Berwin Leighton scoops RBS work

Berwin Leighton has advised The Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) structured property finance team on its two largest transactions this year and is gearing up for a growing volume of work following its takeover of NatWest.

In the last six months alone, Berwin Leighton has completed £500m worth of property financing for the bank. One of the largest was a £144m syndicated facility to the Arcadia group, in which different tiers of rental income were used to service three separate tranches of debt.

Partner Mark Waghorn, who leads the Berwin Leighton property finance team with Simon Kildahl, says: “The combination of RBS and NatWest gives their structured property finance team a substantial percentage of the market, and it is taking an increasingly interesting focus on the more sophisticated and complex transactions.”

The NatWest property finance team, an existing client of Berwin Leighton, has now been subsumed into RBS structured finance, and the team has been mandated to do even more highly structured and high-value property financing. Previously, RBS had only used Berwin Leighton for recovery work.

Berwin Leighton was first asked to join NatWest’s small panel of specialist finance firms at the beginning of 1998 and is still its lead adviser. The panel now consists of Berwin Leighton, Denton Wilde Sapte, Linklaters & Alliance, Stephenson Harwood and Theodore Goddard.

Kildahl says: “We’re concentrating on the interface between banking and property, finding new solutions in the good times as well as during the recession. What matters now is the future, and our strategy is to continue to develop our already significant banking client list.”

The Berwin Leighton team has recently won a series of new clients. They include Abbey National Treasury Services, for whom Kildahl and Waghorn are working on their first instruction from the finance unit, and Nationwide, which has instructed them on the financing of two hotel developments.

As well as lenders, Kildahl and Waghorn are focusing the practice on domestic borrowers, such as London & Regional Properties. They are currently acting for the property company on a £21m syndicated facility arranged by BHF Bank AG for the acquisition and development of prime property in Camden.