Leading global law firm Baker McKenzie received several awards at this year’s International Financial Law Review (IFLR) Awards, Europe. Revealing the winners on 23 April, IFLR named Esin Attorney Partnership, a member firm of Baker McKenzie International, Turkey Firm of the year, London M&A associate James Heller as one of three rising stars from international law firms and Equity, M&A, Private Equity and Project Finance deals of the year. The 2020 IFLR Europe Awards recognize legal innovation in cross-border transactions that were closed in 2019 and the teams and firms behind them.

Speaking after the announcement, Ai Ai Wong, Chair of Baker McKenzie's Global Transactional Group, said: “During these uncertain times, I am delighted that our Firm is being recognized as a leader on these complex, multijurisdictional deals. Achieving these important international milestones for our clients underlines our strength as a transactional powerhouse.”

Baker McKenzie advised on several deals of the year. These were:

Equity deal of the year: Huatai Securities IPO

Huatai Securities is the first Chinese company to offer global depository receipts (GDRs) representing its shares in London and the first to be conducted under the new Shanghai-London Stock Connect scheme, which directly links the Chinese and European capital markets by providing a two-way fungibility mechanism between securities listed in London and Shanghai. The Stock Connect scheme represents the culmination of three years of work by the relevant stock exchanges and regulators. It resulted in the creation of a new segment of the LSE’s main market, with Huatai Securities as its first admission. The listing had to contend with a continually evolving regulatory architecture and interpret and define the scope of the new rules in place. Baker McKenzie advised in connection with the offering, with a cross-border team of lawyers from Beijing, Hong Kong and London, which included Roger James, Simon Porter, Adam Farlow and Peter Lu.

M&A Deal of the Year: Gilead Sciences – Galapagos

This is a global first for pharma-biotech: an arm’s-length acquisition of a business and its future business agreed between two listed entities (US and Belgium). It involves Gilead taking an equity stake in Galapagos with the option for a future acquisition in the share structure in the form of two warrants. The structure allows Galapagos to continue developing drugs independently, while giving Gilead an option agreement on any discovery that Galapagos makes. This highly unusual structure required complex corporate, governance, competition, healthcare, licensing, securities and IP structuring. It had to be flexible enough to accommodate Galapagos’ future development and pipeline for any and all products, while providing a framework for how to sell and market future projects globally. Baker McKenzie Brussels partner Roel Meers, Chicago partner Olivia Tyrrell and New York partner Oren Livne led a global team comprising of associates Kathryn Strong and Michelle Carr who provided support in relation to the licensing and collaboration agreements. Partners Gavin Bushell, Alex Stratakis and Creighton Macy, and associates Daniel Graulich and Hannelore Wiame provided antitrust advice. Partners Adam Farlow, Megan Schellinger and Jai Khanna supported by associates Younes Sebbarh, Heather Byrne and Rebecca Kuijpers-Zimmerman helped with corporate and securities law related matters. Partners Kai Kramer, Patricia McDonald and Géry Bombeke provided tax advice.

Private Equity Deal of the Year: Inmarsat take-private

Inmarsat represents a complex public target acquired in a challenging environment. Its key assets are satellites (the deal required space law expertise) and it has contracts with governments and private entities worldwide. Satellites and telecoms are a highly sensitive business area for foreign investment and attract heavy government scrutiny. Inmarsat’s substantial US business required specialist CFIUS [Committee on Foreign Investment in the US] and Federal Communications Commission advice. As a public-to-private of a UK-listed company, the PE consortium bidders’ US financing needed to be UK Takeover Code-compliant. It is one of only three deals to have published detailed post-offer undertakings to the UK government. The deal also sets a precedent in overcoming a first-of-its-kind court challenge to the scheme by hedge funds. Baker McKenzie led for the financial advisers to the consortium, with a team led by corporate partner James Thompson and finance partner Matt Smith.

Project Finance Deal of the Year: IFC / City of Belgrade waste management PPP

This is the first project of its kind in Serbia, which is significant in the context of Serbia’s EU accession plans. It comprises €300 million of nonrecourse project financing to Beo Čista Energija, an SPV [special purpose vehicle] formed by Suez Groupe, Itochu and Marguerite Waste Serbia that has a 25-year public private partnership (PPP) agreement with the City of Belgrade for the Vinča landfill. The project includes a waste-to-energy power plant connected to the national grid and a recycling facility, replacing the existing landfill with an engineered landfill with biogas recovery. It is one of the most significant waste-to-energy projects in Europe, establishing a useful template for other pathfinder projects. Baker McKenzie advised the project sponsors, Suez and Itochu, with a team led by Mike Webster and Marc Fevre.

Turkish Firm of the Year

Esin Attorney Partnership was named Turkey Firm of the year, with IFLR recognizing three standout deals. The firm advised BNP Paribas Fortis on Turkey’s first ever sustainability-linked loan, which was provided to Turkcell. It acted for a vast consortium of lenders on Turkey Wealth Fund's (TWF) €1 billion term loan syndication. This was a vitally significant financing for Turkey, and it had to navigate challenging public laws relating to TWF's legal status, legal restraints applicable to TWF's debt and a Treasury guarantee. Perhaps a highlight was the firm’s role advising Saudi Telecom Company (STC) on the restructuring of Türk Telekom (shortlisted), which covered many new legal aspects.

Rising Star

Naming James Heller a rising star, IFLR noted his very involved role as lead associated on Hitachi’s $11 billion acquisition and carve out of ABB’s power grids business in 2019. James was also appointed lead associate for the team representing the selling shareholders on the $3 billion sale of dating app business MagicLab to Blackstone. A third notable role saw James again acting as lead associate for Fiera Infrastructure on its acquisition of 50% of Wightlink.

Baker McKenzie is a transactional powerhouse with over 2,500 deal lawyers and expertise in over 46 countries. We do more cross-border transactions than any other law firm in the world, and are ranked #1 in cross-border deals over the past decade. We are global and local, combining money market sophistication with local excellence. The Firm assists clients through all stages of a transaction, from preparing the business for sale or performing due diligence, to negotiating the purchase agreement, coordinating the closing across multiple jurisdictions, and integrating the operations of the resulting business.

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