Solicitors governing body: The Guernsey Bar
Competition authority: The Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities (CICRA)
Financial regulator: Guernsey Financial Services Commission
IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:
Like neighbouring island Jersey, Guernsey is a crown dependency of the UK but due to its history, its legal system (separate from the rest of the UK) is largely based around the civil law of Normandy, with elements of both English common law and French civil law also present.
The jurisdiction is an offshore financial centre and has encouraged elements of the financial services industry to relocate by maintaining relatively low rates of tax.
The legal industry has grown in tandem with the economy and thus the largest law firms in the market are those who also have bases in other offshore centres and UK crown dependencies such as Jersey, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and increasingly, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The lawyers who staff these firms are a mix of Guernsey qualified professionals and those qualified in the UK (primarily England and Wales) and other former British colonies such as Hong Kong or Australia.
Because of the nature of the Island’s economy, lawyers will generally work in tandem with firms from other jurisdictions (primarily the UK) advising on the local elements of cross border financings or acquisitions where a Guernsey subsidiary or holding company is involved. The Island is also a centre of the investment fund industry and a lot of legal work is focused around the set-up of Guernsey vehicles and related fund raisings, capital markets listings, acquisitions and disposals.
The most significant change to the funds regime in recent years and one which lawyers have been heavily engaged on, has been the Alternative Investment Fund Manager’s Directive (AIFMD), which regulates the types of funds that can be marketed in the EU. As it stands Guernsey managers can market their funds using the national private placement regime, which will be in place until at least 2018, at which point it is hoped by those on the island that the jurisdiction will be granted a ‘passport’, which essentially allows funds from non-EU countries to be marketed.
Guernsey law firms also commonly offer fiduciary and fund administration services to clients alongside their legal offering.
Appleby has a broad network including offices across the Caribbean, Asia and all three crown dependencies. In Guernsey the firm is led by finance partner Jeremy Berchem and boosted its practice through the move of Andrew Harding to the office from the Isle of Man.
Key clients include the likes of Lloyds Bank, NYX Gaming Group and PraxisIFM.
In the banking and finance space the firm dedicates a large proportion of its time to subscription financing for funds and real estate finance. The firm also points to fund finance as a growing area of practice. In the capital markets the firm has primarily acted on bond and note issues.
In the corporate space the firm has acted on acquisitions and reorganisations and points to an increase in deals involving schemes of arrangement including the acquisition of NYX Gaming Group by Scientific Games Corporation.
In investment funds the firm points to work relating to club deals and investments as well as fund finance work, as mentioned above. Following his move Harding was one of the most active partners in this space.
Recent Deal Data highlights
• Bridgepoint Europe VI revolving credit facility
• Expro Chapter 11
• Further Global Capital Management $150 million acquisition of GBGI
• PraxisIFM Group acquisition of Nerine International Holding
• Scientific Games Corporation acquisition of NYX Gaming Group
“Responsive and sensible.” - Banking
“Very responsive, pro-active and 'cool headed' under challenging circumstances.” - Banking
“Very impressive. Worked very well with our UK legal advisors. No weaknesses.” - Investment funds
“Responsive, quality and dealt with by eminent lawyers on the island.” - Investment funds
“Good general corporate practice providing Guernsey law on multi-jurisdictional project finance and M&A and also providing Guernsey company law advice generally.” - Project finance
“Excellent. Incredibly user-friendly.” - Restructuring and insolvency
Babbé’s financial and corporate team acts on financing, funds and corporate work with a strong client base of local corporates. Examples include Apex, Cherry Godfrey, New Street Trust, London & Capital and Ravenscroft. The firm also picks up work relating to The International Stock Exchange.
Stuart Tyler has been particularly active during the research period, which has seen the firm advise on acquisitions, bond issues, project finance matters and refinancings.
