Norton Rose concludes financing of £345m London schools project

Norton Rose has completed its third major financing of a Government building project this year at a time when it is also advising Tube Lines in relation to its bid for a London Underground network.

The firm has just finished advising Abbey National Treasury Services, the lead financial arranger for a £345m project to transform facilities in Tower Hamlets schools. Norton Rose has a longstanding relationship with Abbey National. Hackney, the local authority involved, describes it as the largest education PFI scheme in South East England.

The financing work was completed in just 10 weeks, significantly quicker than it usually takes for similar projects, according to Jon Ellis, Norton Rose’s project group partner, who led the team on the deal.

Comparative work usually takes between three and six months. Ellis put the speed of this transaction down to close cooperation between the parties.

However, the preparation stage took a lengthy two years as Ballast, the company responsible for the project’s construction and asset management services, had to review its plans following consultation with the schools in Tower Hamlets.

The partner line-up in the deal, in addition to Ellis, was construction and engineering partner Martin Bridgewater, commercial property partner David Ashworth and employment partner Peter Talibart. The firm also provided planning and environmental advice. Peter Rout of DLA represented Tower Hamlets and Andrew Bonser of Freshfields acted for the sponsors, TH Schools Limited Partnership.

In March, Norton Rose closed the £311m PFI for the Home Office’s new London headquarters, in which it acted for the sponsors. In June it completed the Ministry of Defence deal with ASWR Shipping for the construction of two ships at the Harland & Wolff shipyards in Belfast and four at the Flensburg yard in Germany.

Banking partner David Crane is currently advising Bank of Scotland, WestLB, Société Générale and Mizuho, the lead arrangers on Tube Line’s bid for the deep-tube JNP (Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly) network of the London Underground, described as the biggest public-private partnership of 2002.