Burges Salmon steers MoD through record £2.5bn PFI deal

Burges Salmon has closed the largest-ever PFI deal for the Ministry of Defence (MoD), representing a massive boost for the projects team at the Bristol-based firm.

The long-running £2.5bn Skynet 5 Private Finance Initiative represents six years of work for the Burges Salmon team. The firm was picked to advise the MoD in a 1997 tender. Shortly after, the MoD instituted a panel of legal advisers for public-private partnership (PPP) and PFI work, and retained Burges Salmon on both the panel and the deal.

Under the initiative, Paradigm Secure Communications, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), will deliver secure military satellite communications services to the MoD for 15 years. It is the first time that a private company has provided military satellite communications.

The Burges Salmon team was led by projects partner Mark Paterson, with support from the insurance, intellectual property, dispute resolution and employment departments.

Paterson said: “The size and complexity of this deal make it unique. The PFI model will grant our client access to a cutting-edge system, while transferring the risk of project delivery to Paradigm Secure Communications.”

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advised Paradigm, while Lovells acted for EADS. The senior lenders were advised by Allen & Overy.

Burges Salmon has 11 partners doing projects on a full-time basis. Outside its MoD work, the firm is looking to expand its energy PFI practice to complement the already developed transport and waste PPP/PFI practices. Elsewhere, the team is advising London Fire Brigade on a property PFI project involving some 130 fire stations across the City of London.