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Posts by: Daniela Andreatta

The Restructuring Mid-Summer Review: Europe and the Emerging Markets

For those focused on the debt restructuring market, the Greek sovereign crisis (covered extensively in our recent updates1) has drowned out news of other debt restructuring matters this year. Our Alert below addresses key trends in Europe and the Emerging Markets this year which may have gone unnoticed given the understandable emphasis on Greece.

Opportunities for Distressed Debt Funds to buy attractively priced distressed corporate assets and work them out have been few and far between in recent terms. Prices of distressed assets have been high, and often par lenders have decided to extend and amend loans (rather than engage in loan sales to funds or effect fundamental work outs of problem loans). Risk has not been fairly reflected in the price of either primary or secondary market debt. The risk/reward dynamic has been skewed in favour of high risk and low yields; not an attractive combination. The main driver of the activities of Distressed Debt Funds is the default rate. In the 2015 Deutsche Bank Annual Default Survey, Deutsche Bank commented, ‘We can’t overstate how low defaults are…the 2010-2014 cohort [of High Yield Bonds] is the lowest 5 year period for HY defaults in modern history’. Hence, the low level of distressed debt activity.

Poor European growth rates, the difficult backdrop of the Greek debt restructuring talks, and major geopolitical risk, have yielded surprisingly few loan defaults and insolvencies in recent times. In Europe, restructuring activity has tended to be concentrated more in Southern than Northern Europe.

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A Stop to PIK Loans from the Court of Milan

PIK (Payment In Kind) loans are loans that typically do not provide for any cash flows from borrower to lender between the drawdown date and the maturity/refinancing date. In PIK loans, interests generally accrue period after period, thus increasing the underlying principal. As an alternative, PIK Loans may include provisions according to which, upon the occurrence of certain events, interest payments due by the debtor become undue and the corresponding amount is added to the principal amount, so that it generates further interests. This latter type of provisions is usually included in loans granted in the context of restructuring proceedings where the borrower may not always be able to meet, in whole or in part, its obligations to pay the agreed interests as they become due.

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European Revolution vs. English Evolution

This client alert will focus on three of the key recent cases of the past six months, each of which features the use of English law restructuring tools for non-English companies. Whilst the wave of recent restructurings has slowed in recent times given the uptick in the European economy, these cases are likely to be cited as precedents in the future and the case law developments will be of assistance in the event there is rise in the number of restructurings which may be expected as interest rates rise in the next few years.

In the decade leading up to the Great Recession which commenced in 2008, many European jurisdictions took significant measures to update their antiquated insolvency regimes. The Spanish updated their 1898 insolvency laws in 2003, the Italians updated their 1942 bankruptcy laws in 2005, the French updated their 1984 laws in 2005, the Germans amended their regime in 1999, and finally the UK made radical changes in 2002. The effectiveness of the reforms were mixed and when the stresses of the Great Recession collided with the new regimes, a second wave of reforms, forged by the reality of experience, occurred in every major European country save the UK. In recent years a dichotomy has arisen between European radical change and English gradualism when it comes to restructuring law practice.  Read More.