With the economy growing and finance available from lenders, banking and M&A were the most active practice areas in the Netherlands during 2017/18, and a larger volume of high-value acquisition and project financing deals were recorded. Additionally, requests for fintech and financial services regulatory advice increased.
In banking, a notable trend saw growth in syndicated lending and unitranche financings, with money available from bank and non-bank lenders. Another notable development saw the likes of ABN AMRO, ING Bank and Rabobank set up fintech funds to enable them to escalate their lending activity as the sector grows.
Basel IV, Brexit, MiFID II and PSD2 have all had an influence on financial services regulatory work in the Netherlands, with the volume of mandates increasing over 2017/18. In this space, firms have been advising companies and banks on compliance, restructuring. and licensing rules across various financial sectors.
In the debt capital markets area, there has been an upsurge in the number of green bond issuances. Dutch regulator De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) revealed that the amount raised using green bonds issued by Dutch companies totalled €20.7bn over the past two years, with banks, power companies and electricity firms being the key operators. Moreover, the Netherlands has declared that it would start issuing green government bonds from 2019, making it the first AAA-rated issuer of the asset.
The equity capital markets flattered to deceive, as several proposed IPOs were postponed or cancelled despite relative optimism in the stock market. Among those completed, the global payment company, Adyen, had a strong market debut on Euronext in June 2018.
In the M&A area, the recent total value of private equity and venture capital deals in the Netherlands has been among the highest in Europe. The recent trend has seen significant transactions take place in the real estate, retail and technology sectors. Highlight M&A deals in 2017/18 included Carlyle Group/GIC’s €10.1 billion acquisition of AkzoNobel’s speciality chemicals business, biotech company Thermo Fisher Scientific’s $7.2 billion acquisition of Patheon, and rating agency Moody's €3 billion acquisition of Bureau van Dijk.
In project finance, data centres, and solar and wind energy were all active sectors. The high level of liquidity of Dutch and German banks, as well as Chinese and Japanese investment, resulted in a growth in this area during the research period.
Optimism on financing infrastructure projects has also led to a significant increase in PPP projects. In the transport sector, construction on the Blankenburg Connection is underway after the deal reached financial close. Costing €1 billion, the project aims to improve road links between Rotterdam and its port, and is the largest PPP project in the country’s history. Further notable ongoing PPP mandates include the renovation of the Afsluitdijk dam and the construction of the New Amsterdam Courthouse, with the latter due to be completed by 2020.
Increased investment and consumer confidence in the market has resulted in a general reduction in restructuring and insolvency work. The current trend in the area has seen firms contribute more on international rather than local projects in sectors including construction, healthcare and shipping.