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IFLR Europe Awards 2022: winners announced

IFLR is delighted to reveal the winning deals, teams, law firms and individuals for the 2022 edition of its Europe Awards.

On May 5 we were thrilled to be able to host a live event - the first for an IFLR Awards in the region since 2019 – at The Biltmore in London's Mayfair, with guests in attendance from all corners of Europe.

Clifford Chance was one of the night's big winners having picked up several awards, including international law firm of the year. It was a distinguished night for other firms including White & Case and Allen & Overy, who also scooped up a number of awards each. It was also a big night for certain individuals in Europe's legal community, including Sharon Lewis of Hogan Lovells who took home the Lifetime Achievement award, and Edwin Schooling Latter who won the Outstanding Contribution to Regulatory Reform award.

The ceremony saw the culmination of months of research into Europe's legal market, drawing on written submissions and in-depth interviews with clients and counsel across the continent. The awards showcase the most legally innovative cross-border transactions in the region across the past 12 months, as well as the teams and individuals behind the deals. The awards review period was the previous calendar year, and all deals under consideration must have reached financial close in 2021.

The research team would like to thank everyone who took the time to contribute to the awards through submissions and interviews. The calibre of work showcased this year meant that judging was extremely difficult, and congratulations go to all the winners and those that made the shortlist. The full list of winners is below.

International Law Firm of the Year

Winner: Clifford Chance

Demonstrating the sheer depth of talent and expertise in its ranks across the continent, Clifford Chance undertook key roles across a range of novel mandates in Europe in 2021, deservedly winning International Law Firm of the Year at IFLR’s Europe Awards.

The firm was central to impactful and innovative legal work across the entire range of practice areas the IFLR Awards cover. They advised on the World Bank – UNICEF sustainable bond, Hambro Perks Acquisition Company IPO, Karapinar solar plant and the Ethypharm refinancing, to name just three. These deals were considered to be among the most innovative cross-border deals of the year in Europe by IFLR's awards research team, and demonstrated an ability navigate uncharted legal waters with great success.

Outstanding Contribution to Regulatory Reform

Winner: Edwin Schooling Latter, UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

The criteria for this award demands that the winning candidate has made a substantial and impactful contribution to regulatory progress in the region over the last year. Edwin Schooling Latter was adjudged to have fit this criteria to the fullest extent; he showed clear evidence of improving the state of financial markets and the conditions in which to invest, by advancing and influencing significant developments to regulations and market infrastructure.

With the significance of Libor reverberating across global markets in 2021, IFLR's editorial team chose a winner whose role as a figurehead in the Libor transition in the UK could not be ignored. Given the vast significance of Libor across all markets – in the UK and beyond - it was fitting that such a key driver of the transition was recognized for his contribution.

Edwin Schooling Latter was in person to collect his trophy at the ceremony in London, delivering an acceptance speech in front of guests to commemorate this personal accolade.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Winner: Sharon Lewis, Hogan Lovells    

When deciding IFLR's Lifetime Achievement Award, the judging panel considers candidates whose careers have made a significant impact on market practice, shaped standards and influenced the market legal framework, as well as mentored the next generation of lawyers. In this vein, Sharon Lewis can boast all these credentials and then some.

She can point to a strong track record of market firsts throughout her career, for instance, she advised EDF on the first ever green bond issued by a corporate, as well as the first ever 100-year century bond issue in sterling. She advises on capital markets, insurance, and banking and finance transactions across Europe, utilizing language skills in English and French. She was appointed as the firm's first ever female head of finance practice in 2014.

Many of her other career achievements and professional attributes are closely tied to the central themes of the IFLR Awards; she co-created Hogan Lovell's artificial intelligence-based LIBOR Solution, demonstrating her tremendous ability to scan market developments for opportunities and embrace technological innovation. She has been acknowledged as one of the pre-eminent and pioneering lawyers in the fintech space, and has been a visible role model as well as closely mentoring the next generation of women in law.

Accepting the award from David Hudd, her mentor and former deputy CEO of Hogan Lovells, Sharon Lewis addressed The Biltmore at the IFLR Europe Awards ceremony to earnest applause. She is the deserved recipient of this year's Lifetime Achievement Award.

Deal of the Year: Debt & equity-linked

Winner: World Bank – UNICEF sustainable bond

This year’s shortlist highlighted several pathfinder deals from across the continent, including the UK’s inaugural green gilt issuance, the first sustainability-linked bond to include a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the entire supply chain, and Turkey’s first project bond.

The winning transaction, however, sets a precedent for UN agencies wishing to tap the capital markets to obtain the benefits and savings of the earlier distribution of regular cash flows. Issued under the World Bank’s capital-at-risk notes programme, half the proceeds of the bond will be used by the World Bank to support its ongoing sustainable development work, while the other half goes to UNICEF to support pandemic response progammes in 18 emerging countries. The deal featured a bespoke forward-flow funding arrangement and provides a potential template for other non-profits to raise capital. As World Bank Group President, David Malpass, says in the prospectus, “the transaction is an example of how private sector and capital markets investors can share financial risks to achieve positive development impact.”

