Chinese banks use Norton Rose team for BA debt facility

Norton Rose has scooped a lead role advising on a British Airways (BA) debt facility, funded by a number of Chinese banks.

The firm, which has been instructed to advise on several BA financings since the 1980s, acted for lead arrangers Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China on the $1.7bn (£828.47m) loan.

The proceeds will be used to finance aircraft deliveries over the next five years.

Aviation finance partner Peter Thorne led the team advising on the deal, working alongside partners Neil Poland and Louise Higginbottom.

“While I’m aware there were a number of other firms pitching for this transaction, Norton Rose has been instructed to advise the banks on many BA finance deals since the 1980s,” said Thorne. “It’s often the case that BA will request us for the banks’ advisers because it has been impressed with the documentation we have prepared in the past.”

Thorne’s experience of aviation financing has been instrumental in building Norton Rose’s close ties on BA financings. On this deal, utilising the firm’s presence in China was another key consideration.

“The fact that we have a presence in Beijing was very important for this deal,” Thorne added. “Having someone on the ground to reassure the client and be there in the correct time zone to deal with any issues that may have arisen was vital. This kind of deal requires a global reach and it worked very well for this transaction.”

For the transaction BA turned to longstanding relationship advisers Slaughter and May, led by commercial and corporate partner Tom Kinnersley.

In 2006 Slaughters defended BA against allegations of price-fixing relating to fuel surcharges on long-haul flights.

Earlier this year (The Lawyer, 24 August) BA pleaded guilty to price-fixing in the US and agreed to pay a fine of $300m (£148m) imposed by the US Department of Justice.