Herbert Smith wraps up Russian mining deal

Herbert Smith has successfully closed Russia’s largest debt financing this year, despite the deal sailing perilously close to the rocks after two of the three book runners pulled out.

Société Générale (SocGen) and ING both backed out of the deal in August, but the gap was filled soon after by white knight ABN Amro.

The mandated lead arrangers now include BNP Paribas, Calyon, Citigroup, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, Mizuho Corporate Bank Nederland, Natexis Banques Populaires, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp and WestLB.

The deal, involving a $1bn (£560.95bn) syndicated pre-export loan deal to Russian miner TNK BP, finally closed on 4 September. It is not known to what use the funds will be put by TNK.

Both SocGen and ING have first-hand experience of the volatile Russian market. SocGen led a syndicate of banks, including ING, which last year lent $1bn to Yukos to fund the Sibneft takeover. The banks declared the loan in technical default in July.

But the willingness of other banks to step into SocGen’s and ING’s shoes, and the closure of the deal, will come as a relief to the Russian market, which last month saw HSBC drop out of a loan to TNK.

Herbert Smith Moscow partner John Balsdon said: “A number of banks take a longer-term view on Russia, especially where companies like TNK are concerned, notwithstanding the problems of Yukos.”