Willkie Advises Lenders on Refinancing of the Tours-Bordeaux (SEA) High-Speed Line

January 15, 2019

The Paris office advised the commercial lenders and institutional investors on a €2.2 billion refinancing of a portion of the Tours-Bordeaux SEA high-speed line concessionaire’s (LISEA) debt, the largest refinancing of an infrastructure project in France.

LISEA, a subsidiary of VINCI Concessions, and the concession company that will be operating the South Europe Atlantic high-speed rail line until 2061, has refinanced €2.2 billion of the debt to finance the construction of the rail line between Tours and Bordeaux.

The initial financing raised by LISEA in 2011, for a total amount of approximately €7.8 billion from private and institutional financing sources, is considered one of the most important infrastructure projects in Europe, and contained “soft mini-perm” commercial facilities of €2.2 billion which were meant to be refinanced shortly after commissioning of the SEA high-speed line. At that time, Willkie advised the European Investment Bank (EIB) on all aspects of its €1.2 billion contribution, its largest loan ever awarded in France.

The commissioning of the SEA high-speed line occurred in July 2017, and LISEA refinanced its €2.2 commercial facilities on January 8, 2019 through a mix of commercial debt and project bonds subscribed by institutional investors. Signing occurred on December 19, and this refinancing is the most important transaction and one of the largest in Europe for 2018.

The new commercial debt consists of a €1.3 million bank loan with a maturity of 27 years and two fixed-rate debt tranches totaling €905 million with respective maturities of 30 and 35 years, placed with institutional investors. The institutional financiers that participated in the 2011 initial financing (EIB and the French Direction des Fonds d’Epargne (now the French Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations), as well as the French State and SNCF Réseau as guarantors of a portion of the 2011 indebtedness) remained in the transaction, except that a portion of the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations’ indebtedness was also refinanced and that the French State guarantee was substantially released in the context of the refinancing.

The Willkie team was led, for Project Finance-related aspects, by national partner Michaël Armandou, and included partner Amir Jahanguiri, and for Public law-related aspects, by partner Thierry Laloum.