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Clifford Chance, Milbank throw Air India $1bn lifeline

Clifford Chance has cemented its ties to Air India, acting on the $1bn (Rs 4,900 crore) asset finance loan from JPMorgan Chase, which was advised by Milbank Tweed Hadley McCloy.

Clifford Chance London asset finance partner Geoffrey White is leading Air India's legal team on the transaction, having a long-standing relationship with Air India and its operator National Aviation Co of India Limited (Nacil).

White said that although the sum involved was large, the transaction was a merely a continuation of previous fundraising rounds.

"This is the third such deal," he explained. "Air India ordered 68 planes about four years ago and these are just the 2009 deliveries. It's the third slice different banks have done in 2007, '08 and now 2009 – it is not that much different to what's happened before."

Clifford Chance had also advised Air India on the previous financing rounds.

Milbank New York partner and global finance head Hugh Robertson is advising JPMorgan.

JPMorgan will provide around $1bn to Nacil, reported business daily Mint on its front-page this morning.

The loan at only 100 basis points above the London interbank offered rate (LIBOR) will be used to acquire 10 Boeing aircraft and is guaranteed by the US Export-Import Bank, wrote Mint.

Clifford Chance has been Air India's international counsel for almost two decades. The firm was first instructed by the Indian national airline after acting opposite it on a lease financing around 18 years ago, said White.

Air India operator Nacil is backed by India's Government and posted a Rs 5,000 crore loss in the 2008-09 financial year, with its total borrowings having increased to Rs 15,241 crore in June 2009.

The new loan will help the airline save $1m in interest per month, according unnamed sources quoted by Mint.

No Indian law firms are involved on the deal so far.

Photo by: Irargerich

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