SNR Denton has once again been voted the best law firm in trade finance in GTR’s annual readers’ poll.
Despite the reduced number of mandates in the market, international law firm SNR Denton is increasing its share in the deals that have been won.
“As is evidenced this year, we have been able to expand our client portfolio as well as the variety of transactions that we have been instructed on,” says Jonathan Solomon, partner at the firm. “But we can’t rest on our laurels; there’s a lot of scope to do more work with more clients – both new and existing.”
The firm puts its success down to the fact that it’s the largest practice dedicated to structured trade finance; with five
partners across the globe supported by a team of 11 assistants.
Not limited to structured trade finance, the firm’s experience also extends to other complementary areas such as export credit agency-backed financing, insolvency and restructuring, syndicated lending, project finance, capital markets, Islamic finance, dispute resolution and insurance.
A key tool in the firm’s arsenal is its ability to continue to create tight structures for the deals that it is involved with. “Many would say that during the last year, given the crisis, it’s pretty miraculous that as many deals were done,” says SNR Denton partner Geoffrey Wynne.
He notes that banks have been adopting more unusual trade financing such as ownership structures, where instead of lending, banks hold on to a commodity over a period and then set up sales or repurchase structures.
“If I was to guess then I would say that this type of structure will increase; these are good structures, and we’re at the forefront of them,” says Wynne.
Evidence of the firm’s appealing structures is in the landmark deals that it has advised on over the past year.
Solomon lists one of the firm’s largest and most successful transactions as the Ghana Cocoa Board deal, which SNR Denton has been advising on for a number of years.
“This year’s financing is in excess of US$2bn and has been the largest soft commodity finance in Africa, if not the world, which makes this a signature mandate,” he says.
Another noteworthy deal that the firm advised on is the five-year US$420mn Ukrainian Ferrexpo deal; a pre-export
finance facility signed in September last year. “The amount raised was very good, bearing in mind the market. It was closed very quickly as well, in a 3 to 4-week turnaround,” says Solomon.
Also on Solomon’s list of top deals closed is the Greek tobacco processing company, Leaf Tobacco A. Michailides’ four-year, €70mn secured borrowing base facility from FBN Bank UK.
“That’s a good one because it’s not only Greece risk, but also looks into Eastern Europe jurisdictions where the Greek company has a presence. The deal had quite an intricate structure and was nicely put together. It also worked well for FBN as they were able to look at business outside of Africa,” explains Solomon.
In terms of regional hotspots, Solomon identifies Mongolia as a source of many transactions for the firm, which has financed approximately US$250mn-worth in the Central Asian country in the last six months.
KEEPING A FIRM GRIP
SNR Denton has a track record of successfully closing deals in almost every emerging market jurisdiction. “Our office and associate office ‘footprint’ mirrors many of our clients in terms of emerging market presence or activity,” says Wynne.
In fact, the firm has the biggest number of African associate offices, and has the largest presence in both Central Asia and the Middle East in terms of office location.
Looking ahead, Wynne suggests that this presence will only grow stronger. “We’re pretty much in all the emerging markets, and one way or another we will continue to be there.”
Referencing the ongoing regulatory issues that continue to plague the industry, Wynne declares that he’s becoming bored with the prophets of gloom. “Whatever the regulators throw at us, we expect to be working with our clients and emphasising the reality that structured trade finance cannot be beaten in terms of performance and success.
The number of structured trade finance deals that default with poor recovery are miniscule when compared with other forms of financing arrangements or capital market products,” he says. GTR
THE TOP 10 GTR BEST LAW FIRMS IN TRADE FINANCE ARE:
- SNR Denton
- Norton Rose
- Thomas Cooper
- DLA Piper
- White & Case
- Hogan Lovells
- Watson, Farley & Williams
- Clyde & Co
- Reed Smith
- Clifford Chance