Latham and White & Case lock horns on blockbuster Qatari sukuk

Latham & Watkins and White & Case have landed roles on one of Qatar’s largest-ever dollar-denominated Islamic bond issuances.

The $4bn (£2.6bn) bond sold by the State of Qatar will comprise one tranche of trust certificates worth $2bn due in 2018 and a second $2bn tranche due in 2023. Qatar has not disclosed the purpose of the proceeds, but it is likely that much of the money will go towards preparing the country as it gears up to host the football World Cup in 2022 (12 December 2011).

The Islamic bond, known as a sukuk, was sold at a record-low yield of 2.1 per cent for the 2018 certificates and 3.24 per cent for the 2023 certificates.

White & Case advised the State of Qatar on English law aspects of the two-part bond issuance, fielding a team led by Abu Dhabi-based banking and project finance partner Shibeer Ahmed, banking partner Sean Johnson and Doha-based corporate partner Michiel Visser. Abu Dhabi-based capital markets associate Catherine Wilson, project finance associate Nneka Wood and project finance associate Alan MacRitchie in Doha also advised on the deal.

Ahmed said: “This transaction shows the strength of investor confidence in the State of Qatar and represents a significant milestone in the development of the sukuk market.”

Latham took several roles, with Doha senior counsel Ahmad Anani advising the state on the Qatari law aspects of the transaction.

Meanwhile, an English-law team led by Middle East practice chair Bryant Edwards and global Islamic finance co-chair Craig Nethercott acted for the joint lead managers, Barwa Bank, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Qinvest. They were assisted by Dubai-based corporate counsel Dipti Thakar and associate Imran Sharih, Doha finance associate Mohsin Iqbal and Mahmoud Abdel-Baky in Riyadh. Anani advised the banks on Qatari law.

Nethercott commented: “This is a significant development in the sovereign debt market. The structure for this transaction has established a solid platform for future sharia-compliant debt issuances of significant scale by the State of Qatar.”

Latham London capital markets partner Lene Malthasen and associate Lisa Dean acted as counsel to Deutsche in its role as delegate.

The German bank was one of the White & Case client relationships under threat when a four-partner City team quit the US firm for Latham in 2010 (29 January 2010). The quartet were later joined in their exodus to the rival by another four partners spanning the Abu Dhabi and Riyadh bases (1 February 2010).

White & Case western Europe, Middle East and Africa project and infrastructure finance chief Philip Stopford said at the time the firm was “fully confident” it could continue to act for its clients in the region (10 February 2010).

The mandate follows Latham’s roles advising the State of Qatar on a $3bn sovereign bond issuance in 2009 and on its first-ever sovereign bond offering the same year (20 April 2009).

White & Case, meanwhile, won an instruction last year to advise the state on the US law aspects of a $5bn sovereign bond, its first in two years, with Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom acting as US counsel to arrangers Citibank, HSBC, Mitsubishi, QNB Capital and Standard Chartered Bank on US law. SNR Denton advised the arrangers on Qatari law aspects.

A report by Kuwait Finance House in August 2010 estimated that global sukuk issuances could reach as much as $30bn that year (27 September 2010).