White & Case beats rivals to Arabian telecoms work

White & Case fought off two rivals firms to advise Saudi Arabian telecoms company Etihad Etisalat Company (Mobily) on the largest-ever syndicated Islamic financing.

The Law Office of Mohammed Al-Sheikh in association with White & Case competed against Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy to advise Etihad on its $2.88bn (£1.46bn) sharia-compliant financing.

This refinancing is the first Islamic transaction of its type and enables the company to sell minutes of airtime to the financiers, which will act as agents and sell the minutes for a profit.

White & Case partner Chris Utting said: “Islamic financing has been related to tangible assets before. The use of air time is unusual and I think this could open the market to this kind of transaction.”

The structure of the financing incorporated several complex features that considered various regulatory requirements and Islamic principles.

Utting said: “We had to make sure that we were in compliance with Saudi and English law, which made the process complicated. From a legal perspective it was a very exciting and interesting transaction to work on.”

Baker & McKenzie acted for the mandated lead arrangers, which included ABN Amro and Calyon.