Banking and finance in Panama

Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee

The ‘exceptional‘ banking and finance team at Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee counts some of Panama’s largest banks among its clients, and routinely advises major international financial institutions on high-value, cross-border financing transactions. Besides being a go-to choice for lenders in the country, the group is regularly instructed by an impressive roster of multinationals on borrower-side mandates. Significant areas of expertise range from leveraged and acquisition finance to asset finance, project finance and lending transactions involving the real estate sector. The practice, which is particularly active in the energy, hospitality and aviation segments, is also noted for its ongoing regulatory advice to domestic banks and other financial institutions. Described as ‘one of the best lawyers in the country‘, Arturo Gerbaud leads the practice. Other notable practitioners include the highly regarded Eloy Alfaro, a key contact for financings involving multiple jurisdictions, and Rita de la Guardia, Patricia Cordero and Rafael Marquínez, all of whom were promoted to partner in January 2022.

Practice head(s):

Arturo Gerbaud

Testimonials

‘Efficient, agile service, high-quality ideas and advice.’

‘In banking matters, Arturo Gerbaud is 100% reliable and trustworthy – one of the best lawyers in the country. We feel fortunate to have him as a lawyer.’

‘Rafael Marquínez provides immediate responses and is available at all times through chat, call and email.’

‘ALCOGAL stands out for its personalised and extremely attentive service. Their teams are available 24/7 and the technical level is exceptional. Probably one of the firms with the best expertise in banking matters in the country.’

‘What stands out is the team’s availability, accessibility, tremendous technical strength, creativity and attention to detail. The level of support is exceptional.’

‘Highly qualified and committed to the client.’

‘Always willing to look for different legal avenues to achieve the client’s objectives.’

Key clients

Citibank

JP Morgan Chase

Banco Nacional de Panamá

Banistmo

Banco General

The Bank of Nova Scotia

BAC

Global Bank

Grupo Aval

Multibank

Banco Davivienda

Banco Ficohsa Panamá

Credit Suisse

Banco Santander Central Hispano

Julius Baer

Grupo Poll (Inversiones Vilma)

Work highlights

  • Advised JP Morgan Chase Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Citigroup Global Markets, as arrangers, as well as the lenders, in connection with a credit facility of up to $200m to Global Bank Corporation.
  • Advised Banco General and Banistmo, as the lenders, on the restructuring of a secured syndicated loan of $165m to Costa Del Este Town Center Group.
  • Assisted the Bank of Nova Scotia, Banco Internacional de Costa Rica (BICSA), Unibank and Mercantil Banco in the restructuring of a secured $40m syndicated loan to Evolution to finance the operation of the W Hotel in Panama.

Arias, Fábrega & Fábrega

Arias, Fábrega & Fábrega‘s wide-ranging banking and finance practice is singled out for its wealth of experience in assisting major international financial institutions on cross-border lending transactions in Panama and the Central American region. High-profile domestic transactions also feature on the team’s busy workload, which is further populated by financial restructurings of companies from the infrastructure, energy, retail and aviation sectors. The firm – a member of the Lex Mundi, Interlaw and Pacific Rim Advisory Council networks- offers additional expertise in the fields of financial services M&A and banking regulations, often advising on banking and trust licensing issues. Department head Estif Aparicio stands out for his strength in project finance, particularly in the energy and transportation sectors. He receives support from other key practitioners in the team including Ricardo Arango, a specialist in regulatory issues, newly promoted partner Fernando Arias F and international associate Cedric Kinschots, the latter of whom is noted for his experience in project finance.

Alfaro, Ferrer & Ramírez

With notable expertise in acting for multilateral development agencies on project finance and on-lending mandates, Alfaro, Ferrer & Ramírez‘s sizeable banking and finance team is sought by both domestic and international clients engaged in high-value, often cross-border transactions. The practice, which fields strong credentials in lender and borrower-side instructions, is also highly regarded for its regulatory expertise and in-depth knowledge of the banking sector. On the transactional side of the practice, Alfredo Ramírez Jr and the ‘superRoberto Harrington are key contacts, advising on complex projects and multilateral financings, while Luis López Alfaro and María Alejandra Cargiulo are the names to note for regulatory matters. Also recommended, Annette Bárcenas focuses on the financing of infrastructure projects. The strong associate cohort includes Ana Cristina Negrón and Alfredo Ramírez Pabón, the latter of whom excels in real estate finance.

