and related parties.
  • Acted as legal counsel to Goldman Sachs & Co, as mandated lead arranger, structuring agent and bookrunner, and its subsidiary Banconal Covid Relief Facility, as lender, in connection with a $360m term loan facility to state-owned bank Banco Nacional de Panamá (Banconal).
  • Advised Kairos Global Solutions, as lender, and Citibank, as arranger, on a $250m loan granted to Caja de Ahorros of Panama for a term of 15 years with a guarantee granted by MIGA.

Alfaro, Ferrer & Ramírez

Alfaro, Ferrer & Ramírez is particularly noted for its experience in advising foreign development agencies on multilateral financings, including project financing and on-lending operations. In addition, the team advises major lender and borrower clients on domestic and cross-border loans, and assists with day-to-day regulatory issues. At the head of the practice, Roberto Harrington focuses on transactional work, with notable strength in project finance, while María Cargiulo stands out for her regulatory expertise. Other key members of the team are Annette Bárcenas, who has extensive experience in the financing of public infrastructure projects, Alfredo Ramírez Jr and Juan Antonio Alfaro, who frequently advises on financing in the maritime, energy, and oil and gas sectors.

Practice head(s):

Roberto Harrington; María Cargiulo

Key clients

DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft DEG)

Inter-American Investment Corporation (IDB Invest)

Global Bank Corporation

Work highlights

  • Advised DEG on a $15m loan to Banco Internacional de Costa Rica to be used for on-lending of sub-loans to SMEs and small corporates in Central America.
  • Advising IDB Invest on a loan of $60m to a Panamanian entity, wholly owned by Selina Holding Company.
  • Advised Global Bank Corporation in connection with the refinancing of its obligations in the hydroelectric sector.

Galindo, Arias & López

'Knowledgeable, experienced, pragmatic and efficient', Galindo, Arias & López has notable experience in financial services regulatory compliance, project finance and asset finance, with particular niche expertise in financings in the aviation sector. It also advises on syndicated loans, debt refinancing, and leveraged and acquisition finance, acting for both lender banks and financial institutions and corporate borrowers, particularly in highly regulated sectors (including energy, aviation, real estate, telecoms and insurance). The practice is led by regulatory specialist Roberto de Araujo López and Salomón Behar, who focuses on project and real estate finance. Diego Herrera, who is experienced in advising international clients, as well as in project finance, and aviation finance expert Cristina Lewis de la Guardia are also noted members of the team.

Practice head(s):

Roberto De Araujo López; Salomón Behar

Testimonials

‘The team is up-to-date on all legal and technical issues in the banking industry, maintains an excellent relationship with the regulator and stands out for being proactive in seeking practical and quick solutions.’

‘They are distinguished from competitors by their relationships with clients as well as with regulators. They stand out in terms of their collaboration in the development of transactions.’

‘Knowledgeable, experienced, pragmatic and efficient.’

‘Concise, clear and direct advice. Customer resources are used effectively.’

‘What stands out about the team is their close relationship with clients and the quality of the service provided.’

Key clients

Copa Holdings

Atlantic Security Bank

Compañía Panameña de Aviación

BTMU (Europe)

BIBANK (Bicapital Corporation)

BCT Bank International

Balboa Bank and Trust

Altra Investments

Mercantil Colpatria

Cable Onda

Work highlights

  • Advised Copa Holdings and its subsidiaries with respect to a guaranteed revolving credit facility agreement for an initial amount of $105m (with a withdrawal option of up to $350m), in which Citigroup Global Markets acted as structuring agent.
  • Acted as Panamanian counsel to Cable Onda in connection with a loan agreement granted by the Bank of Nova Scotia in the amount of up to $110m, to be partially used to prepay publicly traded securities.
  • Advised ASB Bank on all issues related to obtaining a permanent international banking licence.

Morgan & Morgan

Morgan & Morgan acts for both lenders, including major foreign and domestic banks, and borrowers, advising on a wide range of financial matters. Among the areas of strength for the ‘excellent‘ team are project finance, particularly in relation to energy, mining and infrastructure projects, syndicated lending, banking sector M&A, and regulatory matters. It has additional expertise in insolvency and restructuring, areas which have been particularly active during the pandemic. Inocencio Galindo leads the team, which also includes the ‘committed‘ and ‘accessibleKharla Aizpurua Olmos, who stands out for her strength in domestic and cross-border transactions, Francisco Arias, who has expertise in structured finance and regulatory matters, and project finance specialist Ramón Varela. Senior associate Ana Carolina Castillo is also noted.