Law firms:

Clifford Chance
Slaughter and May

Deal of the year: Equity

Winner: Hambro Perks Acquisition Company IPO

The competition in this category was intense, with a glut of equity deals across Europe competing for a place on an extremely strong shortlist. IPOs continue to be a dominant trend in equity capital markets, with legal advisers encountering unique challenges thrown up by economic and political circumstances. Legal advisers in Europe had to contend with the first post-Brexit IPO in London from an EU-based company, the first-ever corporate SPAC to list in Europe, and flagship businesses going public for the first time amidst high scrutiny. These deals required bespoke and innovative legal advice in uncharted waters to ensure successful paths to listing. Our winning deal was a true gamechanger, being the first UK SPAC under the FCA's new rules that came into force during August 2021. The Hambro Perks Acquisition Company IPO utilized an unusual and inventive 'share cum right' structure, in contrast to the established structures used in European and US SPAC deals.

Law firms:

Carey Olsen
Clifford Chance
White & Case

Deal of the Year: High yield

Winner: Modulaire Group bond

The effects of Covid-19 continued to drive innovation in 2021. Douglas’ shortlisted note offering was one good example of this, being the first transaction to look through the pandemic’s impact with a management-adjusted EBITDA based on undisturbed pre-pandemic numbers. Elsewhere, finance teams pressed forward with the convergence of high yield (HY) bond and loan terms, while innovation in sustainability-linked products proliferated. On the shortlist, Itelyum’s senior secured notes included a novel sustainability-linked redemption feature and Ukrenergo’s sustainability-linked bond was the first of its kind from a Ukrainian issuer and among only a small number of instruments globally to combine green and sustainability-linked elements. These trends were accompanied by a resurgence in M&A activity in Europe.

This year’s winner – the Modulaire Group bond – cut across all the trends. Underpinned by aggressive terms, the bond was among the first to bring term-loan B conditions into a HY instrument. It was the sustainability-linked features that really caught the market’s attention, with the deal including a step-up ratchet linked to a commitment by the company to reduce its carbon emissions by 10% over a four-year period.

Law firms:

Allen & Overy
Milbank 

Deal of the year: Loans

Winner: Ethypharm refinancing

The headline trend in the loans market in 2021 centred around ESG and sustainability-linked products. These features are quickly evolving across different loan instruments and that is partly reflected in the shortlist with the Enel revolving credit facility (RCF) and Modulaire Group financing. Enel’s key innovation was formulating a structure that accommodated 34 international banks into the RCF while introducing an ESG mechanism with KPIs targeting carbon emissions. The loans for Iliad, Aggreko, L Catterton and Asda were masterclasses in innovative and highly complex cross-border financings.

It is the Ethypharm refinancing that take the award this year. As Europe’s first ever SONIA-linked leveraged loan, the deal represented a litmus test for the leveraged market. The legal innovation was substantial, requiring a return to basic principles and with a review of how loans are sold into the secondary market and into the derivatives market. The deal also had to set a standard for the treatment of credit adjustment spread (CAS) and whether it is priced into the loan, and whether the rate is set daily or ‘on period’.

Law firms:

Allen & Overy
Clifford Chance

Deal of the Year: M&A

Winner: Euronext / Borsa Italiana

M&A activity in Europe emerged from a pandemic-hampered 2020 to produce a strong bounce-back effect across a wide variety of market sectors in 2021. Market participants were undeterred in getting back to large-scale M&A activity, evinced in the large amount of impactful and significant M&As submitted for consideration in this year's awards. The much-publicised and discussed merger between Fiat Chrysler and PSA Group - to create a single entity in Stellantis – was an incredibly far-reaching and complex deal, evinced by the lengthy list of law firms advising on it from Eastern to Western Europe. Technology is also a major observable trend, with the first major merger in the quantum computing space between software and hardware companies catching our panel's eye. The winning deal however, had significance for Europe's capital markets and investment landscape in a truly cross-border way. Euronext's acquisition of Borsa Italiana involved highly complex financial regulatory, foreign direct investment, antitrust, corporate and separation issues, all amidst the pressures of an extremely tight timeframe and political sensitivities.

Law firms:

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Gianni & Origoni

Deal of the Year: Private Equity

Winner: Blackstone – Hipgnosis Song Management partnership

The purpose of the IFLR Awards is to recognize legal innovation in cross-border transactions, and the winning deal in the Private Equity category was completed in a nascent market sector and deals with an entirely new asset class. Following economic trends that rush to new, exciting, and profitable ways of utilizing technology – in this case the growing streaming economy - the Blackstone – Hipgnosis Song Management partnership signals the beginning of a trend for new investments into song catalogues and music artist portfolios by private equity firms and others. The deal's structure needed to consider a number of complexities and was unprecedented in many ways, requiring large amounts of nimble and fleet of foot thinking.

