Watson Farley & Williams’ (“WFW”) aviation expertise has been recognised by leading sector publication Ishka, winning the award for ‘Best Restructuring Deal 2020’ for the restructuring and recapitalisation plan of Virgin Atlantic Airways (“Virgin Atlantic”), on which the firm advised the bondholder group.
The Ishka Deal of the Year Awards highlight the best aviation financing transactions of 2020, recognising financing transactions and M&A for airlines, lessors and investors.
This is the fourth industry award that the deal has won having also been named “Restructuring Deal of the Year” at the IFLR1000 Europe Awards 2021, ”Europe Deal of the Year 2021” at the Airfinance Journal Awards and “European Recapitalisation Deal of the Year 2021” at the Airline Economics Aviation 100 Awards 2021. The firm is also shortlisted for “Restructuring Team of the Year” at the upcoming Lawyer Awards based on its general excellence and with specific focus on the restructuring work carried out in the aviation sector, notably the Virgin Atlantic deal.
The deal, which was approved by the courts on 2 September 2020, is one of the most significant airline restructurings to take place since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, and was the first to be implemented using the UK’s new Part 26A of the Companies Act 2006. A critical element of the restructuring involved the upsize of the existing senior bonds secured over Virgin Atlantic’s portfolio of take-off and landing slots at London Heathrow Airport, a landmark deal in itself and for which WFW originally advised the same group of bondholders on the initial issuance in 2015.
The multidisciplinary WFW London team advising the bondholders was led by Capital Markets Partner Rob McBride and Assets and Structured Finance Partner Patrick Moore. They were assisted by Partners Stephen Parker and Richard Stephens on restructuring/insolvency and tax matters respectively and supported by Associates Andrew Holland and Lydia Jones. Separate WFW teams led by Singapore Partner Mehraab Nazir and London Partner Lucy Shtenko acted respectively for JOLCO creditors and an operating lessor involved in the restructuring plan.
Rob comments: “It was a pleasure to have advised the bondholders on this hugely significant deal which continues to garner industry recognition as one of the most complex and large-scale restructurings of a global airline to date”.
The win coincides with WFW’s launch of its innovative online interactive legal analytics tool, the Global Aviation Restructuring Index, or GARI, which has been developed as a supportive and helpful tool freely available to all participants in the aviation industry, providing them with a comparative index of 50 restructuring procedures available in over 25 key aviation jurisdictions. GARI presents information visually through infographics and assigns debtor and creditor ‘friendliness’ scores to complex restructuring procedures in order to make high-level comparisons easy to digest.
Global Aviation Sector Co-Head Jim Bell comments: “Winning the award for best restructuring deal whilst simultaneously launching our own online restructuring tool GARI, highlights WFW’s position as a leading law firm to the aviation sector which is a core sector of the firm”.