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Pinsent Masons advises Simpson Malt Limited on £90m refinancing deal

Multinational law firm Pinsent Masons has advised Simpson Malt Limited on a £90m asset based lending (ABL) facility with PNC Business Credit.

The deal will enable Simpson Malt Limited, the fifth-generation family malting and agricultural merchanting business headquartered in Berwick-upon-Tweed, to fund its working capital requirements as well as facilitating wider business expansion.

The team, led by partner Edward Sunderland and including property senior associate Margaret McNeill, banking associate Aaron Kenny and solicitor Sam Williams, advised on all elements of the deal. This involved co-ordinating the negotiations with the incoming funder, the repayment of the existing arrangements and managing the closing process, all on a remote basis due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Commenting on the deal, lead partner Edward Sunderland said: “We are delighted to have worked with our long-standing client Simpson Malt Limited on another important ABL transaction. The significant refinancing will allow our client to continue their proposed expansion as well as meet day to day working capital needs”

Graeme Hogg, Director at Simpson Malt Limited added: “Pinsent Masons are our “go to” legal adviser on banking matters having advised on two previous ABL transactions. Their expertise comes with a practicality that we know will always contribute to a successful completion.”

Board directors’ duties and ESG considerations in decision-making

Some may say sustainability is the ‘flavour of the month’. If that was ever the thinking pre COVID-19, the pandemic has certainly had an impact on corporates’ sustainability agendas – no longer a ‘nice to have’ but rather an operational and strategic imperative, at the heart of any business’s ability to compete and succeed in the long term.

Good governance, good decision making, is a cornerstone of good business. The double-headed health and financial crisis has accelerated the growing focus on both the purpose of the corporation and the role of the board in overseeing and leading in ways that promote sustainable business success. Alongside this, the push by investors has moved from talking purely of share price and returns to asking about resilience and long-term value creation. Put simply, society is forcing companies to focus on the link between values and value.

That is why we worked with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to finalise this paper on fiduciary duty which draws primarily upon perspectives and insights from UK and US legal and regulatory structures. We explain why sustainability matters and why it should be included by boards on their agendas as a matter within their remit. We consider how boards should address sustainability in the context of their company’s strategic objectives and business model.

Along with WBCSD, we are challenging directors to assess whether they are taking all relevant steps in the boardroom to ensure the company not only properly assesses and mitigates sustainability risks but also understands the opportunities that sustainability considerations can bring.

You can access the full report by clicking here.

Women employed in automotive seek more promotion opportunities

Deloitte’s Women in Automotive Industry research was conducted between June and September 2020 and is based on the responses of 110 women working in the automotive industry. Respondents came from organisations across the value chain in the UK, including original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), suppliers, dealers, and finance companies, and their roles ranged from apprentices through to senior leaders.

Key findings:

  • 68% of women have seen a positive change in the automotive industry’s attitude towards women employees in the last five years; but
  • Half of women feel unprepared to navigate the future of the industry, and this is particularly prevalent in traditional back office functions;
  • 40% would choose a different industry if they could go back; and 50% of women would leave the automotive industry altogether due to lack of promotion opportunities, organisational cultural norms, poor work-life balance and an uncertain industry future;
  • 90% of women feel they are under-represented in leadership positions, with 42% believing an industry bias towards men still exists for leadership positions, driven by organisational cultural norms; and
  • 57% of women do not see a career path to get to the level they want in the auto industry.

Sarah Noble, Deloitte automotive director and founder of Women at the Wheel UK: “The long-term success of any company requires a strong focus on people, yet the automotive industry remains behind many other industries when it comes to gender diversity. Women currently only represent 20 per cent of the automotive workforce, dropping below ten per cent at executive level.

“Our research found that the majority of women have seen positive changes in attitudes towards female employees over the last five years. However, under-representation at a leadership level is still strongly felt. In a predominantly male industry with few female role models at the top, male allies remain critical to the success of gender diversity initiatives.

“Likewise, we know that a lack of promotional opportunities, poor work-life balance and organisational cultural norms are the top factors that would cause a female employee to leave the automotive industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated trends that were already emerging: normalising flexible working and bringing greater awareness around caring responsibilities. As automotive companies embrace these changes on a more permanent basis, it is also clear that gender diversity can also help gain competitive advantage. Focussing on recruitment, retention and opportunity will be key to making long-term change possible.”

DLA Piper published global report on sustainability

DLA Piper has today published a comprehensive global report on sustainability and the implications on the insurance industry. The report looks at sustainability-related initiatives and frameworks around the world and analyses the current status in 19 countries. With its global reach and coverage the report is the first of its kind setting out the legal basis for sustainable insurance.

The insurance industry is affected by environmental, social and governmental (ESG) risks in its entirety. From asset prices and investment choice to business transition risk; the ESG risk to insurers’ own operations including property, personnel. supply chains and claims – the insurance industry will need to deal with many issues. However, it is also uniquely placed to play a fundamental role in as part of the solution. Insurance engages with almost every industry and sector; it owns a large amount of the world’s assets and it has a global reach and a finely detailed knowledge of risk transfer and solutions.