Practice head(s):

Inocencio Galindo

Testimonials

‘The firm is one of the largest (if not the largest in the country), which gives them a wide capacity. They have a presence in multiple jurisdictions and a wide international network, which facilitates the management of international business. It is a very old firm that has participated in iconic transactions in the country, which allows its partners to have a great experience in matters related to our practice.’

‘The size of the firm makes it possible to find specialists in all areas. Its lawyers are very active socially and politically, which means that their clients have a lot of accessibility to key people and institutions required for our management. The international coverage of the firm also allows for international transactions with end-to-end support.’

‘The Morgan & Morgan team gets involved in all aspects of the matter and they provide an excellent service, no matter what time it is or how long it takes. They have in-depth knowledge and advise us well on minimising risk. They are truly an example to follow. They are always accessible and we always feel very well attended to when we require it.’

‘Kharla Aizpurua understands the business, and is committed, accessible 24/7, enthusiastic and always comes up with a solution to our problems.’

‘This practice provides a thorough, efficient and personal service to its clients. Their focus is on the best outcome for the client.’

‘The team stands out for its agility and commitment to the client.’

‘They have excellent teams and when we need support from more than department, they have known how to work together to achieve optimal results.’

Key clients

Banistmo

Banco General

BBVA

Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation (CAT)

Citibank

Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF)

Credit Suisse

MMG Bank Corporation

Global Bank Corporation

HSBC Bank USA

Bank of China

International Finance Corporation (IFC)

Empresa Nacional de Autopistas (ENA)

BBP Bank

Davivienda

Banco Mercantil

ITAU Corpbank

Work highlights

  • Acted as Panamanian counsel to Itaú Corpbanca and other lenders on loans to Organización Decameron and Hoteles Decameron for the refinancing of the group’s debt.
  • Advised Avianca Holdings on a debtor-in-possession financing structure of over $2bn, pursuant to its reorganisation plan under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.
  • Advised Banistmo on a loan agreement of up to $315.6m for the financing of the acquisitions of CDNOs related to Line 2 of Panama City’s metro system.

Arias

With offices throughout Central America, Arias is well placed to advise on regional matters, with a focus on assisting international clients with the financing of local transactions. The team acts for both lenders and borrowers, and has been particularly active in advising investment funds on lending to Panamanian banks and financial institutions or investing in Panamanian businesses. It also advises on financial regulatory matters and project finance. The 'very pragmatic' Maria Cristina Fábrega leads the practice; she is skilled in handling multi-jurisdictional transactions and brings additional capital markets expertise to the team. Associate Ricardo Rocha advises on the tax aspects of financial transactions.

Practice head(s):

María Cristina Fábrega

Testimonials

‘Maria Cristina Fábrega is very pragmatic.’

‘The team stands out for its high level of professionalism, flexibility, attention to detail, specialisation and speed.’

Key clients

1st Source Bank

Corporación Interamericana para el Financiamiento de Infraestructura

Work highlights

  • Acted as counsel to 1st Source Bank, as the lender, in connection with the execution and delivery of a guaranty agreement with Synerjet, as guarantor, and TVPX Aircraft Solutions, as owner of the TVPX Synerjet Aircraft Business Trust, the borrower.
  • Advised Corporación Interamericana para el Financiamiento de Infraestructura, as the borrower, on a loan agreement with Cargill Financial Services International.

Dentons Muñoz

As part of the global Dentons network, Dentons Muñoz is well positioned to handle both domestic and international transactions, advising on debt refinancing, syndicated loans, project finance and financial regulatory matters. Clients include local and foreign banks and financial institutions, as well as large corporate borrowers. The team is also able to offer access to the Dentons Direct cloud system, which enables clients to track their matters and implement compliance structures. Practice head Gisela Porras, who is also managing partner of the Panama office, has extensive experience in multi-jurisdictional transactions. She is assisted by associate Angie Mei Sánchez, who has notable expertise in shipping finance.

