Channel Islands: Guernsey

Reviews

Practice area

IFLR1000 Reviews

Overview

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:

Financial and corporate, Investment funds

Jurisdiction overview

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.

Financial and corporate
Appleby

Appleby’s network includes offices in Bermuda, BVI, Cayman, Mauritius, various locations in Asia and all three crown dependencies, and it is the only Channel Islands firm to also boast an Isle of Man office. M&A was one of the firm’s busiest areas during the research period.

In the banking sector the firm acted for HSBC on the transfer of its banking business from HSBC Private Bank to HSBC Bank, which involved court sanctioned schemes in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man.

In the capital markets the firm advised PraxisIFM Group on its listing on the International Stock Exchange; acted for Tritax Big Box REIT on its note programme and a related financing; and acted for GBGI on the listing of a holding company on the AIM market.

In investment funds highlight work from the research period includes work for Cubera on the closing of Cubera VIII. The firm also acted for the likes of Estera and Brooks Macdonald.

In M&A the firm acted for Blackstone on the sale of Logicor; worked for Aviva Life & Pensions UK on insurance business transfers; and worked for Valtez on the acquisition of Westwood Retail Property Portfolio.

Staffing changes include the addition of private client and trusts partner Alison MacKrill from Carey Olsen.

Client feedback

"Strong technical ability, very commercial, very responsive, very proactive, no drama." – Banking, M&A

"The practice and the office, led by Jeremy Berchem is second to none in its responsiveness and service levels. They are excellent at providing commercial and practical advice, always pragmatic and always has a workable solution in mind." – Banking, investment funds

Bedell Cristin

Bedell Cristin operates out of Guernsey, Jersey and BVI in addition to the finance hubs of London and Singapore. The firm points to strengths in real estate finance and insurance matters amongst others and within funds work on protected and incorporate cell companies.

Banking deal highlights include acting for RBS on financing provided to Channel Islands Property Fund.

In the capital markets, highlights include work for Artex Risk Solutions as trustee in relation to an issue of notes by an ILS reinsurance transformer.

In the investment funds space the firm has acted for the likes of Freedom Private Capital Funds, Catalyst Investment Management and Energy Ventures Funds. The firm also advised Pollen Street Capital on the establishment of an acquisition vehicle for the acquisition of Shawbrook Bank

In M&A the firm advised Regional REIT on the acquisition of a portfolio of UK real estate assets from Conygar Investment Company; acted alongside Macfarlanes on the acquisition of The Caledonian hotel by Twenty14 Holdings.

Carey Olsen

Carey Olsen has offices in Bermuda, BVI and Cayman in addition to the Channel Islands and is also located in hubs including London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Cape Town.

The firm has a strong M&A and capital markets practice and can point to a strong base of LSE listed clients including 60% of Guernsey entities on the exchange and also one of the leading sponsors on the International Stock Exchange.

In the capital markets highlights include work for Pershing Square Holdings on its listing on the LSE, work for Tufton Oceanic Assets on its LSE IPO.

In investment funds the firm points to a significant share of new investment fund business in Guernsey. Deal highlights include work for Phoenix Equity Partners on the launch of its fourth fund; work for Blue Water Energy on the close of Blue Water Energy Fund II; and work for Cairngorm Capital on the formation of the first Guernsey private investment fund.

In M&A highlights include work for the NYX Gaming Group on its takeover by the Scientific Games Corporation; work for Bushveld Minerals on the acquisitions of Bushveld Vametco and the demerger of Bushveld’s tin mining assets; and work for the TMF Group on the acquisition of Gentoo.

Client feedback

"Excellent service, always readily available and highly knowledgeable." – Capital markets, investment funds

Ben Morgan

“Excellent partner who has an oversight of the firm and is able to delegate effectively.”

Ferbrache & Farrell

Ferbrache & Farrell is a new firm in Guernsey formed by corporate partner and former Mourant lawyer Gavin Farrell and disputes lawyer Peter Ferbrache. It acts on financing, capital markets, investment funds and M&A work.

While much of the firm's work is confidential public highlights include work for the Guernsey Investment Fund, a protected cell company on its registration as a closed-ended fund; work for Morgan Sharpe on the sale of its fund administration business; work for the Financial Services Opportunities Investment Fund on several acquisitions including a stake in Kreston; work for Nippon Growth Fund on its restructuring; and work for SigmaRoc on a listing of convertible loan notes on The International Stock Exchange.

Client feedback

"New firm start up - very responsive to client needs and proactive in terms of new regulation or legislation that needs to be incorporated into existing business models." - Banking

Mourant Ozannes

Mourant Ozannes operates in the Caribbean in both the BVI and Cayman in addition to its Channel Islands bases and also has offices in the finance centres of London and Hong Kong. Outside of financial and corporate the firm also boasts one of the largest litigation teams in the offshore market.