Practice head(s):

Alfredo Ramírez Jr; Luis López Alfaro; Roberto Harrington; María Alejandra Cargiulo

Testimonials

‘Roberto Harrington is super.’

Key clients

Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG)

Inter-American Investment Corporation (IDB Invest)

Global Bank Corporation

Corporación Interamericana para el Financiamiento de Infraestructura (CIFI)

Safra Bank Lux

Banesco

Corporación Andina de Fomento

Citi

Work highlights

  • Advised Inter-American Development Bank on its $5m loan to property developer Caribe Hospitality (CHSA) to finance the working capital requirements of its portfolio of companies.
  • Assisted DEG with transactional and regulatory matters regarding a long-term senior loan of $50m to Multibank to finance on-lending and sub-loans to SMEs in Panama.
  • Advised Inter-American Development Bank on its $8m investment in the Panamanian holding company of Farmalisto, a leading healthcare platform in Latin America.

Galindo, Arias & López

An impressive roster of lender and borrower clients turn to Galindo, Arias & López for advice on high-profile financing transactions taking place in the Panamanian market and involving other jurisdictions. Demonstrating considerable expertise in highly regulated sectors, notably energy, real estate and telecoms, the firm particularly stands out for its dedicated aviation finance practice, led by the highly experienced Cristina Lewis de la Guardia. The team, which has reported a recent uptick in instructions related to ESG-related financings, is chaired by Roberto de Araujo López, a leading figure in the market for regulatory issues affecting the financial services sector. Diego Herrera and Jose Luis Sosa, both of whom possess a strong track record in project finance, are other key contacts.

Practice head(s):

Roberto de Araujo López

Key clients

Copa Holdings

Atlantic Security Bank

Compañía Panameña de Aviación

BiBank (Bicapital Corporation)

BAC International Bank

Mercantil Banco

Altra Investments

Mercantil Colpatria

ASB Bank

Cable Onda

Banco del Pichincha Panama

Finance in Motion

Work highlights

  • Advised Copa Holdings on the purchase of seven Boeing 737-9 MAX aircraft, delivered to its subsidiary Copa Airlines, under a financing guaranteed by the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
  • Acted as Panamanian counsel to Lenus Capital Partners in connection with the acquisition and financing of Socimédicos, the owner and administrator of IPS Clínica San Rafael, a hospital in Pereira, Colombia, as part of the client’s strategy of deploying over $400m in the Colombian health sector.
  • Advised Eco Business Fund and its fund manager Finance in Motion on two different unsecured loans to banks licensed in Panama, Unibank and Banco Internacional de Costa Rica (BICSA), for an aggregate amount of up to $40m.

Morgan & Morgan

Morgan & Morgan‘s ‘broad interdisciplinary team‘ handles both large-cap financing deals and regulatory issues on behalf of a diverse client base that includes leading domestic and international banks, financial institutions, public entities and corporations. The team- which is rated for ‘its knowledge of Panamanian regulations‘- has been highly active in large-scale domestic lending transactions, most notably the financing of significant infrastructure projects, but is also well placed to offer ‘support in structures involving different jurisdictions‘. Also noteworthy is the firm’s newly established practice dedicated to start-ups in the fintech sector, and its remarkable strength in insolvency matters. Kharla Aizpurúa, who is recognised for her experience in project finance and syndicated lending, leads the team alongside the highly endorsed Inocencio Galindo. Francisco Arias is a name to note for structured finance and regulatory matters, while Ramón Varela specialises in project finance and senior associate Ana Carolina Castillo focuses on energy-related transactions.

Practice head(s):

Kharla Aizpurúa; Inocencio Galindo

Testimonials

‘Probably the largest firm in the country, it has a very broad interdisciplinary team that covers all areas and legal issues that a financial entity may require.’

‘Legally, it is a very strong team from a technical perspective, with exceptional response times and a high level of availability. The team’s strength is in the wide range of connections it maintains within various political, business and cultural fields in the country, which greatly leverages the services they provide. It also has operational offices in the main cities of the world, which allows it to provide support in cross-border transactions.’

