During 2017/18 in France, banking and finance, private equity and capital markets were the most active practice areas, with the legal market seeing a good volume of work around financial services regulatory matters, project refinancings, equity investments, IPOs, and bond issuances.
In banking, one notable lending trend in 2017 was the involvement of funds in the market, often replacing banks on deals. Until recently France had a traditional lending market dominated by banks.
Brexit has had an influence on financial services regulatory work in France, with the volume of mandates increasing since the result of the referendum. Typically firms are advising foreign companies and UK based banks on restructuring or on passporting rules across various financial sectors.
Another trend in the banking finance area has been project finance refinancing activity. The infrastructure projects being refinanced, which were mostly motorways, were initially financed on short periods with bullet repayments, and the sponsors have been looking for financing over longer periods and under better terms.
In the capital markets area there have been a large number of bond issuances recently. Some of the larger recent examples include Co-entreprise de Transport d’Electricité (CTE) €2.92 billion debt bond, an €8 billion issuance by French multinational pharmaceutical company Sanofi, and a dual tranche hybrid bond issuance by Unibail-Rodamco worth €2 billion.
The equity capital markets were very active the first half of 2017 with a number of IPOs coming to market. In June the ALD’s IPO worth €1.2 billion launched in what was the biggest IPO on the Paris Euronext exchange since November 2015.
Private equity has been active in France and as a whole the area became more competitive, with German, Chinese and Canadian funds now among those jostling for French assets. Some recent deal highlights included Cinven’s purchase of Chryso from LBO France, and Swiss private equity group TBG’s acquisition of Telvent DTN from French company Schneider Electric in a $900 million deal.
M&A in general was an active area in France recently, with a number of eye-catching deals in 2017/18. In March 2017, Bpifrance acquired a 12.7% stake in Peugeot for €1.92 billion, and in December that year Unibail-Rodamco acquired Westfield for A$21 billion. In September 2018, BPCE’s €2.7 billion acquisition of Natixis' specialised finance businesses was announced.
In project development, telecoms and renewable energy were all active sectors. In telecoms, one of the most significant projects in Europe was ROSACE - the ultra high-speed internet network project located in Grand Est which will be connected to around 900,000 homes in the region by 2021.
In the transport sector, plans to build Le Charles de Gaulle Express (CDG Express), an express train from Paris city centre to the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, were announced recently. There has been legal work done on the financing of the project, which has an estimated cost of €1.7 billion, by a consortium composed of Aéroports de Paris, SNCF Réseau and Caisse des dépôts, and the project is due to be completed by 2023.