The report was launched at an online event attended by industry members from a variety of functions (including compliance, responsible business, claims and risk management) at insurance companies, brokers and consultancy firms with speakers from UNEP FI, AIG, Insurance Council of New Zealand and FTI Consulting. During the session a survey was conducted which found that in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic 69% of attendees had experienced an increase of the importance of ESG issues due to public attention and policymaker statements. This has been reinforced by increasing focus on ESG topics from employees (57%) and customers (31%) and 38% of attendees noticed a marked increase in their competitors’ activities in this area. Within insurance companies the areas most affected by ESG issues were Investment (71%) and Risk Management (64%) departments.

Download a full copy of the report

Jennifer Waldner Grant, Chief Sustainability Officer at AIG, who provided an editorial to the report, said: “We applaud the commitment DLA Piper has made through the publication of this report. It will ensure the insurance industry is informed and educated around the changing regulatory landscape on ESG topics, global coalitions, partnerships and initiatives supporting businesses, regulators and society in addressing the climate emergency.”

DLA Piper Counsel and Chief Editor of the report, Heike Schmitz said: “DLA Piper has a particular focus on sustainability issues, both as a firm and supporting our clients in this hugely important area. This report is our contribution to the debate, focused on the insurance market, and aims to provide an overview of current developments and thus support decision makers, inhouse counsel, sustainability officers and others as they develop their sustainability strategies.”

PwC appoints Jessica Shannon as Global Leader of G&PS practice

PwC has appointed Jessica Shannon as Global Leader of its Government & Public Services (G&PS) practice. Jessica is a partner in PwC Ghana where she leads large-scale and transformative donor-financed projects across the Africa region. She also leads PwC’s World Bank Group portfolio, working with teams in more than 70 countries around the world to address pressing development challenges.

Jessica has a long history of supporting G&PS clients of diverse size and scale to navigate complex problems, previously serving in various leadership capacities in the US and in the Caribbean. As part of PwC’s Global Crisis Centre, she led a deployed team of professionals from West Africa, US, and UK throughout the Ebola epidemic. She has also been extensively involved with the COVID-19 pandemic response, as well as critical climate change initiatives.

In her global role, Jessica leads the G&PS practice team, which advises clients in local, regional, national and global government and public service entities across a range of areas, including defence, security, digital government, education, international development, cities and local government, and public finance. The practice has around 12,000 professionals worldwide.

Jessica earned a bachelor of science degree in finance and international business at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and a master of business administration degree from Harvard Business School. She joined PwC US in 2014.

Jessica Shannon, PwC’s Global G&PS leader comments: “I’ve always been passionate about public service and endeavour to make a lasting, positive impact in the world. My career at PwC has enabled me to do that by working with a multitude of organisations in the public and private sector, in developing economies and industrialised nations. In every case, the mission has been the same – solve society’s most important problems with innovative approaches to make a positive difference to people’s lives. 

Taking the helm of the G&PS practice at a time when governments and multilateral institutions are faced with a magnitude of challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the accompanying economic fallout and societal issues, is a great honour for me. I’m looking forward to working with our truly global network of G&PS experts to tackle the tough problems our stakeholders are facing today and share a perspective on what the future might hold.”

Kevin Burrowes, PwC’s Global Clients and Industries leader comments: “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a real opportunity to make a real impact on society by helping governments and public organisations deal with the challenges the pandemic has brought. Jessica has a passion for public service that was ignited when she volunteered with the US Peace Corps, and she’s continued to make a difference in the international development and humanitarian community throughout her career. Her purpose-driven leadership and expertise will guide our practice and our clients at a time when citizens and circumstances are requiring more of government at every level.”

Direct lending fell by 29% in Europe for the first half of 2020

Non-bank or direct lending saw a total of 140 European deals in the first half of 2020, compared to 197 for the same period last year, a decrease of 29%. The latest Alternative Lender Deal Tracker from Deloitte showed deal count dramatically slowing as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the private debt markets, especially in Q2 when the volume of deals fell by 58%, compared to the same period in 2019.

The majority of the deals were M&A related with 67% of the European deals being used to fund a buy-out. Out of the 447 deals in the last 12 months, 83 deals did not involve a private equity sponsor, which is in line with the previous year.

Deloitte’s deal tracker also revealed that within the UK, business services (including Professional Services and the Infrastructure industries) have been the dominant user of Alternative Lending accounting for 29% of the total deals, followed by the technology, media and telecommunications sector (TMT) at 19%.

Floris Hovingh, head of Alternative Capital Solutions at Deloitte, commented: “One impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been for direct lenders to hit the pause button during the second quarter of this year. However, they have become very active again in the second half of the year as pressure on deployment catches up and M&A activity rises.

Hovingh continued: “The lending market has become somewhat binary. Companies that have proven to be resilient in the pandemic are much sought after and commercial terms offered are not far off from pre-pandemic times. In contrast, impacted sectors have of course been given a wide berth.

“As predicted banks have been focussed on their existing portfolio during the turmoil. This has resulted in companies now seriously considering direct lenders as a refinancing option that had previously not been the case.”

Chris Skinner, head of the Debt Advisory team at Deloitte, concluded: “CEOs and CFOs need every option at their disposal to make sure they navigate the current uncertainty in the market. Direct lenders are a key part of that ever-expanding tool kit, perhaps even more so now than ever.”