Recent Deal Data highlights
• Oak Group acquisition of Oak Trust
Bedell Cristin has offices in Guernsey, Jersey, BVI, London and Singapore. Insurance and real estate are key sectors for the team and loom large across the firm’s financial and corporate deal examples. Kate Ovenden and Richard Sharp have both been active during the research period and work across finance, corporate and funds.
In the banking space the firm picks up a lot of work in the real estate finance area and primarily acts for lenders with clients such as Barclays, Lloyds and RBS.
In the broader capital markets area the firm points to a strength in advising Guernsey SPVs on structured products, particularly those with Swiss links. The firm also works for insurance clients on transformer vehicles and securitisations.
In the corporate space the firm acts on M&A, private equity and restructurings and has a particular focus on matters emerging from the insurance and real estate sectors.
In investment funds the firm points to strengths in advising on protected and incorporated cell company structures. Alongside fund formation the firm has acted on investments, provided regulatory advice and acted on general portfolio management for its clients that include the likes of Catalyst Investment Management and EV Private Equity
Recent Deal Data highlights
• EV Private Equity V Plus
“Very commercially minded, very good turnaround times and not as expensive as some other firms in that jurisdiction.” - Banking
“Effective and efficient.” - Financial services regulatory
“Quick response and swiftly to the important issues.” - Financial services regulatory
“Excellent, commercially minded in negotiations, good value for money, excellent team, partner always available.” - Real estate
“Efficient, expedient and effective. A quality service.” - Financial services regulatory
“Excellent communication and speed of response.” - Investment funds
“First class. Has been my go-to firm in Guernsey since the mid-2000s. They are technically strong, very experienced, responsive and very user-friendly.” - Investment funds
“Strengths: professional, depth of experience, detail, trustworthy, solutions.” - Investment funds
“The team are very responsive and really understand our business - they tailor advice, regulatory updates and areas of focus very much to our structures. They have a very strong relationship with the regulator and are exceptional at delivering or our needs within tight timeframes.” - Investment funds
“Very efficient and quick.” - Investment funds
“Very responsive, thorough and always very helpful.” - Investment funds
“Highly responsive even given the time difference; definitive advice and guidance.” - Investment funds
Mourant Ozannes has offices in the BVI and Cayman Islands, Jersey, Guernsey, London and Hong Kong. John Rochester, John Lewis and Helen Wyatt have all been active during the research period.
In the corporate space the firm points to an increase in private equity investment and local M&A work and points to sectors such as real estate and tech. Clients from the research period include the likes of Elm Bidco, Raksha Energy Holdings and Nerine International Holdings.
In funds the firm has worked on fund formation and fund structuring and restructuring and points specifically to work on successor private equity funds, green funds and schemes of acquisition of funds. Frances Watson and Caroline Chan have both been active during the research period.
Recent Deal Data highlights
• Elm Bidco acquisition of GBGI
• Jura Acquisition acquisition of John Laing Infrastructure Fund
• Raksha Energy Holdings £78.9 million acquisition of Myrtah Energy
• PraxisIFM Group acquisition of Nerine International Holdings
• Stonehage Fleming Private Equity Heritage Fun
“The advice was timely and concise (as agreed) and agreed a fixed fee that included a follow up round of questions which was extremely helpful.” - Financial services regulatory
“A very strong practice.” - Investment funds
“The work carried out by Mourant is always of the highest quality and rivals (if not surpasses) that of UK ‘magic circle’ firms that I also work with. They are highly responsive and committed to getting the job done, no matter what other deals they are working on at the time. If I have a corporate query they are always my first port of call.” - M&A
“Responsive and informed firm which understands legal and project work on Guernsey.” - Project development
Ogier has offices in the BVI, the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Jersey, Luxembourg (a fairly unique thing among Channel Isles firms) and London as well as in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo.
The firm added funds partner Tim Clipstone to its team during the research period. Bryon Rees and Craig Cordle have been particularly active during the research period.
In the banking space the firm has picked up work on general corporate finance as well as leveraged finance, fund finance and real estate finance.
