Project Astérix Named “Europe Fibre Deal of Year” at the 2020 Project Finance International (PFI) Awards

Willkie’s project finance team in Paris recognized for its role in PFI’s “Europe Fibre Deal of the Year” 2020: Project Astérix (France).

Willkie’s project finance team in Paris was recognized for its lead role in Project Astérix in France, which was recently named as “Europe Fibre Deal of the Year” at the 2020 Project Finance International (PFI) Awards.

The firm was honored for its role advising Bouygues Telecom, one of France’s leading national broadband and fibre operators, in structuring a joint venture aimed at purchasing and accessing rights to fibre for home (FTTH) lines from Orange in certain areas in France (approx. 30% of French premises) through the co-financing of Indefeasible Rights of Use (“IRU”) and the related financing. This project is expected to expedite the roll-out of fibre within less densely populated areas.

Bouygues Telecom selected infrastructure fund Vauban Infrastructure as a majority partner with a 51% shareholding in the SPV, to participate in the financing of the acquisition of the access rights to the FTTH lines deployed by Orange. In turn, Bouygues Telecom has entered into a 30-year wholesale commercial agreement with the SPV to rent access to the FTTH lines within the SPV’s perimeter. The SPV also offers rental access to the FTTH lines within its perimeter to other third-party operators.

Willkie was involved in all aspects of the project development, including identifying the majority partner, drafting and negotiating project documents, negotiating with Orange, setting up the project structure, etc. The firm also advised on the project’s €1.2 billion financing (negotiation of key finance documents) on a non-recourse project finance basis structured with different tranches: (i) an amortizing fixed-rate bond issuance placed with international debt investors initially bridged by banks, (ii) an amortizing long-term commercial bank loan, and (iii) a soft mini-perm facility for commercial banks.

Project Astérix closed and was successfully syndicated in July 2020. Click here to read Willkie’s July 31 deal announcement.

The PFI Awards are part of the Thomson Reuters Awards for Excellence, recognizing corporate and individual success in the global financial industry.

The Willkie deal team was led by partner Amir Jahanguiri and was coordinated by associate Antoine Bouzanquet.