‘They provide high-quality answers in a timely manner. Compared to other firms, they stand out for the agility in their responses, particularly in banking matters, and they know the importance of serving clients and their needs.’

‘The team stands out for its knowledge of Panamanian regulations and appropriate support in structures involving different jurisdictions.’

‘Always available to support the client.’

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

Avianca Holdings

Work highlights

  • Acted as Panamanian counsel to Avianca in connection with the financial and corporate restructuring process implemented to emerge from Chapter 11 proceedings in the US.
  • Advised Banistmo on a multimillion-dollar financing agreement related to the construction of Line 3 of the Panama Metro system, one of the largest public infrastructure projects in the country.
  • Advised Seven Seas Water Corporation on a $205m financing by Deutsche Bank and Investec Bank to refinance a credit facility obtained by the client to finance its portfolio of desalination and water supply projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Arias

Benefiting from a strong network of offices across the Central American region, the Panama-based banking and finance team at Arias is experienced in complex, region-wide transactions involving financing facilities and debt restructurings. The practice was particularly active in advising foreign funds and multilateral development agencies on providing injections of capital to Panamanian financial institutions during the Covid-19 pandemic. Its broad service offering also covers project finance and financial regulatory matters. The practice is led by Maria Cristina Fábrega, who has notable experience in multi-jurisdictional lending transactions, and also includes Yuri Moreno, a key contact for shipping finance mandates.

Practice head(s):

María Cristina Fábrega

Key clients

PRB

Sotheby

EMF Microfinance Fund

Blue Orchard

1st Source Bank

Banco Agrícola

United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC)

Huruma Fund Sicar-Eusef

Leader Global Solutions

Work highlights

  • Advised PRB Financial on the $80m debt restructuring of its operations in Central America, as well as the restructuring of its debt in Mexico.
  • Advised Blue Orchard Microfinance Fund, as the lender, on a $25m loan to Banco La Hipotecaria to provide an injection of capital during the pandemic.
  • Acted as local counsel to the DFC and Citibank, as the lenders, in connection with the provision of a facility of $100m to CrediQ El Salvador and CrediQ Costa Rica.

Fabrega Molino

Praised for its wealth of ‘knowledge and experience‘ in the banking and finance area and ‘comprehensive vision of the law‘, the team at Fabrega Molino offers legal support to major domestic and international banks, trust companies and other financial institutions, as well as corporate borrowers. Regulatory issues related to the establishment and operation of banking entities, including licensing issues, are a core area of focus for the team, which is also frequently retained in high-value transactions, with an emphasis on project finance and syndicated lending. ‘Brilliant‘ of counsel Tatiana Abadía, who is particularly skilled in financing transactions in the energy and infrastructure sectors, oversees the department.

Practice head(s):

Tatiana Abadia

Testimonials

‘This practice is unique in its availability, affability and close relationships with clients who require its services. The lawyers have a comprehensive vision of the law and always have a solution or strategy at hand.’

‘What stands out are the personal qualities of the lawyers and other team members. Tatiana Abadía, apart from being a very open and receptive person, is a brilliant and alert lawyer when it comes to banking and financial regulation issues.’

‘Availability to review documents at short notice. Responses received on time. Observations, recommendations and comments with a solid legal basis that take into account what is best for our institution.’

‘The team stands out for its personalised services, timely responses and kindness. They have a lot of knowledge and experience in their practice area.’

Icaza, González-Ruiz & Alemán

Icaza, González-Ruiz & Alemán fields a ‘thorough and effective‘ banking and finance practice which garners particular praise for its work in the project finance space, where it handles mandates in the energy, transport and infrastructure sectors. The team has recently seen an uptick in complex, cross-border transactions, and continues to attract instructions from state-owned entities, local banks, other financial institutions and corporate borrowers. Gabriel González-Ruiz, who has longstanding expertise in advising international consortiums on high-profile project finance transactions, jointly heads up the group with the recommended Luis Chalhoub and Michelle O de de la Guardia. At the associate level, Alfredo Fonseca stands out for his experience in energy and infrastructure-related transactions.

Practice head(s):

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

Testimonials

‘The quick responses to our queries, level of knowledge and the diversity of branches of law they cover mean the practice is thorough and effective in meeting our needs.’

