THE STANDOUT infrastructure deal of 2006, Brisbane’s North-South Bypass Tunnel (NSBT) project, continues to impress in 2007, pulling in a bag of awards.
Clayton Utz acted in the deal as advisors to the project sponsor, Brisbane City Council, whereas Mallesons Stephen Jaqueswas lead transactional lawyers for bidder RiverCity Motorway Consortium.
Among the industry awards that decorate the project is the Government Partnership Excellence award from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia’s 2007 National Infrastructure Awards; Infrastructure Deal of 2006 by Project Finance International magazine; Asian Infrastructure Deal of the Year at the Project Finance International Awards 2006; and Best Project Finance Deal at the FinanceAsia Achievement Awards 2006 (Australia and NZ).
The first local government public-private partnership (PPP) of its kind in Australia, the NSBT project also marks Queensland’s first privately financed toll road.
According to Doug Jones AM, head of Clayton Utz’s major projects team, the unique expertise gained from working on the project will stand the firm in good stead for upcoming and significant infrastructure deals.
“For us, the immediate benefit of having efficiently performed for the client on NSBT is our appointment by the [Queensland] Government on Airport Link, which is the next contiguous, but much larger, toll road project following NSBT,” he said.
The Brisbane Airport Link will continue the NSBT at Bowen Hills through to the airport. Expressions of interest were called by the Government last week, when Clayton Utz was named as the advisor to the Government on the deal.
“That’s a monster of a job, and we’re just chuffed that out expertise has been recognised from NSBT and carried over to Airport Link,” Jones said.
Though any deal throws up unique challenges, “this one represented a number of legal and public policy challenges that we haven’t faced before,” the Clayton Utz partner said.
“It also enabled us to build on the work that we had done for the NSW and Victorian Governments on the NSW and Melbourne toll roads, in taking the industry engagement process to a new level of efficiency.”
Not only will the NSBT experience allow the firm to win more work nationally, but it may also open up substantial opportunities overseas, where interest in PPPs generally, and toll roads more specifically, is ever on the rise.
“The toll roads market in the US has suddenly exploded in PPPs, and therefore you see some of the key dealmakers in Macquarie, Babcock & Brown, ABN AMRO and Transurban now doing deals in the US rather than Australia,” Jones said.
“We would like to think that our knowledge of how to do these deals will translate, and in fact I was talking to the California Department of Transport a couple of months ago about giving them some assistance,” Jones said. “So there is always a possibility of involvement.”
Jones pointed to a deal in Taipei that a team of Clayton Utz lawyers has been acting on over the past four years, representing the largest PPP in the world, for the Taiwan high-speed rail system.
“That’s been fascinating work,” he said. “It’s a $16 ($20.4) billion US deal that one.”