Norton Rose bags Treasury sukuk instruction

Norton Rose has clinched an instruction to advise HM Treasury on its first-ever Islamic bond issue.

<a class=Norton Rose bags Treasury sukuk instruction” />Norton ;Rose ;has clinched an instruction to advise HM Treasury on its first-ever Islamic bond issue.

Norton Rose was selected from a group believed to have included the top tier of Islamic finance firms, such as Allen & Overy and ­Denton Wilde Sapte.

One partner familiar with the pitch said: “As you can imagine it was pretty hard-fought – it’s obviously a very prestigious instruction amid very stiff competition.”

Norton Rose is the only law firm to sit on the ­Treasury’s Islamic Finance Experts Group (IFEG), which is made up of around two-dozen experts and heads of Islamic finance at banks.

The group was set up as a sounding board for the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority and first advised on the ­feasibility of a UK government sukuk in August 2007.

Norton Rose’s Islamic finance team is headed by Neil Miller, who also ­represents the firm on the IFEG, ;although ;it ;is ­understood that other ­leading City firms also ­contributed to the talks.

One City Islamic finance partner said: “The rationale behind ;a ;government sukuk ;is ;to ;create ;a ­benchmark for others to follow and to develop a local sukuk market in the UK.”

Partners with knowledge of the transaction do not expect the issuing process to begin until the first or ­second quarter of 2009.

The structure of the transaction is not finalised but insiders expect it to be a lease-based ijara sukuk, which has real estate as the underlying assets.

If the placing is international, an underwriting bank and syndicate and additional legal advisers may be needed.

The Treasury required participants of the procurement ;process ;to ;sign ­confidentiality agreements before submitting tenders under ;the ;Office ;of ­Government Commerce Catalist process.

All the firms involved declined to comment.

For more on Norton Rose and the Treasury sukuk, read our feature.