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Clifford Chance's former Italian senior partner Vittorio Grimaldi has surprised competitors by winning the role of adviser to the Italian government on Italy's first major infrastructure project.
The high-speed rail link between Turin, Milan and Naples will be funded through bond issues aimed at raising between E19bn (£13.62bn) and E25bn (£17.92bn) in the next six years, a scale that is unprecedented in the market.
The impressive win will see Grimaldi working closely with his old colleagues at Clifford Chance, which is advising chosen arrangers Mediocredito Centrale, Morgan Stanley and UBS. A E3bn (£2.15bn) bridge loan has already been put in place as the first bond issue may have to be postponed until 2004.
Grimaldi beat competition from a string of Italy's top firms to advise Treasury-owned company Infrastrutture Spa (Ispa) on its first project.
This is the first real sign that Grimaldi has enough capability to take on large projects since he relaunched as an independent firm last September after his dramatic split from Clifford Chance. Competitors have also expressed some surprise that his firm is appearing on the government side, given that Clifford Chance is better known for acting for the government's chosen investment banks in Italy.
Grimaldi is well known for his links to state departments and is understood to be close to Ispa managing director Andrea Ripa di Meana. Project finance star Francesco Novelli and Valerio di Gravio, who were among the four partners to leave Clifford Chance with Grimaldi, are leading the team.
The Clifford Chance team is led by finance partners Paolo Calderaro and Franco Grilli, who are leading the resurgence of the practice following the departure of structured finance star Luigi Chessa to Standard & Poor's.