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04 Apr 2022

Stephenson Harwood advises on award-winning ship finance deal

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Law firm Stephenson Harwood LLP recently advised on a ship lease finance deal which has been recognised at the Marine Money Deal of the Year Awards 2021.

Knutsen Group's US$970 million financing of six liquified natural gas carriers was named 'Leasing Deal of the Year' at the Awards. The deal – which incorporated a combination of a French lease, ECA-backed loans and the issuance of private placement bonds – had a complex structuring, which involved multi-jurisdictional legal, tax, corporate and operational aspects. These were in relation to the strategic development of the fleet and the financing, governance and industrial needs of the Knutsen Group.

"Given the scale of the investment, number of parties involved, intricate deal structure, and range of transactions performed simultaneously, this was a significant – and challenging – deal on which to advise," said Alain Gautron, partner and head of the Stephenson Harwood shipping finance team in Paris. "Because of this, it is particularly pleasing to receive this recognition from Marine Money, a leading publication in the industry."

"The deal demonstrates the attractiveness of the French maritime environment, and highlights the French and international banks' capabilities to structure complex financings for world class shipowners that involve new sophisticated ships which are chartered on a long-term basis to major energy companies."

Stephenson Harwood advised the arrangers, banks and tax investors on the legal and tax aspects of the leasing transactions arranged by BNP Paribas and Crédit Industriel et Commercial. They also advised on the necessary arrangements related to the transfer of the underlying project documents with the builders, time charterers and refund guarantors.

The Stephenson Harwood Paris-based team was led by partner Alain Gautron, who was assisted by senior associates Ezio Dal Maso and Hortense Atthenont-Duret, as well as associate Chloé Chiss. On the corporate side, partner Guillaume Briant coordinated the corporate work with the assistance of associates Boubacar Diao and Maria Miller. In addition, partner Olivier Couraud provided tax advice, and partner Soazig Presteseille-Taillardat advised on the employment law issues of Knutsen's implementation in France.

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