Awards preview: projects/pfi team of the year
14 June 2004
More than six years, £775m and 2,600 houses in the making, the Colchester Garrison project is the largest single housing development the South East of England has ever seen. The project took five years from preferred bidder stage to completion, and Ashurst guided RMPA Services throughout the deal. The team, led by projects partner Mark Elsey, had to overcome a raft of hurdles, including a defence review and one of the largest urban planning applications in the South East of England. With a project on this scale, it is a credit to Elsey’s team that clients praised the firm’s work and a closing that one described as the most organised he had ever seen.
Few firms can boast such a central contribution to the PFI model as Bristol’s Bevan Ashford, led by partner Steve Hughes. As sole legal advisers to the NHS Lift project, the firm has worked intensively with Partnerships UK and KPMG to develop the project’s structure. This will see the development of 500 new one-stop care centres and the refurbishment of some 3,000 GP practices. The Lift model has now become the template for PPP in other market sectors. The concept has since been used by the Department of Education in its Building Schools for the Future programme, in which Bevan Ashford is again advising in conjunction with Addleshaw Goddard.
Skynet 5 was, quite literally, rocket science. The £2.5bn deal is the largest-ever PFI defence project to close in the UK, and is the first time military satellite communications have been supplied by a private company. The deal saw Freshfields’ client Paradigm Secure Communications supply the Ministry of Defence with military satellite communications under a 15-year concession. Led by partner Nick Bliss, the firm steered Paradigm through a cross-border, tax-efficient capitalisation structure, the establishment of two new businesses, the roll-out of a high-tech satellite communications system and the development of a £963m sponsor support programme, through to close in October 2003.
Against a backdrop of political opposition, judicial review and intense media scrutiny, Lovells steered the Tube Lines consortium, responsible for the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines, through the negotiation of its contracts with London Underground and the related funding package. The firm has since advised on the £2.1bn refinancing, which closed in May 2004. Unprecedented in its complexity, the refinancing was carried out largely through unwrapped bond debt, with a mix of long-term bonds of varying maturities, rated from AA to BB. It is a testament to the Lovells team, led by partners Mike Matheou, Andy Briggs, Philip Robb and Tauhid Ijaz, that these uniquely complex transactions were brought to a successful close.
In a tough climate which saw the majority of European electricity projects shelved, Norton Rose successfully completed the financing of the Maritza East III power project, the largest single private investment ever made in Bulgaria. A milestone in raising foreign investor confidence, the e650m (£430m) project has since become a benchmark for multi-sourced project financings in the region. Maritza East III involved the rehabilitation of an existing 840MW lignite-fired power plant near Stara Zagora in Eastern Bulgaria, the aim being to improve output and efficiency and to extend operating life. The Norton Rose team, consisting of partner Richard Metcalf and associate Steffan Shute, worked almost full time for two years advising the plant’s original owner to financing completion.
Shearman’s timely involvement in the biggest-ever financing in Egypt has set a contractual precedent that looks set to become a benchmark for future liquified natural gas (LNG) projects. Shearman’s small team advised the project company for more than four years on the development and financing of a $1.35bn (£736m) LNG facility in Egypt. In order to supply the project with gas, British Gas and Egyptian state-owned company Petronas will make investments of several billion dollars to develop upstream gas reserves located offshore of Egypt. As a result of the project, Egypt is set to become the world’s seventh-largest exporter of LNG by 2006.