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Tunnel deal pushed through in record time

Tunnel deal pushed through in record time

Clayton Utz finalised contractual negotiations clearing the way for construction of the $1.5 billion Lane Cove Tunnel in Sydney’s north last month, claiming a record time between choice of…

Clayton Utz finalised contractual negotiations clearing the way for construction of the $1.5 billion Lane Cove Tunnel in Sydney’s north last month, claiming a record time between choice of preferred bidder and financial close for a public-private construction deal.

The deal was completed in two months without any face-to-face contact between lawyers, following the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority’s (RTA) October announcement of the winning bidder — Lane Cove Tunnel Consortium (including Thiess, John Holland, Transfield and ABN Amro).

Doug Jones, lead partner in the deal, said Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) were notoriously complex, often involving large consortiums and the raising of significant amounts of debt and equity.

“As a consequence, the history of these deals around the world is that ... often there is months, if not years between choosing a preferred bidder and financial close,” he explained.

Clayton Utz has been involved in many of the major toll roads projects in Australia, including the Eastern Distributor, M5 and M2, which will eventually join with the Lane Cove Tunnel to form the Sydney orbital road network, due for completion in 2007.

By virtue of ABN Amro’s involvement, Jones said this was the first time in Australia where debt for a major PPP road project had been raised through a bond issuance. Like many other PPP’s construction projects, the consortium will build and operate the twin 3.4km tunnels, collecting a toll to fund their investment and return a profit.

Over the past 18 months, Clayton Utz worked on all aspects of the project, including preparation of the tender documents and all RTA’s contractual documentation, and advising on the acquisition of the land corridor.

Partners Sergio Capelli, Murray West and Andrew Poulos also had key roles.

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