Best Arranger of Infrastructure and Renewables Loans — Crédit Agricole CIB
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Best Arranger of Infrastructure and Renewables Loans — Crédit Agricole CIB

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Crédit Agricole CIB was involved in virtually every award-winning loan deal this year. But its strength in real asset finance won special mention. Clean energy and the digital transition are two of the most important trends in global infrastructure — the bank is at the heart of both. Unrivalled experience saw the firm lead stellar telecom tower and offshore wind transactions — leaving it the clear winner of Best Arranger of Infrastructure and Renewables Loans.

The bank has been a major force in infrastructure finance for well over a decade. Koo Cho, head of project finance for EMEA, attributes the bank’s success to a combination of strong relationships with clients globally and deep layers of expertise across sector, product and geography. Crédit Agricole CIB boasts M&A expertise, debt advisory expertise and investor coverage all specific to infrastructure.

“We have team members who are specialists in a specific area, whether that’s renewables or digital,” she says. “We have people on the ground across countries to provide that extra layer of understanding of local regulation or market dynamics. The way we structure the teams is fundamental to having a winning platform and franchise.”

On top of this expertise is an impressive balance sheet — Crédit Agricole CIB is one of the five largest banks in Europe — and unrivalled distribution capacity. Loan volumes dropped precipitously in 2023 — as did M&A activity. But the breadth of the bank’s involvement across infrastructure and project finance allows it to retain a leadership position even in difficult markets.

Toby Walker, head of telecom finance syndicate, notes that M&A has held up far better in digital infrastructure across both fibre and towers. “There’s been phenomenal growth and interest in digital infra, which is increasingly seen as a core infrastructure asset class,” he says. The tower segment produced GlobalCapital’s Infrastructure Finance Loan of the Year — a €6.98bn financing package for Vantage Towers AG — a transaction that Crédit Agricole CIB was naturally involved in as an active Bookrunner.

Leading the Leveraged Market

These close relationships were also in evidence during another of Crédit Agricole CIB’s award winning transactions. The €1.1bn term loan for the acquisition of Viatris’ European assets by Cooper Consumer Health took home Leveraged Loan of the Year. Jean-Christophe Bonassies, head of the leveraged finance team in Paris, notes both Cooper Consumer Health and deal sponsor CVC are long-standing clients of Crédit Agricole CIB.

“We were close to the company and provided proposals from the very start,” he says. “We've got teams of seasoned professionals with more than 20 years’ experience and managed to structure the financing at a time when the market was uncertain.”

The broader leverage loan market was characterised by volatility and a lack of new money components. The challenge for banks was taking a view on whether they could underwrite such large financing in a subdued market. “That’s where Crédit Agricole CIB played a key role,” says Bonassies.

In the deal’s favour was Cooper’s clear credit quality and the strategic rationale. But liquidity across the broader market was scarce. “The original TLB was €970m and here we were with an additional €1.1bn transaction — so we had to solve for that,” says Sebastien Saubier from Crédit Agricole CIB’s leveraged finance syndicate. “The strong support from CVC and Management and the way we marketed the transaction helped, but it was all about finding the right timing to launch.”

The deal’s stand out success was doubly impressive given that other transactions around the same time had to flex their terms or widen pricing. “We brought the largest European transaction of new money for 18 months and managed to not only convince holders of the existing term loan but also bring a lot of new investors, which was a welcome addition,” says Saubier.

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