Watson Farley & Williams’ (“WFW”) aviation expertise has been recognised by pre-eminent sector publication Ishka, winning its ‘Restructuring Deal of the Year 2019’ award for the firm’s advice to Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA (“NAS”) regarding the restructuring of its €250m Norwegian bond transaction.
Due to pending maturities, the restructuring of the bonds was imperative to ensure NAS’s ongoing liquidity. The provision of take-off and landing slots at London Gatwick airport as new collateral for bondholders was a key ingredient in the successful proposal for the extension to the maturities and amendment of the terms of the bonds.
The transaction is particularly topical given the current focus on restructuring within the aviation industry. WFW have been actively involved in all the major airline restructurings following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, including advising the senior bondholders in relation to Virgin Atlantic’s recent restructuring and recapitalisation plan using the UK’s new Part 26A of the Companies Act 2006 and the restructuring of Nordic Aviation Capital using an Irish Scheme of Arrangement, as well as advising on numerous ongoing restructurings worldwide using Chapter 11 and other insolvency regimes.
The Norwegian bond transaction is particularly noteworthy for its use of valuable slot portfolios as an alternative asset class over which security is given in European aviation finance transactions. This is becoming increasingly relevant in the context of offering additional credit enhancement to new financing in airline restructurings and in respect of airlines sourcing new capital to deal with the economic consequences of COVID-19. Having advised on all of the European take-off and landing slot transactions to date, WFW is uniquely placed to advise on these transactions as well as any other alternative security transactions including for example, brand, IP and frequent flyer programmes.
This is the second award this deal has won this year having also been named ‘Overall Capital Markets Deal of the Year 2019’ by Airfinance Journal in June.
The WFW London team that advised NAS was led by Partner Rob McBride, working closely with Partners Patrick Moore and Stephen Parker. BAHR acted as their Norwegian counsel.
Global Aviation Sector Co-Head Jim Bell commented: “Congratulations to Rob, Patrick, Stephen and the team once again for their fantastic work on this deal, the successful closing of which was key to NAS’s solvency. At a time when innovative restructuring deals are becoming increasingly necessary, this award affirms WFW as experts in aviation restructuring and among the world’s most creative legal advisers to the aviation industry”.