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The New York-based asset finance group at Clifford Chance specializes in acting for investment banks, operating lessors and export credit agencies (ECAs) in matters ranging from aircraft securitizations to fleet acquisitions. Emily DiStefano assisted a private equity-backed financing provider, Global Jet Capital, on a $2.5bn leveraged acquisition of GE’s entire North American corporate aircraft portfolio. Joint practice head Zarrar Sehgal, who also leads the firm’s global transport and logistics group, is well versed in aviation capital markets transactions, having acted for Goldman Sachs in its role as underwriter in relation to Apollo Aviation Group’s second aircraft securitisation, Apollo Aviation Securitization Equity Trust 2016-1; a $510m issuance of asset-backed notes used to acquire a fleet of 32 aircraft. The team also advised Goldman Sachs on a $300m secured warehouse facility, in which Apollo Aircraft Trust 2015-1 was the borrower. Patrick O’Reilly and practice co-head John Howitt advised PK AirFinance on a loan to Wood Creek Capital Management to finance the acquisition of Volito Aviation’s aircraft leasing business.

The ‘thorough and client-focused’ team at Holland & Knight LLP comprises specialized practitioners in aircraft finance and leasing, maritime finance, and rail, locomotive and other equipment leasing and finance matters. Fred Bass advised Alaska Airlines on a secured loan for the highly publicized acquisition of Virgin America, closing one of department’s headline deals of 2016. The group remains active in Latin America-facing leasing and finance transactions, and Phillip Durham is assisting SMBC Aviation Capital with a sale/leaseback financing of six new-build aircraft with Colombia’s national airline Avianca S.A. Following the retirement of Nancy Hengen, Jovi Tenev now heads the ship finance practice; he recently led a team that acted as Marshall Islands and New York counsel for DNB Asia and DNB Bank ASA Singapore in relation to a $137m loan facility to a subsidiary of Seacorp Marine Foreign Holdings. The team has ‘deep industry knowledge and contacts’, and counts GE Capital Aviation Services, Aercap Holdings and Avolon Aerospace Leasing among its clients. Aviation-focused partners William Piels, in San Francisco, and John Pritchard are also recommended. Unless otherwise stated, named individuals are based in New York.

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Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP’s transportation and space department exhibits strengths in every major area of aviation finance and leasing, and continues to be deeply involved in aircraft ABS offerings and fleet portfolio acquisitions. Practice head Drew Fine and Helfried Schwarz led a team that advised Deutsche Bank Securities, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Citigroup as joint lead arrangers and lenders on Global Jet Capital’s $2.3bn acquisition of GE Capital’s corporate aircraft portfolio. The group also specializes in international enhanced equipment trust certificate (EETC) offerings, and acted for a group of initial purchasers, including Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, during Air Canada’s $537m EETC issuance. Additionally, Elihu Robertson and James Pascale advised JP Morgan, Citibank and TD Securities as initial purchasers and lenders in relation to the refinancing of Air Canada’s capital structure. The six-partner team is based in New York.

The transportation finance team at Vedder Priceknows the market perfectly’ and is able to offer ‘quick and timely responses at a good value’. The group’s work spans the aviation, rail and maritime industries, and Robert Hankes, whose practice covers both commercial aviation and rail finance, acted for Jackson Square Aviation in a sale/leaseback transaction with Delta Air Lines involving five Airbus A320-200 and completed the related debt financing transactions in what was Delta’s first operating lease transaction for new aircraft since the airline emerged from bankruptcy in 2007. Department head Dean Gerber, Geoffrey Kass and Josh Gentner are all based in the firm’s Chicago office (alongside Hankes), while counsel David Golden handles debt and equity transportation finance matters out of New York. Los Angeles-based Raviv Surpin advised SKY Aviation Leasing Management on a $750m warehouse financing; the first major financing transaction to support the company’s aircraft acquisition investment strategy. The team expanded in 2016 with the hires of Thomas Zimmer from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and Kevin MacLeod from Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP; Christopher Setteducati was promoted to partner.

Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP’s transport finance team has ‘a great deal of industry knowledge from the perspective of different participants in aircraft financings’. The firm’s strong US and European presence enables it to deal seamlessly with international leasing transactions. New York-based James Tussing leads a global team that is handling both aircraft acquisitions and new operating leases in relation to Apollo Aviation’s worldwide investments and aircraft management business. The firm has seen an increase in Latin America-facing work, and Sean Corrigan continues to advise LATAM Airlines on a $275m revolving credit facility secured by engines, aircraft and spare parts. On the shipping side, practice head Brian Devine is ‘adept at separating business and legal negotiations’; he and Brad Berman led a team that advised Commonwealth Bank of Australia on the acquisition and structured onward chartering of two 6,039 TEU container vessels to Greece-based Tsakos Group. New partner Alyssa Marie Vazquez and senior associate Kelli Sallemi are also recommended.