Law firms:

Herbert Smith Freehills
Kirkland & Ellis
Stephenson Harwood

Deal of the Year: Project Finance

Winner: Karapinar solar plant

The Karapinar solar plant is a huge scale renewable energy project with massive climate and economic benefits. Once completed, the plant will be one of the largest plants in the world and will save around 2 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. The project is a significant step in implementing the Turkish national energy transition strategy. Deal advisers overcame a number of challenges including currency volatility and political uncertainty to achieve close. This landmark deal is the first under Turkey's new renewable energy regulatory regime and is an exemplar in terms of cross-border collaboration in an export finance setting.

Law firms:

Clifford Chance
Göksu Safi Işık Attorney Partnership
Linklaters
Selvi & Ertekin

Deal of the year: Restructuring

Winner: DeepOcean

Arguably the biggest frontier for legal developments in cross-border restructuring in 2021 was the UK’s Restructuring Plan, which was introduced in 2020 as part of the UK Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (CIGA20) and put to the test in 2021. DeepOcean represented the first cross-class cram-down under the plan; Gategroup set a hotly debated precedent when the Court held that the Plan was an insolvency procedure and fell within the bankruptcy exclusion of the Lugano Convention; and Virgin Active marked the first fully opposed Plan and the first to restructure leases. All three cases set critical precedents and provide the market with significant guidance on the Plan going forward.

There was a wealth of innovation elsewhere, with Intralot’s restructuring importing and repurposing ‘J Crew’ style technology and Malaysia Airlines’ successful efforts to designate a single class of aircraft lessors. But the winner was DeepOcean, which was an undoubted turning point for the Plan, breaking new ground as the first ever cross-class cram-down, first solvent wind-down; and first to impose a ‘bar date’.

Law firms:

DLA Piper
Kirkland & Ellis
Norton Rose Fulbright
Reed Smith
Wikborg Rein

Deal of the year:Structured finance and securitisation

Winner: Project Zeus Public Power Corporation securitisation

Structured finance and securitisation enjoyed a bumper year in 2021. Among the standout deals were the Starz commercial real estate collateralized loan obligation (CRE CLO), the first of its kind since the 2008 financial crisis, and the ERM funding, which represents the first UK residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) to include a repo feature. HANetf/SparkChange’s novel Physical Carbon EUA ETC also caught attention.

This year’s winner is Project Zeus – the Greek Public Power Corporation Securitisation – which is Europe’s inaugural securitisation of non-performing utility bills. The landmark programme allows the PPC to extract value from its stock of unpaid electricity bills and strengthen its liquidity position. The deal brings together two portfolios of PPC invoices – one in arrears for under 90 days, and one over 90 days – using a complex intercreditor arrangement to form a package. This allows PPC to raise financing and tackled bad debts. Although it draws on elements of credit card and trade receivables, the use of electricity invoices as receivables represents a new asset class. It is a timely precedent in the context of the current global energy crisis.

Law firms:

Bernitsas Law
DLA Piper
Latham & Watkins
Linklaters
Milbank
Sardelas Petsa
Zepos & Yannopoulos

TEAMS OF THE YEAR

Debt and equity-linked

Clifford Chance

Equity  

White & Case

High yield          

Allen & Overy

Loan     

Clifford Chance

M&A    

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Private Equity   

Kirkland & Ellis

Project Finance

Clifford Chance

Restructuring   

Kirkland & Ellis

Securitisation and structured finance     

Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft

Financial services regulatory      

Clifford Chance

JURISDICTIONAL LAW FIRMS OF THE YEAR

Austria

Binder Grösswang

Baltics  

Ellex

Belgium             

Clifford Chance

Bulgaria             

Wolf Theiss

Czech Republic

White & Case

Denmark           

Plesner

Finland

Borenius

France

White & Case

Germany           

Latham & Watkins

Greece

Bernitsas Law

Hungary

Hegymegi-Barakonyi Baker McKenzie

Ireland

Arthur Cox

Israel   

Herzog Fox & Neeman

Italy      

Chiomenti

Luxembourg     

Clifford Chance

Norway

Thommessen

Netherlands     

Clifford Chance

Poland

Allen & Overy

Portugal             

Morais Leitão, Galvão Teles, Soares da Silva & Associados

Romania            

Wolf Theiss

Spain   

Uría Menéndez

Sweden

Mannheimer Swartling

Switzerland       

Homburger

Turkey

Paksoy

Ukraine

AVELLUM


IN-HOUSE AWARDS

In-house team of the year: corporate    

Enel

In-house team of the year: debt capital markets

Citi

In-house team of the year: equity capital markets           

Citi

In-house market makers             

Imraan Patel, EG Group

Peter Soliman, Hambro Perks

Sylvia Andriessen, Euronext

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS

IFLR Women Dealmakers Hall of Fame

Tereza Courmont Vlkova, Paul Hastings

Rising Stars of the year - domestic firm  

Mimo Hussein, Wolf Theiss (Austria) 
Gadi Winter, Bär & Karrer 
Margarida Torres Gama, Morais Leitão, Galvão Teles, Soares da Silva & Associados

Rising Stars of the year - international firm

Angela Ryu, Allen & Overy
Dan Tierney, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
Sonica Tolani, White & Case


LAW FIRMS OF THE YEAR

US law firm of the year

White & Case

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