Driving the recovery:
As the loan market bounced back from the coronavirus pandemic, one bank stood taller than the rest, working tirelessly to cement the market’s recovery. For leading from the front and accepting the multiple challenges of the new normal, BNP Paribas is IFR’s EMEA Loan House of the Year.
The EMEA loan market raised over US$1trn in 2021, marking a dramatic change from Covid-ravaged 2020 as a new borrower-friendly environment heralded the return of both refinancing and event-driven financing, which had been subdued during the first year of the pandemic.
BNP Paribas helped drive this normalisation of the market in EMEA, leading the most deals and maintaining its number one position in the league tables, giving it access to unrivalled market data through which to structure deals in the most intelligent and efficient way possible.
“We were the leader of the pack. By focusing on both the syndicated market and the club market, we had the edge in terms of available data points about what banks were willing to do, giving us an insight to what can be tolerated for wider syndicated deals,” said Nicolas Rabier, co-head of loan capital markets at BNPP.
The return of pre-pandemic terms and conditions saw corporates take a more active approach to redefine their strategy through spin-offs, acquisitions and IPOs, giving BNPP an opportunity to showcase its expertise.
The lender made excellent use of its immense balance sheet, playing leading roles in some of the marquee transactions of 2021, including a €3bn spin-off financing raised by music distributor Universal Music Group in March ahead of its Amsterdam listing.
The bank also acted as a bookrunner and mandated lead arranger on an €18bn underwritten loan backing the demerger of Daimler’s truck division in September.
Size was no obstacle. The bank was a bookrunner and MLA on a SFr19bn (US$20.3bn) bridge loan for Swiss pharma firm Roche in November, backing the repurchase of shares from Novartis. It was also a coordinator on an unsecured US$6bn facility for Norwegian oil and gas company Var Energi during the same month, replacing an existing reserve-based lending facility ahead of a potential IPO.
Activity was not confined to the bank’s core European markets. BNPP was global coordinator on a huge US$15bn revolving credit facility for Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund which closed in March and was the standout loan of the year in the Middle East.
“Lots of banks were unsure where the market stood at this point. We had the expertise. You don't win this mandate in three months; it takes years. You have to show the client you are experts,” said Rabier.
BNPP remained a leading provider of general corporate refinancing, playing key roles across sectors and ratings, from mid-caps to large corporates, while remaining at the forefront of the exponential rise in ESG financing.
It was sole ESG coordinator on loans for German auto supplier Robert Bosch and French laundry services company Elis, and was bookrunner and sustainability coordinator on a debut €5bn ESG-linked RCF for French cosmetics company L’Oreal.
BNPP once again dominated leveraged loans, leading more deals than any other bank and bringing new issuers to market as well as being entrusted by clients for repeat business.
Notable debut issuers for which BNPP took a leading role were French flooring company Tarkett, which raised an ESG-linked €950m term loan B, and an increased €555m green TLB for waste management company Beauparc backing its buyout by Macquarie Asset Management.
"We brought new names to the market and to do that you need to be at the top of your game. You need to understand the businesses and structure the deals accordingly," said Charlotte Conlan, head of leveraged finance capital markets for EMEA at BNPP.
BNPP was the lead-left and joint global coordinator on a €1bn TLB2 for Spanish telecoms company Masmovil, one of the standout leveraged loans of 2021. The bank's expertise in telecoms helped structure the deal, which saw pricing tighten and a €200m upsize despite competing supply.
Business services company Sitel turned to BNPP to finance its takeover of domestic rival Sykes. The bank's expertise and strong engagement with investors enabled the dual-currency US$2.6bn-equivalent TLB be to syndicated quickly – just six weeks from deal signing to allocation ahead of a shareholder vote.
Repeat business is the mainstay of the leveraged market and BNPP’s strength was highlighted by Italian healthcare software company Dedalus, for which the bank has led four tranches in the last two years.
"One of the reasons we hold on to repeat business is constant dialogue with clients," said Conlan. "If you are in the market all of the time, you know what's going on."
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