White & Case has beaten Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy to advise the banking consortium financing the world's largest liquified natural gas plant, the $9bn (£5.7bn) Sakhalin 2 project
Sakhalin 2, taking place on the Sakhalin region off Russia's Pacific Coast, is Russia's largest foreign direct investment and the year's most coveted project finance job for law firms in the region. The group of financiers, which includes the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, had to agree between them on the choice of legal adviser. The Lawyer understands that Clifford Chance was originally the consortium members' first choice, before the firm's Moscow office lost banking partner John Balsdon to Herbert Smith this summer. Balsdon has since taken Clifford Chance Moscow's two most senior Russian banking assistants to Herbert Smith, throwing the magic circle firm's Russian finance capability into question, although Clifford Chance has sent one of its top London equity partners, Michael Cuthbert, a specialist in capital markets, to Moscow since Balsdon's departure. Linklaters has already won the role acting for a consortium of companies known as Sakhalin Energy, led by Royal Dutch/Shell, that will build the plant. London partner Stuart Salt is leading the international team. The Sakhalin 2 investment plan represents a record foreign investment by a single energy group in Russia. The money will be used to develop the two offshore Sakhalin fields and to build oil and gas pipelines to the south of the island, where the new plant will produce up to 9.6 million tonnes of liquified natural gas annually. The output will be shipped to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. White & Case, Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy made it onto the shortlist of firms that would tender for the work in March this year (The Lawyer, 4 March). The main part of the tendering process happened in June. White & Case declined to comment on the appointment.