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Deal Watch: Freshfields advises Blackstone on €1.8bn NAMA loan; CC and A&O close €2.8bn offshore wind financing

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has led on the latest major European mandate for Blackstone, advising the New York Stock Exchange-listed private equity group on its acquisition of a €1.8bn portfolio of cross-border loans and swaps from the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) in Ireland.

Referred to as Project Tower, the portfolio acquired is supported by assets primarily in the UK, Ireland, Germany and Spain and, commenting on the transaction, lead partner Michael Steele said: ‘It was a pleasure to work alongside Blackstone on this highly significant and complex transaction – one of the largest loan portfolio sales to have taken place in Europe. We look forward to continuing to support Blackstone throughout its investment in Project Tower.’

Blackstone, traditionally perceived as being wedded to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, opened an office in London in 2000 and has in recent years given a significant number of mandates to Freshfields.

Steele has over the past year to eighteen months advised Blackstone on its 2014 refinancing (as lender) of the Invista Group; its investment in the Cosgrave Group, its investment in French real estate investment trust Gecina and its 2013 acquisition of European shopping centre owner Multi Corporation.

Elsewhere, Magic Circle duo Clifford Chance (CC) and Allen & Overy (A&O) towards the end of last week closed what is said to be Europe’s largest offshore wind financing, ‘Project Gemini’, valued at €2.8bn.

The wind farm, owned by Canadian Northland Power (60%), Siemens (20%), Van Ord (10%) and HVC (10%), will consist of 150 wind turbines providing a capacity of 600 megawatts, creating one of the biggest offshore wind farm’s globally.

The longrunning project has seen CC act as legal advisor with regard to the structuring of the project, including project documentation for Van Oord and Siemens. In addition, the 3,017-lawyer firm acted as advisor on the subordinated financing of €200 million by the Danish pension fund PKA and Northland Power and acted as the borrower’s advisor. As project counsel the team also set up the corporate and shareholder structure and governance for the project sponsors.

The Magic Circle firm fielded a multi-disciplinary team led by asset finance counsel Hein Tonnaer in Amsterdam.

A&O represented the lenders consortium including ABN AMRO Bank; the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ; BNP Paribas, Bank of Montreal; London Branch; Caixabank; CIBC World Markets; Deutsche Bank; Export Development Canada; Natixis; Banco Santander; Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten; Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and the European Investment Bank (EIB). A&O’s team was led by energy practice head Werner Runge in the Netherlands and counsel Frédérique Jacobse.

Over 22 parties were involved in the project, including 12 commercial creditors, four public financial institutions, one pension fund and an equity consortium.

The project reached financial close on 15 May 2014 and the wind farm is expected to reach commercial operations in the summer of 2017.

CC’s Tonnaer said: ‘We are very pleased to have been involved as a legal adviser for the project from the beginning. It is the largest ever project within the Dutch offshore wind energy sector and provides an excellent framework for future renewable energy projects. Despite there being so many different types of parties involved we were able to conduct harmonious negotiations and achieved the full consensus needed to make this project a success. For the last couple of years we have been able to work on this project as a fully integrated team consisting of a wide range of disciplines within our firm, from project management to financial expertise and corporate law.’

A&O’s Runge added: ‘The volume and complexity of this project underlines the challenges and opportunities in the offshore wind sector.

‘We are excited that our projects team was involved in this largest-ever European offshore wind financing, another “first” in the Dutch market.’