(Bloomberg) -- Altice France’s upcoming debt negotiations could see another export of the US restructuring market hitting Europe. 

A group of secured creditors to billionaire Patrick Drahi’s French telecommunications company is preparing to sign a six-month cooperation agreement that binds them to act together in debt negotiations, Bloomberg reported Friday. Such deals have become a common tool designed to prevent US restructurings from turning contentious, but remain a relative rarity in Europe. 

European investors have been slow to embrace cooperation agreements because there is simply less creditor in-fighting, given the smaller market size and lack of legal precedent for such accords. But Altice, which boasts a roughly €24 billion ($25.5 billion) debt load, may be a turning point as creditors seek to protect themselves in a large, cross-border restructuring, market watchers say. 

“As is often the case, trends from the US market do migrate to Europe and creditor cooperation agreements are no exception,” said Clare Cottle, a special situations and private credit partner at law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. While few co-ops have been used so far in Europe, “they are increasingly part of the discussion” when creditors organize, she added. 

Bondholders scrambled to organize after Altice’s management told investors they would need to participate in “discounted transactions” to help the company cut its debt, but provided few other details. Some creditors bet that greater coordination could help them gain an upper hand in pending debt negotiations, and a group of secured holders advised by Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and Rothschild & Co. moved to supported a six-month agreement — considered unusually long in Europe — with future extension options. 

The idea of European creditors banding together to prevent a company from imposing disadvantageous terms on them isn’t completely novel. Last year, a group coordinating with lawyers at Weil Gotshal & Manges signed a formal deal agreeing not to participate in a proposed bond buyback from Worldwide Flight Services, according to people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because talks were private. 

Read more: Europe Too ‘Polite’ for Firms to Stir Creditor-on-Creditor Chaos

The French cargo and ground handling operator ultimately revisited its offer, raising buyback prices to a level deemed acceptable by its creditor base, the people said.

And some bondholders of Stonegate Pubs, the largest pub operator in the UK, are also considering a similar type of agreement as they get ready to negotiate a debt refinancing with the company’s private equity owner TDR Capital, other people with knowledge said. 

A representative for WFS said its deal “led to an extremely successful outcome with 100% of the bonds being redeemed ahead of time.” A representative for Stonegate declined to comment.

Key differences between the US and European contracts remain. While cooperation agreements in the US are legally binding, in Europe they’re typically drafted with looser legal enforceability and will likely to continue to be written that way, the people said. That could make it easier for the deals to fall apart. 

And European agreements tend to be shorter, often just long enough to respond to a proposal from a troubled company’s owner, the people added. In some circumstances, excessively long or encompassing agreements could be seen as anti-competitive under European law, they said. 

Historically, restructuring deals in Europe have been more consensual compared to US processes. 

But in another sign of how things have changed, on Monday, creditors to troubled packaging maker Ardagh Group SA found themselves blindsided when the company cut a deal with Apollo Global Management Inc. that raised $1.1 billion of new debt backed by assets in a unit out of existing creditors’ reach. 

“It will be interesting to see how this game of attack versus defense plays out – often it will be a race against time in the sponsor and creditor camps,” said James Watson, a partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. 

--With assistance from Reshmi Basu.

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