‘Luis Chalhoub stands out for his professionalism, his high level of knowledge and constant updates, in addition to his good relationships with the supervisory entities, allowing us to maintain an open and effective channel of communication.’

Key clients

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation

Natixis

AES Panama

HPH Consortium

The Bank of Nova Scotia

Global Bank Corporation

BHD International Bank

Bac International Bank

Ministry of Economy and Finance of Panama

Atlas Bank

Work highlights

  • Advised the HPH Consortium (formed by Hyundai Engineering & Construction, Posco Engineering & Construction and Hyundai Engineering) on the $2bn financing of Line 3 of the Panama Metro.
  • Advised the Bank of Nova Scotia on a $50m loan to Costa Norte LNG Terminal and Gas Natural Atlántico to finance the expansion of the regasification facilities of Costa Norte LNG Terminal.
  • Advised Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Natixis on the provision of a loan for the construction of a gas plant in Colón.

Arosemena Noriega & Contreras

Arosemena Noriega & Contreras  is a popular destination for international financial institutions, especially those based in the US, seeking assistance in banking and finance matters, as well as Panamanian entities engaged in cross-border loans. The firm – a member of the Club de Abogados Iberoamérica network of Latin American and European firms – also provides advice on bank registrations, licensing and refinancings. Finance and capital markets specialist Julio Contreras III leads the practice, receiving key support from associate Mario Rognoni, who is particularly skilled in multi-jurisdictional mandates.

Practice head(s):

Julio C. Contreras III

Key clients

Banco del Pacifico

Agencias Cruz del Sur en Español y Southern Cross Agencies

Goodrich, Riquelme & Associates

Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations Panama

Sony Inter-American

Agence France-Presse

Dentons Muñoz

At Dentons Muñoz, the banking and finance department is able to draw on the firm’s global network to advise both domestic and international clients, including lenders and borrowers, on an array of financing transactions and regulatory issues. Typical instructions range from debt financing and loan security packages, to project finance, asset finance, and financial and insurance regulatory matters, among others. Managing partner Gisela Porras has particular expertise in multi-jurisdictional transactions.

LOVILL

Lovill has notable experience advising Panamanian corporations from a range of sectors, including real estate, retail and hospitality, on cross-border loan agreements with international financial institutions, as well as assisting banks and financial services providers with transactional and regulatory matters. The team stands out for its expertise in the fintech sector, and proven track record in M&A in the financial services space. Practice head Elizabeth Heurtematte, who divides her time between Panama City and Tokyo, is skilled in syndicated and cross-border financings. She is supported by associate Ana Carolina Ureña, who focuses on advising investment firms and multinational companies, and possesses additional expertise in tax law.

Practice head(s):

Elizabeth Heurtematte

Testimonials

‘LOVILL provided us with an agile service and presented us with efficient solutions to perfect our investments in a satisfactory manner.’

‘Ana Carolina Ureña was available to assist us, even during holidays.’

Key clients

Visa

Inversiones CrediQ Business

Banco Lafise Panamá

BAC Credomatic

Inversiones Amilena

Grupo Terra/Uno

Banco Agrícola

SGS Central America

Financiera Autocash

Riba Smith

Work highlights

  • Advised Grupo Q and its Panamanian subsidiary, as guarantor, on a loan of over $100m granted by Citibank and the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to alleviate the impact of Covid-19 on businesses in the region.
  • Advised Grupo Q on a $101m dual-tranche syndicated credit agreement with Banco Latinoamericano De Comercio Exterior (Bladex).
  • Advising fintech company Yellowpepper, which was recently acquired by Visa, on regulatory issues relating to its financial products.

Pardini & Asociados

Pardini & Asociados‘ ‘very responsive‘ banking and finance team has a strong reputation for advising international clients on their investments in Panama. In addition, the practice is highly active in asset finance transactions, demonstrating notable expertise in the financing of ships, aircraft and real estate. Clients include family-owned businesses and multinationals. The practice is led by managing partner Juan Francisco Pardini, who specialises in banking, asset and structured finance, and Juan José Espino, who has expertise in foreign investments.

Practice head(s):

Juan Francisco Pardini; Juan José Espino

Testimonials

‘We found them to be very responsive. Their services were offered at a good price and were delivered in a timely fashion.’

