A&O primed to claim top spot for banks on securitisations in Greece

The magic circle firm is poised to reap the benefits of the burgeoning Greek market in the wake of the Olympics

With investment banks scouring Greece for securitisations in the wake of the Olympics, Allen & Overy (A&O) is set to benefit.

A&O has acted for lead arrangers in both the EFG
and Byzantium Finance securitisations since laws were changed in 2003 to allow non-government entities to act as originators.

Prior to the change in the law, which has opened up significant opportunities in Greece for Western banks, the firm acted for the Greek government in three securitisations and for Western investment banks in a fourth.

A spate of further securitisations is on the horizon, partly due to the fact that banks are looking at securitisations on Olympic projects. One plan mooted is to set up ‘delinquent loans’, where banks sell their loans to Olympic-related projects for 40 per cent of their original value to special purpose vehicles, which then conduct note or bond issues.

But Olympics aside, the Greek market has been expanding since the government’s 1996 decision to start borrowing long term from the international market.
This was followed a year later with improved regulation of the Greek Stock Exchange. The opening up of the securitisation market to private parties is a further step in this liberalisation programme, which has led to growth in securitisations.

A&O banking partner Yannis Manuelides is cautiously optimistic. “The new securitisation law has definitively opened new markets in Greece not only for traditional securitisations but also for other complex financings which had been difficult to structure,” he said.

Apart from A&O, only one other City firm, Norton Rose, has been involved in a recent Greek securitisation. Norton Rose acted for a rating agency in the recent Byzantium deal.

Norton Rose is also expected to have a role in another imminent securitisation, which is understood to be on behalf of the Piraeus Bank, with A&O said to be acting for the arrangers.

Both firms declined to comment on all forthcoming deals, including another one – National Bank of Greece’s planned securitisation of its property portfolio – which is said to be on the lips of many in Athens’ city district. But with most of the City left out in the cold on these deals, it is likely to be down to just Norton Rose and A&O to compete for this work.

Observers are wondering whether the English firms that have profited from the ongoing wave of project work in Greece, a lot of which formed preparations for the Olympics, will also fight for securitisation work because of their knowledge of the Greek market.

Obvious examples would be Clifford Chance and Linklaters, which are both acting for consortia bidding for work on the major Thessaloniki submerged tunnel project, which will massively free up traffic flow around Athens. A&O and Norton Rose are also acting for bidders. There are also five motorway projects on the horizon which could further deepen Clifford Chance’s and Linklaters’ penetration into the expanding Greek market.

However, the key is having links with investment banks with Greek connections. It is here that A&O has a considerable lead, having worked alongside investment banks on the drawing up of Greece’s new securitisation laws.