Real estate teams have had to juggle some highly sensitive deals this year.
The Lawyer Awards prize for Real Estate Team of the Year is always hotly contested.
Last year, Osborne Clarke carried off the gold medal for advising Eurostar on its relocation from Waterloo to St Pancras.
This year regeneration is the overwhelming theme, and many of the real estate teams have had to field teams that are able to provide high-level environment and planning work.
That said, there has been some interesting headquarter-related work of varying sensitivity, even though headquarter moves and sales seem to belong to a different age. Niche firm Maples Teesdale won the mandate from the US government for the acquisition of a site for its new embassy. It was not the first time the boutique had worked for the US government – the firm advised it on the sale of 20 Grosvenor Square last year.
At the other end of the size scale, Allen & Overy, led by Imogen Moss, makes the shortlist for its role on the largest real estate transaction of 2008: HSBC’s £838m acquisition of its global headquarters in Canary Wharf from Spanish property group Metrovacesa. Trophy sales like that are hardly common in the current climate.
The rest of the shortlisted firms have been nominated for their work on regeneration schemes of different shapes and sizes. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer makes the cut for its advice to Land Securities on its agreement with London Underground at Victoria Station.
Fellow magic circle firm Clifford Chance is shortlisted for its role advising Canary Wharf Group on the development of the Isle of Dogs Crossrail station – a project with a highly complex underlying structure that required tricky lease-financing techniques.
Pinsent Masons fielded a multi-disciplinary real estate, planning and environment team advising the Olympic Delivery Authority on the London 2012 Olympic Park and Stratford City development – one of the most politically sensitive projects in the UK at the moment. The scope of work included coming up with sustainability solutions and remediation technologies, plus an array of new legal mechanisms to take account of the long-term future of the project.
Outside London, both Berwin Leighton Paisner and Dewey & LeBoeuf worked on politically charged deals. BLP advised Tesco’s development arm Spen Hill Developments on a mixed-use project in Kirkby, which included room for a brand-new stadium for Everton Football Club, necessitating a controversial public inquiry. The project was successfully actioned without an open tender under European procurement rules.
Dewey & LeBoeuf, led by Graham Prentice and Nicholas Rock, worked with BP’s in-house team, led by Stephen Room, on the landmark regeneration of the BP Llandarcy oil refinery site, which needed the lawyers to untangle an intricate historical web of property arrangements and which brought both property and environmental considerations to the fore and required high-level advice on remediation issues.
Infrastructure and energy team of the year
One of the most challenging deals from a lender standpoint was the £341.5m refinancing of Wembley National Stadium, where a Shearman & Sterling team led by Kenneth MacRitchie advised lead arrangers WestLB, Barclays Capital, RBS and Lloyds TSB, and arrangers Bank of Ireland and Banco Espirito Santo on the refinancing of the original loan during the most dire of market conditions.
Clifford Chance is shortlisted for its work for sponsors Cobham, EADS, Rolls-Royce, Thales and VT on the £13bn Airtanker project to provide the RAF with a fleet of air-to-air refuelling aircraft. It was a project eight years in gestation.
The renewables sector is represented by Burges Salmon, which advised Helius Energy on a series of biomass fuel projects. Most notably, the Bristol firm advised on the Stallingborough project in Lincolnshire, one of the UK’s largest biomass plants to date. Partners Will Gard, Ross Fairley and Richard Spink advised on the deal, which required certainty of supply of material – no easy task.
The nuclear flavour in the shortlist is provided by the energy and infrastructure elements of EDF’s £12.5bn takeover of British Energy, led by Herbert Smith. There were also two long-running overseas projects, such as Sakhalin 2, Russia’s largest ever foreign investment and financing, led by Linklaters partners Stuart Salt and James Douglass.
The documentation had to address environmental matters and political risk, which included negotiations with both local and federal authorities, and acquisition of land rights and land-use permits on Sakhalin Island. The three major onshore plants and two 800km pipelines represent the largest land requirement for any international investment in Russia.
In a major Yemeni liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, Sullivan & Cromwell London partner Stewart Robertson headed a compact team that led the project to successful financial close in a context of political risk. Sullivan advised the sponsors and the pipeline was the first of its kind in the country.
The LNG sector also provided another nomination, this time in Western Europe. Addleshaw Goddard acted on the first phase of the Gate regasification terminal in the Netherlands, a deal that was structured similarly to a PFI.
Another major international project that makes the shortlist is the Devoll Valley hydro scheme, advised by Pinsent Masons, the winner in 2008. A team led by
Shearman & Sterling
Sullivan & Cromwell
Winner: Pinsent Masons, for the Gautrain Rapid Rail Link, South Africa
Second: Norton Rose, for the Queen Alia Airport in Jordan
Third: Ashurst, for the Queen Alia Airport in Jordan
Shortlisted: Paul Hastings, Shearman & Sterling, Wragge & Co