April 16, 2020 / 5:37 AM / 4 months ago

Lazard boosts restructuring team as coronavirus-hit firms run into trouble

LONDON (Reuters) - Lazard Ltd has bolstered its senior restructuring team as it seeks to win business from companies struggling to stay afloat in the midst of the economic turbulence caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: The logo and trading information for Lazard Ltd appear on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid /File Photo

The U.S. investment bank has created a new London-based role for former Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom partner, Chris Mallon, to join as a senior adviser to its global restructuring practice.

“Chris will be involved on complex restructuring situations as a key part of our global team,” Lazard’s co-head of restructuring for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) David Burlison told Reuters.

The International Monetary Fund has predicted the global economy will contract by 3% during 2020, a stunning collapse of activity that has forced companies into negotiations with lenders and governments to seek emergency aid.

Independent advisory firms with restructuring capability such as Lazard and Rothschild are in high demand as boardrooms scramble to mitigate the damage of a downturn that has been compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Mallon has handled corporate restructurings for more than three decades, holding a senior role at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP as well as Skadden.

He worked on the demise of American energy company Enron and also advised the likes of Eurotunnel, operator of the tunnel linking Britain and France, Italian dairy group Parmalat and Danish shipping firm Torm A/S in their debt restructuring efforts.

The 63-year-old Briton serves as non-executive director of London-based IT network firm Global Cloud Xchange (GCX) which completed a Chapter 11 financial restructuring in December under Lazard’s advice.

In his new post he will support Lazard UK boss Cyrus Kapadia as well as Lazard’s most senior dealmakers around the world.

RESTRUCTURING ‘BOON’

The surge in demand for restructuring work has proven a boon for advisory firms that need to offset lost opportunities from a sharp slowdown in mergers and acquisitions (M&A), which dropped 28% in the first quarter of the year and remains in freefall.

Lazard, which also advises governments in restructuring their sovereign debt, has seen its corporate pipeline grow significantly since lockdowns were enforced in Europe and the United States, winning mandates for Boeing Co (BA.N) and Macy’s Inc (M.N), among others.

“We’re working with a range of companies to help them assess the impact of coronavirus and to think through their business plans and liquidity positions,” Burlison said.

Global debt restructuring deals have totalled $26.4 billion since the start of the year, according to Refinitiv data, down 70% from the same period last year.

But more business is in the pipeline as most companies are expected to ask their lenders to relax covenants, prompting a new wave of mandates on behalf of creditors in the coming months.

The 172-year-old bank has engaged various teams across its global network to woo cash-strapped clients with a range of options, including tapping equity capital markets and enhancing debt-raising capabilities.

“It’s not just about restructuring,” Burlison said. “Ultimately companies across sectors want to ensure that they’re doing everything they can to protect their businesses.”

Reporting by Pamela Barbaglia; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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