Although experienced in financing and acquisitions across a range of movable capital assets, the transport finance team at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP has ‘particularly outstanding knowledge of the aviation sector’. The New York-led group acts for financial institutions, leasing companies, airlines and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in relation to cross-border leasing and capital markets transactions, especially EETC offerings. Practice head Mark Lessard has acted for Natixis as liquidity provider and as depositary in a number of EETC issuances by international and US airlines, including LATAM Airlines, Air Canada and United Airlines. Having recently joined the team from Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, Jonathan Goldstein was lender’s counsel to Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank and BNP Paribas during the $400m secured financing of Aircastle’s portfolio of 17 aircraft. Charlotta Otterbeck and Daniel Richards are also recommended. Thomas Zimmer left for Vedder Price and Michael Schumaecker retired.

White & Case LLP’s team is jointly led by Miami-based Christian Hansen and New York-based Christopher Frampton, the latter of whom serves as global head of asset finance. The firm’s worldwide presence accounts for the team’s sizable international client base, which includes airlines, financial institutions and transport companies. In the US, the group has been particularly active for BBAM Aircraft Management, with James Hayden and Richard Smith (situated in New York and Los Angeles respectively) completing a number of purchase/leaseback transactions for the client; a notable example saw BBAM as arranger in a financing transaction with Air India involving nine Boeing 787-8 aircraft. In addition to the paradigmatic asset finance work, the group has been increasingly handling a number of high-profile bankruptcies and restructurings, and Michael Smith is retained as restructuring and aircraft finance counsel to Kenya Airways in connection with proposed changes to its business model and fleet. Jeannine Acevedo, who focuses on asset and project finance, was made partner in 2016.

The aircraft finance team at Arnold & Porter exhibits a certain ‘simplicity in approach’, which ‘allows greater understanding by all involved as to the business and legal constraints’ of securitization and leasing deals. In an example of the team’s activity working for private aviation companies, senior counsel Michael Mulitz acted for Wheels Up Partners regarding a $175m secured aircraft facility to finance 35 aircraft, and also assisted with a headlease/sublease transaction, which financed the purchase of around 20 aircraft. Equatorial Congo Airlines is a new client, which the team advised on a bridge financing loan, enabling the airline to acquire a new Boeing 787 under US registration. The team also acts for a variety of investment and financial institutions, including Capita Asset Services, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole. Henry Morriello leads the department from New York, and focuses on securitization covering a wide range of assets.

The aviation finance group at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is ‘professional, experienced and extremely dependable’. Specializing in raising public and private capital for airline companies, the team’s client list includes well-known US carriers such as American Airlines and Spirit Airlines. John Curry, a ‘guru of aircraft finance and leasing’, has completed a wide variety of work for Delta Air Lines, including, alongside counsel Le V Lam, advising the client on separate mortgage facilities with five different lending groups to finance 26 aircraft, and, alongside Lam and fellow counsel Raymond Wells, assisting with separate lease facilities with three lessor groups to finance a pool of Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Currently, Jasmine Ball and counsel Jaeyong So are acting as aircraft counsel to CHC Group, a large global commercial helicopter service company, in relation to its Chapter 11 proceedings, seeking to restructure $2bn of debt. The team also remains active in EETC offerings, having acted for Spirit Airlines in its first-ever EETC offering, totaling $576.6m. All named individuals are based in New York.

Delivering excellent service and legal advice’, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP’s aviation group handles aircraft and equipment finance, sale and purchase contracts, bankruptcies and restructurings, and has extensive experience in EETC offerings. Indeed, New York-based co-chair John Hoyns acted for United Airlines in multiple EETC offerings in 2015 and 2016, totaling nearly $2.5bn. Additionally, the team acted as debtor’s counsel to Republic Airways Holdings in the company’s $3.5bn Chapter 11 restructuring. Washington DC-based co-chair Steven Chung advised a group of lenders to Delta Air Lines on $450m in loans, backed by a pool of 26 used Airbus and Boeing aircraft. On the leasing side, the group acted for Hawaiian Airlines regarding a sale and leaseback transaction of three Airbus aircraft from Jackson Square Aviation. Mark Denham has particular experience in cross-border aircraft lending and leasing and Islamic financing, and Andrew Fowler is also noted.