Key clients

Wheaton Precious Metals

MLM Leasing

Vosges Shipping

Work highlights

  • Acted as Panamanian counsel to Wheaton Precious Metals on a $200m precious metals financing, including senior secured gold-linked notes.
  • Advised Vosges Shipping on the ship financing of the vessel Hecate, including advising on security arrangements, financing and ship mortgage regulations, and the registration of ship financing facilities in Panama.
  • Advised MLM Leasing on the financing of the lease of two aircraft for a new regional airline, as well as the renegotiation of the lease agreements due to the pandemic.

Patton, Moreno & Asvat

Managing partner Ebrahim Asvat, Nadya Price and Khatiya Asvat are the key contacts in the banking practice at Patton, Moreno & Asvat, which is particularly skilled at advising domestic and international financial institutions on regulatory matters. The firm, which had additional offices in London and Uruguay, stands out for its strong shipping and aviation finance practices, where María de Lourdes Marengo is the name to note.

Quijano & Associates

The ‘excellent‘ banking practice at Quijano & Associatesare proactive in seeking solutions’ on behalf of domestic and international financial institutions in the context of local and cross-border lending transactions. Areas of strength include syndicated loans, bridge loans, and corporate and real estate finance; regulatory issues in the fintech sector and involving banking licences are other notable fields of activity for the group. Department leader Oliver Muñoz  maintains a broad practice spanning banking, capital markets, blockchain and cryptocurrency issues. Other key individuals include associates Ileana Céspedes and Luis Miguel Rojer.

Practice head(s):

Oliver Muñoz

Testimonials

‘Quijano & Associates is a firm that is always up to date with the technological tools that make its practice and service very good compared to other firms.’

‘Oliver Muñoz and Luis Rojer are quality professionals, both for their knowledge and their excellent service. What makes both of them stand out from their competitors is the careful and professional attention they give to each case and the support they provide to the client.’

‘The team at Quijano & Asociados that handles banking and financing matters is committed and dedicated. They assisted us in a very complex transaction where their ability to find solutions was key.’

‘Attention and client service. They are very flexible in accommodating the client’s requirements. They are patient and calm when communicating critical issues to the counterparties and are proactive in seeking solutions.’

‘Our dealings with the team are very good and expeditious. The service in terms of collection processes and procedures, availability and collaboration is very good.’

‘The team with which we always work is excellent. They are dedicated and when we ask for their support, they commit to the work and give 100%. Oliver Muñoz, Ileana Céspedes and Luis Rojer are an excellent team.’

SIGMA International and Global Market Attorneys

Founded in 2016 to specialise in financial and corporate law, SIGMA International and Global Market Attorneys has already developed a strong track record in complex, cross-border financings, drawing on the extensive international experience of its team. The 'excellent' practice showcases particular knowledge of the financing of large-scale projects in the energy, transport and infrastructure sectors. Founding partner Cecilio Castillero, who was previously at Arias, Fábrega & Fábrega and Milbank‘s New York office, leads the team, which also includes senior associate Mónica Moreno and associate Eric Carles.

Practice head(s):

Cecilio Castillero

Testimonials

‘The Sigma team is excellent. We work with Cecilio Castillero and he is one of the best corporate lawyers in Panama.’

‘Excellent knowledge of corporate law, agile, and good customer service.’

Key clients

InterEnergy Group

Consorcio Línea 2

Glenfarne

Work highlights

  • Acted as Panamanian counsel to InterEnergy Group on the financing of the construction of the Generadora de Gatún 670MW natural gas plant.
  • Advised Glenfarne Group on the refinancing of its three hydroelectric power plants for $100m granted as a banking loan by DNB Bank and Société Générale, New York Branch.

Virtù Atelier Legal

Financial services boutique Virtù Atelier Legal is highly experienced in both transactional and regulatory matters, acting for domestic and international banks, financial institutions and brokerage houses. Complex financial restructurings resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic have been a recent area of focus for the team, which is jointly led by the highly regarded Ana Lucrecia Tovar and Marelissa Quintero. Co-head Quintero joined the firm in July 2021, following her role as the legal head at the Superintendent’s Office of the Panama Stock Exchange. Melissa Cortizo is also a key contact.

Practice head(s):

Ana Lucrecia Tovar; Marelissa Quintero

Key clients

Banco G&T Continental El Salvador