BLP scoops AIG fund’s first ever Russia investment deal

Berwin Leighton Paisner

(BLP) has won instructions from new client AIG Emerging Europe Infrastructure Fund (EEIF) to advise on its first ever investment in the Russian Federation.

EEIF, which historically instructs several different firms, including Baker & McKenzie, Linklaters and Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker, has appointed BLP to advise it on a 50-50 joint venture with London-listed glassmaker Pilkington.

BLP won the mandate follow-ing project finance partner Robert Gross’s move to the firm from Paul Hastings just over a year ago. Shortly after Gross left Paul Hastings, he advised EEIF on a consultancy basis on the funds acquisition of Aster City Cable, the cable television business that was spun off from Vivendi last year. However, this is the first deal that Gross has advised EEIF on since joining BLP.

Gross said this is the first time that BLP has been involved in a deal in the Russian Federation and that it fits very well with the expansion of the firm’s practice internationally.

EEIF instructed BLP as a direct result of Gross’s move to the firm. Brendon Prater, a senior EEIF investment officer, said: “We do tend to get comfortable with a certain partner or associate. If they move, then we’ll instruct them at their new firm.” He also said the fund was suitably impressed with the quality of BLP’s work.

The joint venture, which will be funded partly through debt finance, will build and operate a e200m (£138.3m) glass plant on a greenfield site near Moscow. The plant will be built and operated by Pilkington, which is being advised by Baker & McKenzie corporate partner Christopher Hogan. This is one of the first times that Pilkington has entered into a joint venture with a financial partner.

The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, which is leading the consortium that is providing debt finance to the joint venture, is being advised by London and Moscow-based partner Laura Brank of US firm Chadbourne & Parke.

Meanwhile, Norton Rose associate Andrew Buissen advised EEIF on construction law and some local law issues.