SHEPERD and Wedderburn’s banking and finance team has reported a busy 12 months, supporting clients with a mix of strong deal volumes and advisory work, despite the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the 12 months to 31 October 2020, the team advised clients, including banks, funds, financial institutions, alternative lenders, public bodies, corporate borrowers and sponsors, on deals with a total value of more than £40 billion.
Fiona Buchanan, Head of Banking and Finance at Shepherd and Wedderburn, said the positive deal volume illustrates the banking and finance team’s effectiveness in winning new mandates from new and existing clients, including for a number of high-value debt capital markets deals.
“We saw an immediate shift during the initial lockdown towards advising both lenders and corporate borrowers in relation to government-backed schemes such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the large business equivalent (CLBILS) and the Covid Corporate Financing Facility, as well as conventional restructuring of debt packages,” she explained.
“Beyond that, our clients have also remained active in the clean energy, healthcare, technology, retail, real estate and financial sectors, reflecting the strength of the firm’s expertise in these sectors of critical importance to the economy, particularly as we turn our attention to emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
During the year in review, the banking and finance team completed notable deals across a broad range of sectors, including acting for:
- Neart na Gaoithe Offshore Wind Limited in the £2 billion financing of the Neart Na Gaoithe offshore wind farm;
- Bank of Scotland plc in connection with the provision of £26 million UK Government-backed debt support by means of the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) for the UK business of retailer Charles Tyrwhitt;
- Big Blu Broadband plc on the sale of its European broadband business, including establishing a new £12 million revolving credit facility provided by Santander;
- Nord/LB in relation to the circa £19 million funding of the provision of Clydebank Health Care and Care Centre under the Scottish Government’s Hub initiative; and
- Hunter Boot Limited, the iconic wellington boot brand, in relation to the Scottish aspects of its equity and debt restructuring
In addition, the banking and finance team, alongside colleagues from the firm’s Smarter Working Team, was highly commended in the Most Innovative Use of Technology category at the 2020 UK Lawyer Awards. This is the latest recognition for the team, which was named Transaction Team of the Year and Innovation Team of the Year at the Law Awards of Scotland 2019.
Looking ahead, Buchanan said her team’s key objective is to assist clients in navigating a shifting landscape due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing uncertainty around the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU.
“The investment we have made in bespoke technology-based solutions for clients and in developing our team has meant that we have continued to operate seamlessly during lockdown restrictions and we continue to collaborate with clients on a number of pathfinder technology-assisted legal projects,” she said.
”While we expect the prevalence of debt restructuring to continue into the new year, we have also seen a steady increase in conventional funding activity for businesses well positioned to navigate a path through the pandemic. Improved market confidence over the summer led to an increase in debt capital markets deals coming to market, which we also hope will be a continuing trend into 2021.
“In the longer term, with the green recovery a core part of many clients’ agendas for economic recovery in a post-COVID-19 future, our experience advising on some of the UK’s largest clean energy projects to date sees us well placed to assist clients towards a more sustainable and resilient future.
“A post-COVID-19 environment is unlikely to involve any less regulation and, in an increasingly complex financial regulatory environment, we continue to grow our financial products and services advisory practice.”