Ashurst advises Nakheel creditors on Abu Dhabi bailout

In a last minute deal Abu Dhabi agreed to put up $10bn (£6.15bn) in financing to neighbouring emirate Dubai, part of which will be used to settle the $3.52bn bond issued by Nakheel and redeemable today.

Ashurst Islamic finance partner Abradat Kamalpour (pictured) and restructuring partners Matt McDonald and David Von Saucken acted for holders of around 25 per cent of the total value of the paper.

Von Saucken said: “On behalf of our clients, the certificate holders, we’re delighted with a very sensible result.”

The news that Dubai had requested a debt standstill triggered concern in international markets after Dubai announced that creditors should not expect it to underwrite the debts of its wholly-owned company Dubai World (26 November 2009). This concern was magnified by the fact that Abu Dhabi also initially declined to offer a clear commitment that it would support the indebted businesses.

This led to speculation that, while the $3.52bn bond is governed by English law, creditors would have had the challenge of seeking enforcement in UAE courts, which could have been to their disadvantage.

Concern had also been raised over the lack of bankruptcy or administration legislation in Dubai (7 December 2009). However, a ruler’s decree announced today has taken steps to address this through launching a legal framework to govern possible bankruptcy or liquidation of Dubai World entities.

Three senior international judges have been appointed to a tribunal that will hear and decide on claims submitted against Dubai World under DIFC law. The judges are chief justice of the DIFC Courts Sir Anthony Evans, deputy chief justice of the DIFC Courts Michael Hwang and local judge justice Sir John Murray Chadwick.

But Denton Wilde Sapte Dubai managing partner Neil Cuthbert said that this will not necessarily be a panacea for creditors.

“This is a decree which is specific to Dubai World and its subsidiaries,” he said. “It’s being done as much for the company as for its creditors. Key sections relate to voluntary arrangements the company can impose on creditors.

“It’s also interesting to see that the decree imports sections of the DIFC Insolvency Law. This gives rise to some interesting legal and conceptual issues that’ll need careful consideration.”