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Europe’s restructuring revolution

US-style vulture funds are making their presence felt in the European restructuring world, while Europe's homegrown players are also becoming increasingly active.

Within days of UK-based cable company NTL running into the difficulties that culminated in its defaulting on $18 billion of bonds - most registered under New York law - a number of large US funds had already taken large positions.

It also emerged that the bondholders had appointed UBS Warburg to represent them in the firm's recapitalization negotiations alongside two US law firms - Cadwalader, Wickersham&Taft in the UK and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver&Jacobson in the US.

This was in line with recent practice in the UK, where Cadwalader and Bingham Dana - another US law firm specializing in financial restructuring - have recently carved out a profitable niche representing bondholders in restructurings.

"The restructuring environment today is very different from 10 years ago," says Tony Lomas, head of lender services at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London. "There are many more stakeholders - such as high-yield investors - and the stakeholders tend to be far more proactive."

For the first time, Lomas says, unsecured creditors are starting to intervene directly in the work-out process - such as negotiating directly with third parties over disputes that will affect the outcome and speed of a restructuring.

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