Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría (PPU) (Colombia) prides itself on its market-leading legal expertise. Experienced and knowledgeable partners front this firm’s eminent transactional groups. Now reaching its third decade in the market, it has earned the respect of its peers for being home to outstanding M&A and banking practice groups, which are complemented by impressive project finance and antitrust departments that are held in remarkably high regard. Clients have their pick of non-transactional practice areas that are consistently growing in size, quality and versatility.
PPU exists today due to the 2015 merger of two market-leading firms in their respective home countries, Colombia and Chile. Uría Menéndez came into the mix and provided financial and logistical flair and an even supply of transactional and regulatory experience. PPU’s expansion continued when it added two Peruvian outfits in 2016 to its quickly expanding regional operations. Whispers surrounding the launch of a Mexican outpost surface every once in a while— the move would grant PPU access to the four Pacific Alliance markets – although the changeable socio-economic situation at home and abroad is yet to provide the ideal opportunity. All too aware of how different an animal the Mexican market is, clients can be reassured that PPU will be strategic and astute about the timing of any further expansion.
Coming off the back of an election year in Colombia, PPU did not break a sweat about the possibility of a left victory spooking international investors. Around 55% of PPU’s client base in Colombia is local and used to socioeconomic ups and downs that are commonplace both there and in neighbouring Latin American countries. International players maintained sturdy confidence in PPU’s team for cross-border transactional work amid the changing political backdrops across the region. A study conducted by Latin Lawyer, the affiliate publication to the Latin American Corporate Counsel Association’s (LACCA) LACCA Approved, found that PPU was the most popular choice among the region’s leading corporations that seek Colombian counsel. The ‘Who represents Latin America’s Biggest Companies?’ research found that in 2021, it represented 16 of those prominent companies.
Having access to PPU’s network, which spans from Latin America’s largest economies across to Uría Menéndez’s presence in Europe and China, attracts international clients looking for a well-stocked team of experts. Colombian conglomerate Grupo Argos is a core client, while Brazilian agribusiness Grupo Cargill also features among a lengthy list of household names including US finance company Goldman Sachs, along with the likes of JP Morgan, Itaú and Santander. While it counts a clientele destined to impress, such high-calibre customers would not turn to the firm if they were not assured that their deals would be met with efficiency and exceptional legal ability. Clients can be sure of that at PPU’s Bogotá team, which oversees some of the most sophisticated legal work on the market.
PPU’s Colombian office has found its way onto some highly relevant cross-border deals over recent times. A seasoned adviser on local infrastructure projects, the firm advised the lenders to Colombia’s largest ever fourth generation (4G) toll-road financing, worth some $906 million. PPU was also on the scene advising the banks when a Colombian toll road project issued the first-ever bonds adjusted to match the unit of real value – a measurement that uses recent inflation rates to index finances to reflect the current purchasing power of the local currency. While the outfit is known for leading some newsworthy project finance work, the uptick in restructuring work from increased post-pandemic insolvency meant that the firm’s name appeared across some significant cases there. PPU’s Colombian advisers were on call when Miami-headquartered private equity group Alpha Latam Management divested $150 million worth of Colombian payroll loans as part of its Chapter 11 restructuring process. The firm was enlisted by the company’s subsidiaries, which sold the assets to US counterpart CFG Partners. It was also involved in one of the most high-profile restructurings that came out of the covid-19 pandemic, that of Colombian airline Avianca. PPU advised some of the indebted airlines’ trustees to help it emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This operation won the Latin Lawyer’s Deal of the Year Award in the restructuring category in 2021.
Cross-border M&A deals were a common trend last year too – highlighting the speedy post-pandemic recovery of the Colombian economy – and PPU captured a substantial portion of that work. In one landmark deal, PPU in Colombia helped international pharmaceutical company Procaps combine with a US special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) to go public on Nasdaq’s stock exchange. This is one of many increasingly SPAC deals, where Latin American companies are merging with shell businesses as a shortcut to foreign stock exchanges. PPU’s services were also retained by two private equity investors that divested one of Colombia’s largest natural gas-fired power plants to Latin American buyer Enfragen. In other multijurisdictional highlights, the firm advised private equity groups the Colombian Infrastructure Equity Fund (CIEF) and General Atlantic in two large overseas investments.
