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Learning on the job

Freehills and Blake Dawson Waldron have added a second NSW schools public private partnership (PPP) to their range of experience.Patrick

Freehills and Blake Dawson Waldron have added a second NSW schools public private partnership (PPP) to their range of experience.

Patrick St John and David Templeman led the Freehills team, which acted for Axiom Education, owned by ABN AMRO Australia and Babcock & Brown, while Joanne Evans led the Blakes team in representing the NSW Government. The project involved the design, construction, commissioning and facilities management of 10 new schools in the state.

St John said although the deal was similar to the first schools’ PPP, the State’s requirements for this project and its structures had continued to evolve.

“The deal wasn’t as much of a cookie cutter or repeat as might be thought, in the sense that although we were effectively trying to achieve the same thing, the form of the document that the state wanted to use had evolved, so it wasn’t done on identical terms,” St John said.

The state had learnt lessons from the first project, he said, and had made several changes, including the transfer of risk to the private sector, which meant Axiom Education had to ensure it would be able to obtain insurance for the schools.

St John said the time in which the deal was closed was a real achievement — it took just seven months from the receipt of the request for detailed proposal documentation in July last year, “an exceptionally short time frame for a PPP project”. This was particularly impressive in light of the fact that the details of the schools to be included in the project changed throughout the process.

The first schools PPP closed in early 2003, since which time the schools have been built, and received a “very favourable review” of the way the project was conducted in a recent government report.

“I daresay that led the education department to bring on the second project,” St John said.

Freehills advised its clients on all aspects of the transaction, including the negotiations with the state, drafting of all Project documents and the $114 million capital markets financing.

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