In 2016, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP’s aviation finance team was involved in a litany of purchase and lease agreements and leveraged loan negotiations. Timothy Lynes, Jane Cavanaugh and Tom Healey acted for Embraer and its subsidies, including ECC Leasing Company, in a variety of transactions, such as negotiating a purchase agreement for the sale of aircraft to Mesa Airlines, and also handling the delivery and financing of those aircraft. The team also assisted Merx Aviation Finance with the negotiation of two back-leveraged loans for aircraft on lease to Scandinavian Airlines. Additionally, the New York-based Stewart Herman has acted for a large investment company during a multitude of sales, restructurings and leases involving aircraft and spare engines. Unless otherwise stated, named individuals are based in Washington DC.

The ‘excellent’ asset finance and leasing group at King & Spalding LLP has a strong presence in Charlotte, and significantly strengthened its offering there with the addition of Jason Huff and Christopher Buchanan from Moore & Van Allen, PLLC’s equipment finance department. The two new hires have extensive experience handling the gamut of transportation and equipment finance matters, and have completed leasing transactions around the world. In 2016, the team acted for Wells Fargo Rail Corporation during a $1bn acquisition of a portfolio of 77,000 railcars and 1,000 locomotives and a full acquisition of General Electric Railcar Services and various subsidiaries. ‘Going above and beyond expectations’, the group is also active in the aviation sector, having advised aircraft sale and management companies, private equity firms and banks in relation to various loan and credit facilities and acquisitions. At associate level, Mickey Jett is highly recommended.

The five-partner asset finance team at Mayer Brown is led by New York-based George Miller, whose finance and leasing practice spans a slew of industry sectors from all areas of transport to energy and equipment. Among his recent highlights, Miller worked alongside Barbara Goodstein as lead arranger’s counsel to Bank of China, New York Branch in connection with the $1.85bn financing for the acquisition of Avolon Holdings by Bohai Leasing. The team saw an increase in railcar ETC offerings in 2015 and 2016, and acted for Morgan Stanley as underwriters during an ETC issuance by Union Pacific Railroad. In the Chicago office, Stuart Litwin helped lead a team that advised GATX Corporation and GATX Rail Funding II on the establishment of a $250m loan facility backed by railcars and related leases.

Exhibiting a solid presence in Charlotte, McGuireWoods LLP’s ‘excellent’ aviation finance team handles aircraft acquisitions for corporate clients and a multitude of financing matters for investment banks and global asset managers. David Whelpley and highly regarded practice head Patricia Hosmer have acted for a number of large financial institutions in relation to lease transactions and fleet portfolio acquisitions. Hosmer regularly advises lenders and lessors regarding loan and true-lease financings of corporate aircraft. Working for corporate clients, the team has assisted in structuring acquisitions and sales of fractional ownership interests in aircraft managed by NetJets. Anna Reimers is also recommended and provides ongoing support regarding the management of commercial aircraft portfolios for corporate clients.

Seward & Kissel LLP’s transport finance team consists of specialized partners in aviation finance and maritime finance. The New York-based James Hancock focuses on aviation-related investment, distressed debt and aircraft financing, having acted for a number of capital managers and investment banks in 2016, during fleet acquisitions, various loan facilities and sale and lease transactions. Shipping and maritime specialist Lawrence Rutkowski (also in New York) acts for corporates, shippers and finance groups, and was lead counsel to Diamond S Shipping III and its related subsidiaries regarding a $460m cross-border facility to refinance an existing credit facility, which provided financing for 30 vessels. DNB Bank, Euronav, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas and Dynagas LNG Partners are also clients.

Shearman & Sterling LLP’s structured finance department handles asset finance matters, notably secured loans and leasing issues. Acting for investment banks, consumer finance companies and equipment companies, the group handles work across a wide range of asset classes from transport equipment to real estate, infrastructure and solar equipment. Joshua Thompson, co-head of the global leveraged finance group, acted for Wells Fargo as agent bank during a $750m secured financing for Atlantic Aviation FBO, consisting of a $400m term loan and a $350m revolving credit facility. Bjorn Bjerke and of counsel William Yaro are also recommended. Other clients include Citigroup, Jefferies Finance and Société Générale. All named individuals are based in New York.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP specializes in acting for banks and asset managers in purchase and lease transactions, pre-delivery payment financings, and restructurings. The team completed a series of financings involving Air Lease Corporation in 2016, having advised various underwriters, such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Global Markets and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, on multiple debt offerings, and acted for arrangers in numerous credit facilities, totaling over $3bn. In other work highlights, Alden Millard and Brian Gluck advised Blackstone on financing its acquisition of MB Aerospace. Alan Brenner leads the department from the New York office, and advised JP Morgan as administrative agent and lender concerning a syndicated revolving credit facility for aircraft leasing company SMBC Aviation Capital.

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