PPU puts its people first and has been by their side throughout the transition from a traditional office environment to hybrid and remote working. Colombia’s swift recovery from the covid-19 crisis allowed the firm to trial in-person office days and employees now enjoy a new system of three days in the office and two working remotely. Client meetings continue to be held, for the most part, in the firm’s state-of-the-art offices, where they enjoy a peek into the engine of the firm. PPU has invested heavily in software and technology to ensure that its law offices are kitted out with the best cybersecurity protection and up-to-the-minute billing technology, among others. Thanks to PPU’s wide-ranging Iberian and Latin American presence, the Bogotá office already has access to the latest in innovation. These deep-rooted global links are part of the reason that the firm has been able to emerge so successfully from the covid-19 crisis, with collaboration between practices in Colombia, Chile and Peru only strengthening further during the pandemic.
Communication lines run smoothly interdepartmentally within the Colombian office too, which allows clients an efficient service with timely responses. The corporate, banking and project finance areas all naturally complement each other, and partners will always be available to lend a hand on a case that calls for their specific expertise where needed. Outside of transactional deal-making, the tax and disputes areas are often seen working together too. Partners split the firm’s profits equally, allowing for a greater sense of equity among its top advisers. One stand-out feature of this firm is that it will always assign a senior partner to assist with its transactions, to ensure that clients get the utmost quality legal advice. Clients do not mind paying fees that are on the higher end of the scale for that premium service.
PPU is aware that market needs constantly evolve, and as such continues to review its international management structure regularly. At the beginning of 2021, the firm streamlined its leadership team with three new managing partners representative of each Latin American country present. The firm’s management is typically refreshed every four years. Uría Menéndez, which has a stake in the firm’s operations, remains in close contact with key management decisions too. Members from both firms sit on the executive committees of one another.
With changes afoot in Colombia’s economic and political sphere, make no mistake that PPU is tracking the best ways to expand its offering. With the ongoing success of its regional offering, PPU keeps a close watch on Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama as potential markets to move into next. Meanwhile, the boom of the fintech and start-up sector has been fantastic for business, but it has also been the culprit for nabbing some of the firm’s younger associates. PPU has continued to replace those advisers with esteemed talent, and it kicked 2022 off by promoting one of its associates to partner in the tax group.
PPU offers a solid career development plan that is successful at attracting young talent to the firm. Advisers receive comprehensive training on important skills such as finance and accounting, while there are ample networking opportunities, team-building exercises and leadership experience on offer too. Associates and partners are invited to join some of the firm’s multiple committees, such as diversity and inclusion, which is of growing importance. These same professional development opportunities are replicated within PPU’s Chilean and Peruvian offerings. On average, PPU lawyers can expect to become partners after 12 years at the firm, with exceptions for those who shine particularly brightly. Meanwhile, the covid-19 pandemic has helped integrate a hybrid-working system into the office and leaders at the firm are accommodating to staff who may require more flexible hours too.
Partner Juan Carlos Rocha leads things in Bogotá as Colombia’s country manager, while fellow Colombian Martín Acero directs operations across the three countries as the managing partner for the regional firm. Members of PPU’s regional management board include Chile's Carlos Alberto Reyes, Jorge Di Terlizzi in Colombia and Walker Villanueva in Lima. The board also includes from Uría Menéndez partners Salvador Sánchez-Terán and Luis de Carlos.
PPU has Colombian offices in Bogotá and the busy port city and growing business hub of Barranquilla. PPU’s regional presence extends to Santiago and Lima as well.
Alliances & networks
PPU benefits from Uría Menendez’s far-reaching connections, which connects it to some of the most world-renown players, including Slaughter & May LLP in the United Kingdom, Marval, O’Farrell & Mairal in Argentina and Mexican law firm Galicia.