In banking, highlights include work for Baring Global Advisors as lender on the financing of the acquisition of Halo Technology and work for Sequoia Economic Infrastructure Income Fund in relation to a revolving credit facility.

In the investment funds area, deal highlights include advising HgCapital on the launch of HgCapital 8 and Hg Capital Mercury 2; acting for iCON Infrastructure on the establishment of its fourth fund; and work for NextPower on the registration of private investment fund Next Power II

In the M&A space deal highlights include work for LabTech Investments on the acquisition of MarketTech Holdings; work for Pallinghurst Resources on the acquisition of Gemfields; and work for Mariana Resources on the acquisition – by Guernsey scheme of arrangement – of Sandstorm Gold.

Staffing changes during the research period include the addition of partner Frances Watson from Ogier.

Client feedback

"A very strong practice, they interact seamlessly with lead counsel in London and get the work done to a high standard with a minimum of fuss." – Investment funds, M&A

"Solid performers in a thin market. Mourants are professional and capable and deliver a quality service." – M&A

"Technically very strong and responsive." – Investment funds

"We have worked with Helen Wyatt and, more recently, Alex Davies on various matters. The Mourant Ozannes team were brilliant to work with - committed, commercial and very responsive, with excellent legal knowledge." – Banking, M&A

"Supporting our banking and investment business in Jersey and Guernsey, they are quick, focused and cost effective." - Banking

Ogier

Ogier has offices in Cayman, the BVI, the Channel Islands and London and three Asian bases in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. It also has a Luxembourg base, which enhances its funds offering. In addition to the core practice areas the firm has a specialism in derivatives as evidenced by its work for the three main industry bodies – ISDA, ICMA and ISLA. The firm also points to strengths in high yield.

In the banking space the firm acted for Equitix GP 2 and Equitix GP 4 in relation to two asset backed revolving credit facilities; work for Barclays on the refinancing of Tritax 2017; and acted for HSBC in relation to a new credit facility provided to NewRiver REIT.

In derivatives the firm acted for Prudential Financial in relation to a longevity swap and captive insurance arrangement.

In investment funds highlights from the research period include work for Continental Investment Partners on the launch of CIP Merchant Capital on the AIM market; and work for Sherborne Investors on the launch of its new fund

In the real estate sector the firm acted on both the financing and acquisition of the Liver Building by CORESTATE Capital Holding, advising both the lender and the acquirer. The firm also advised Downing Students on the sale of a stake in its university accommodation portfolio and Tristan Capital Partners on the acquisition of a retail park portfolio.

In M&A a clear highlight was work for Equitex on the acquisition of stakes in HS1 and the M25 motorway. The firm also advised Phoenix Global Resources on the reverse acquisition of Trefoil Holdings.

Client feedback

"Good responsiveness, amiable personable team and willing to get involved alongside the UK based lawyers to advance their documents and make sure the project gets done." – Banking, investment funds

"Very responsive, knowledgeable and easy to deal with." – Banking

"Highly knowledgeable partners in the field of acquisition finance and M&A." – Banking, M&A

"I worked with Ogier's Jersey and Guernsey offices on several standalone bond issues where they acted as local counsel for the issuer. They are extremely responsive and accurate with timescales. They assisted with all the usual activities of local counsel on a standalone bond issues - i.e., reviewing the prospectus for local law points, providing corporate authorisations, and providing opinions. Ogier did each of the above things to a very high standard, kept to timescales, and did not provide any surprises on costs. We would certainly recommend them in this role and look to appoint them ourselves again." – Capital markets

"Very competent firm and experts in our particular sector. Always timely and available delivering excellent service." - Regulatory

"Very responsive offering fast turnarounds, accurate and timely advice provided at reasonable costs, easy to deal with and excellent client care." – Banking, regulatory

"Excellent service, good quality team and pragmatic in their thinking." - Corporate

Walkers

Walkers is a relatively new addition to the Guernsey market having launched in 2016 through a merger with AO Hall. In addition it has offices in BVI and Cayman as well as in financial hubs of London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai and – uniquely for a Channel Islands firm – Ireland. Alongside the core areas the firm points to strengths in fintech and aviation finance.

In the banking space, highlights include work for Goldman Sachs on a financing facility provided to MyLender; and work for Bank of Nova Scotia on the financing of a Canadian mining company.

In the investment funds space the firm acted for The Hillview Group on the establishment of its first two property funds. The team also provided general fund advice to Hanseatic Asset Management and Hansa Fund, Taurus Emerging Fund and GYS Investment Management.

In M&A deal highlights include work for Prospect Co on its bid for Prospect Japan Fund and work for Atlantic Lead Properties on its acquisition of a joint venture shareholding in a Guernsey property unit trust.

Client feedback

"User friendly team with wide international/offshore coverage and cost-effective or fixed price advice." – Investment funds, regulatory

"Very competent." – M&A, regulatory

"Very responsive and capable of providing effective solutions to issues posed by the particular nature and circumstances of the financing and security to be provided." - Banking