Practice head(s):

Gisela Porras

Fabrega Molino

Fabrega Molino's varied client roster includes major local and international banks operating in Panama, trust companies and other financial institutions, and corporate borrowers. The team is experienced in acquisition finance, as well as in advising on regulatory issues and applications for bank and trust company licences. The practice is jointly led by Tatiana Abadía, who is noted for her strength in financing in the energy and natural resources, environmental and infrastructure sectors, as well as in capital markets matters, and Juan Pablo Fabrega, who has additional expertise in corporate and insurance law. Jorge Molina Mendoza is also noted for banking litigation.

Practice head(s):

Tatiana Abadía; Juan Pablo Fabrega

Testimonials

‘Tatiana Abadía’s work was impeccable and she made a very good impression on us.’

‘Tatiana Abadía is excellent both technically and in her ability to adapt to cross-border transactions and provide us with valuable knowledge about the jurisdiction.’

‘Tatiana Abadía has an unbeatable immediacy and responsiveness. She is always available and adds value in terms of her adaptability and management of clients and matters in Panama.’

Icaza, González-Ruiz & Alemán

With ‘extensive knowledge of the banking sector‘, Icaza, González-Ruiz & Alemán is particularly noted for its strength in project finance, advising on developments in the real estate, infrastructure, tourism, transportation and energy sectors. During the pandemic, the team has been increasingly active advising on refinancings in the local market, and it also assists with regulatory issues and obtaining banking licences. Local banks make up a large part of the team’s client roster, in addition to international financial institutions and corporate borrowers. The team is led by the experienced trio of Gabriel González-Ruiz, who is particularly active on project finance mandates, Michelle O de de la Guardia and Luis Chalhoub. The practice group was further strengthened with the raising of Mariano Oteiza Díaz to the partnership in September 2021.

Practice head(s):

Gabriel González-Ruiz; Michelle O. de de la Guardia; Luis Chalhoub

Testimonials

‘The firm stands out for its extensive knowledge of the banking sector and the availability of the partners.’

‘They work well as a team compared to other firms.’

‘For banking and fiduciary matters, Luis Chalhoub deserves to be highlighted as a specialist in the field.’

Key clients

The Bank of Nova Scotia (Panamá)

Ministry of Economy and Finance of Panama

JP Morgan Chase Bank, National Association

Global Bank Corporation

Bicsa Capital

Citibank

Banco Nacional

Banvivienda

BHD International Bank

Work highlights

  • Advised Metro de Panama on two refinancing transactions relating to the project for the construction of Line 2 of the Panama Metro.
  • Advised Caja de Ahorros in a credit operation through BBVA worth $200m, with a MIGA guarantee, to finance its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Advised the Superintendency of Banks on the constitution of a trust that will serve as a liquidity fund with an endowment that will reach up to $1bn so that banks with a general licence in Panama can solve their liquidity insufficiencies due to the pandemic.

Patton, Moreno & Asvat

Aviation finance specialist María de Lourdes Marengo leads the team at Patton, Moreno & Asvat, which is well positioned to advise international clients on complex, multi-jurisdictional transactions thanks to its additional offices in London and Uruguay. The team has notable expertise in asset finance (particularly in the aviation and maritime sectors), and has also seen a recent increase in activity advising corporate clients affected by the pandemic, particularly those in the tourism and infrastructure sectors, on debt refinancings. Nadya Price, who is experienced in project and shipping finance, is another noted member of the team.

Practice head(s):

María de Lourdes Marengo

Arosemena Noriega & Contreras

Arosemena Noriega & Contreras is highly active in advising international banks and financial institutions on loans to Panamanian corporations, but also counts local banks and borrowers from the maritime, industrial, commercial and service sectors among its clients. Its position as the Panama member of Club de Abogados Iberoamérica, a network of firms in Central and South America, Spain and Portugal, gives the practice a further international reach. Managing partner Julio Contreras III leads the team, and has additional expertise in capital markets transactions. Associate Mario Rognoni provides key support.

Practice head(s):

Julio Contreras III

Key clients

Banco del Pacifico – Ecuador

Agencias Cruz del Sur/Southern Cross Agencies

Goodrich, Riquelme & Associates

Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations Panama

Sony Inter-American

Agence France-Presse

LOVILL

Lovill has notable experience in fintech matters and M&A in the financial services sector, as well as syndicated loans and the restructuring of credit facilities. The team focuses on acting for banks operating in the region, foreign investment funds and trust companies, and corporations in the key sectors of services, commerce, real estate and hospitality. Practice head Elizabeth Heurtematte, who is based in Tokyo and Panama City, has longstanding experience in cross-border transactions, while associate Ana Carolina Ureña brings additional tax expertise to the team.