In the capital markets space the firm has a speciality acting on derivatives matters including acting for the key industry bodies including ISDA, ICMA and ISLA. In addition the firm has a specialism acting on securities issues on The International Stock Exchange.
In M&A a clear highlight for the team was work for Generali on the sale of Generali Worldwide Insurance. The firm has also picked up a number of acquisitions and funds and private equity matters.
In the funds space the firm points to an increasing number of mandates involving its Luxembourg office, specifically parallel fund structuring. It also points to strong relationships with fund administrators and service providers. The firm acts on a range of structures including protected cell companies (PCCs), incorporated cell companies (ICCs), unit trusts and limited partnerships.
Recent Deal Data highlights
• Equitix Fund V
• Hipgnosis Songs Fund
• Life Company Consolidation Group €409 million acquisition of Generali Worldwide Insurance
• Ravenscroft Private Insurance Investment Fund
• TMF Group acquisition of State Street’s PERE business
• Tristan Capital Partners £439 million acquisition of student accommodation portfolio
“The main strength was that the process of determining the correct regulatory analysis of a difficult issue and fact pattern was a joint effort, and the Ogier team were open to considering our views based on experiences in other jurisdictions.” - Financial and corporate
“Overall excellent. Responsive and commercial advice. What sets them apart is their in-depth knowledge of the sector and the players in the market - both in London and the Channel Islands.” - Investment funds
“Strong knowledge and experience of closed end listed fund structures and a practical and user-friendly approach to dealing with queries. We regularly bounce ideas off them and find that they are responsive and engage well with a range of very complex issues, as well as simpler questions on local law on which they provide clear and quick guidance. Craig Cordle is our go-to lawyer at the firm if not on the Island. He has a wealth of experience of the issues that come up on closed ended funds deals and applies that through a local lens which he has developed rapidly and very impressively since his move to Guernsey. He is responsive, clever and practical.” - Investment funds
“They provide the technical expertise and resource needed and have worked efficiently in turning the required documents around and putting the legal structures in place on the island.” - Investment funds
“Very professional with sound commercial advice. Partner availability was a positive. All around generally happy with work.” - Investment funds
“Excellent - prompt, commercial, user friendly.” - Real estate
Walkers opened in Guernsey in 2016 and also has offices in Bermuda, BVI, Cayman, London, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. Matt Sanders and Sam Shire have both been active partners during the research period.
The firm hired Kate Storey from Appleby during the research period to enhance its financial and corporate offering and its presence in the insurance space. Its work in that sector is helped by its position as one of the few Chancel Islands firms to have an office in Bermuda. The firm has also appointed Fraser Hern to oversee its Channel Islands practice.
In banking the firm typically acts on the lender side including acting for the likes of BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank. In the capital markets the firm has added insurance linked securities to its product offering following the hire of Kate Storey, with one example being work for Clare Management.
In the corporate space the firm acted on a few notable deals like Stafford Capital’s acquisition of Phaunos Timber Fund, a rare hostile, squeeze out in Guernsey. The firm also picked up private equity work for the likes of Apex Group.
In the funds space the firm has acted on fund formation, acquisitions and restructurings and provided regulatory advice for the likes of Hillview Partners and Shelley Capital Management.
Recent Deal Data highlights
• Apex Group £150 million acquisition of Ipes
• Hillview Partners Property Fund II acquisition of Lawnswood Business Park
• Media Gates $205 million financing
• Oak Group acquisition of International Administration Guernsey
• Sea Trucks Group restructuring
• Shelley Investments PCC
• Stafford Capital acquisition of Phaunos Timber Fund
“Very efficient, knowledgeable and responsive.” - Financial and corporate
“They are good practical down to earth and speak in plain English.” - Financial services regulatory
“Excellent all round, active and pragmatic. Extremely professional firm to work with.” - Investment funds
“Excellent overall services, quick response, very approachable, thorough and comprehensive advice.” - Investment funds
“Pragmatic approach, effective, sensible cost for the work done.” - M&A