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France: Project Finance 2016

With the contentious proposed revisions of the French civil code due to come into action in early 2016, it’s set to be a landmark year for the project finance sector in France. Initial fears that the revisions will nullify commercial contracts have been offset by the belief that the revisions will modernise and augment French contract law. Africa remains an active region for French specialists in the field, with local energy and infrastructure projects continuing to steam ahead. This chapter identifies 20 key performers in the field.

Clifford Chance achieves three listings. Global co-head of projects Anthony Giustini is described as a “superb” operator known for his “specialist experience” in projects in the emerging markets. He was recently part of the team that advised 15 lenders on financing the first fully privately financed independent power plant in Nigeria. Daniel Zerbib is a “well-respected” financial adviser who specialises in both greenfield and brownfield industrial projects. Nikolaï Eatwell is also a highly commended practitioner whose particular area of expertise lies in the project finance and export credit transactions sectors.

At Linklaters, three “outstanding” practitioners are selected for inclusion. Sources are effusive in their praise of Bertrand Andriani, co-head of the francophone Africa desk, who is referred to as a “strong negotiator and “extremely pragmatic in his handling of complex transactions and the different parties involved”. He has been involved in many high-profile project financing deals in the transportation and energy sectors. François April is widely regarded as a “prominent” renewable and project finance practitioner in France. With over 18 years of experience in projects spanning the energy, mining and infrastructure sectors, he is renowned for his “considerable technical expertise” and “his strong influence of proceedings”. Paul Lignières leads the firm’s Africa and infrastructure and construction groups. He is active in the energy and utilities, and the transport and infrastructure sectors. Respondents commend his “incredible attention to detail”.

Leading international law firm Simmons & Simmons garners two inclusions in this chapter. Simon Ratledge is a “top practitioner” with over 20 years of experience in major international project financings. He is lauded by his peers for “technical proficiency” in the field of natural resources and has built an “impressive practice” in francophone Africa. Colin Millar is a highly regarded lawyer with “an excellent working knowledge of the banking sector and international financial law”. He is also known for his “commercial approach” and “personable manner”.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher is the highest ranked US law firm with two top lawyers included in this chapter. Amir Jahanguiri’s primary focus lies in the financing of natural resources and infrastructure projects, as well as public and social infrastructure projects. He is described as a “go-to practitioner for difficult and complex cases” as he possesses “an astute legal mind with a fine appreciation for financial details”. Thierry Laloum is an experienced project finance practitioner, who is known for his “careful and considerate approach” towards public financing in the energy and public infrastructure sectors.

The head of the energy, infrastructure, project and asset finance group at White & Case, Paule Biensan, is singled out as a leading figure in the field. She is particularly active advising financial institutions, sponsors and governments in the structuring and financing of public projects and utilities. She is celebrated as a “top-rate practitioner with a broad range of experience on the international stage”. Victoria Westcott’s practice focuses on project finance, asset finance and export finance. She is particularly “skilled at negotiating and closing complex cross-border deals”.

FIDAL is an independent French firm that place themselves at the forefront of business law in France. The firm is actively involved with PPPs within France, and it offers assistance to French companies seeking to set up and develop projects abroad. Respondents credit it with possessing a “finely balanced team” with “wide-ranging industry specific expertise”. Jean L'Homme is “extremely proficient” in banking and finance law, and is noted for his “comprehensive and rigorous approach”.

At Norton Rose Fulbright, clients recommend Anne Lapierre for her “deep understanding” of construction law and her ability to “carefully manage the cooperation of the diverse parties involved in the process”. She leads the firm’s energy operations in francophone Africa.

Gide Loyrette Nouel’s John Crothers is a seasoned practitioner who provides “comprehensive advice” to lenders and government bodies across North America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In particular, he focuses on PPP and project finance transactions in the infrastructure and telecommunications sectors.

At Dentons, Jean-Marc Allix is a “distinguished player” that is primarily active in the project finance, PPP, acquisition finance and real estate finance sectors. Known for his “commercial savvy”, he has been employed by financial institutions in a number of high-profile proceedings involving the PPP financing of government buildings. Clients were delighted with his “technical expertise”.

Shearman & Sterling’s Christophe Asselineau heads the firm’s Africa practice as well as the development and finance group in Paris. With over 25 years of experience in international project finance, Asselineau is “well known” for his work advising investors on the African continent. In particular, he is extremely well versed in the energy, natural resources and water sectors. Sources commend his “conscientious yet dynamic approach”.

De Pardieu Brocas Maffei’s Jean-Renaud Cazali is a well-reputed name in the French legal marketplace whose impressive financial capabilities ensure that he is an asset to his firm. He has a strong international practice with a particular emphasis on financial structuring of projects and PPP in the infrastructure and energy sectors.

At Herbert Smith Freehills, Stéphane Brabant is a leading authority on energy, infrastructure and natural resource projects on the African continent. Sources praise his “impressive track record” and maintain that he is a “font of knowledge” when advising on the mining sector.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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