Practice head(s):

Elizabeth Heurtematte

Testimonials

‘They are very meticulous in the reviewing of the contract, ensuring that we are well protected. They also have the time to explain and understand every concern we have and our responsibilities. It is important to stress that Lovill has earned our trust by always proposing the best way to deal with the different problems we have had and all the legal solutions they have proposed to us resulted in a win-win solution.’

‘They stand out because they have the ability to understand the different situations we might encounter and always give us the best advice. They are also available and have the time to listen and understand us and correct us if necessary. Elizabeth Heurtematte is the leader in Lovill and has gained our trust.’

Key clients

Lafise Panama

Bac Credomatic Panama

Visa

Riba Smith

Grupo Terra

Pacifica Petroleum

Financiera Autocash

Grupo Q

E-Credit

SGS Panama Control Services

Sofistic/Soluciones CuatroOchenta

Work highlights

  • Advised Visa on the acquisition of mobile payment fintech company YellowPepper Group.
  • Assisted a private bank established in Panama with the due diligence of an international financial group which intended to acquire the client.
  • Advising Financiera Autocash, a subsidiary of Select Management, on financial regulatory and other matters.

Pardini & Asociados

Aviation finance is a key area of expertise for the team at Pardini & Asociados, which counts several major international airlines among its clients, as well as financial institutions and aircraft leasing companies. The team is also experienced in shipping finance and in the financing of large-scale mining and energy projects, often representing multinationals with operations in Panama. Practice head Juan Francisco Pardini has notable strength in financial transactions in the mining sector, while Juan José Espino specialises in aviation and shipping finance.

Practice head(s):

Juan Pardini

Key clients

United Airlines

FedEx

Lufthansa

Air China

Wheaton Precious Metals

MLM Leasing

Boodle Hatfield

Repsol

Exxon

National Bank of Kuwait

Work highlights

  • Advised Wheaton Precious Metals on a $200m financing.
  • Assisted Swiss Law Group with a $100m shipping finance transaction.
  • Advised MLM Leasing USA on the redrafting of an aircraft lease financing agreement.

Quijano & Associates

Oliver Muñoz leads the wide-ranging practice at Quijano & Associates, which covers syndicated and secured lending, cross-border financing, corporate finance and debt restructuring. The team is also skilled in regulatory matters, including advising on obtaining licences to operate in Panama's banking sector. Clients include lenders and borrowers, ranging from banks and financial institutions to stockbrokers and investment management companies. In addition, the firm has launched QA Hub, an online platform offering clients secure access to their portfolios and accounts.

Practice head(s):

Oliver Muñoz

SB&Co. Legal

SB&Co. Legal (previously Sucre, Briceño & Co) advises both local and international financial institutions on financial matters ranging from foreign investment to regulatory issues and obtaining banking licences. Fernando Sucre and associate Jhoanna Fong are the key contacts.

Practice head(s):

Fernando Sucre; Jhoanna Fong

Virtù Atelier Legal

With 'extensive knowledge and experience in the market', financial services boutique Virtù Atelier Legal acts for banks located in Panama and elsewhere in Latin America, as well as international companies investing in local real estate and tourism projects, and family-owned businesses. The team has been particularly active recently advising on the restructuring of debt, but also assists with syndicated loans, regulatory and licensing issues, and capital markets matters. While the firm saw the departure of Maricarmen Plata for an in-house role in the US in January 2021, it has moved rapidly to hire Marelissa Quintero, a former legal head at the Superintendent's Office of the Panama Stock Exchange, in July 2021. She joins the 'highly respected' Ana Lucrecia Tovar and Melissa Cortizo as key members of the team.

Practice head(s):

Ana Lucrecia Tovar

Testimonials

‘Specialised client service and a legal team with extensive knowledge and experience in the market.’

‘Melissa Cortizo and Ana Lucrecia Tovar are recognised and highly respected for their expertise and that makes them a highly prestigious firm.’