Clifford Chance and Simmons clinch £13bn fleet deal

Clifford Chance and Simmons clinch £13bn fleet deal” />Simmons & Simmons and Clifford Chance advised on the £13bn deal to replace the RAF air-to-air refuelling fleet, one of the UK’s largest ever PFI projects.

The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FTSA) project was completed yesterday (27 March) after more than a year of legal wrangling.

Simmon & Simmons advised the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on the project, which is expected to provide a new air tanker fleet by 2011.

The contract with AirTanker, a consortium of defence contractors EADS, Rolls-Royce, Thales, VT and Cobham, includes provisions for training, performance incentives and safeguards against excessive profits.

The Simmons team acting was led by asset finance partner Kim Walking and projects partner Richard Armitage. Walking said: “This is an extremely complex PFI deal and one of our most challenging to date.”

Simmons was dumped from the MoD panel in 2006, but has
continued to work for the MoD on projects including a £16bn training programme outsourced to a QinetiQ and Land Securities Trillium joint venture in January 2007.

Clifford Chance acted for AirTanker on the FTSA deal, led by project finance partner Gavin Teague. American firm Arnold & Porter advised Airtanker on US security issues.

Linklaters advised the group of seven lending banks – Bank of Scotland, RBC Capital Markets, Callyon, Lloyds TSB, Bayern LB, BBVA and Fortis – which raised the £2.5bn of debt needed to fund the project.

The deal was struck despite a late switch to all-bank financing after bond insurers withdrew because of difficult market conditions.

The Linklaters team was led by global head of project finance Bruce White, assisted by partners including structured finance head Julian Davies. Davies said: “The deal has had a long gestation and was done in the most amazing market conditions.

“When it first started it wasn’t going to be an all bank deal. Then we had the credit crunch.”