ALLENS ARTHUR Robinson has snuck into the Dealogic Global Project Finance Review for the third year running, taking out 10th place in the legal adviser of global project finance deals table for 2007.
Allens were credited with 29 deals valued at US$4.995 billion ($5.651 billion) in total for 2007, down from 37 deals in 2006. Allen & Overy topped the 2007 table for global project finance, handling 68 deals at a value of over US$ 24.516 billion ($27.734 billion). See table: Legal advisor of global project finance deals.
The Dealogic Project Finance Review is a quarterly compilation of global and regional project finance loan activity, and the review is highly regarded by project finance players.
Allens placed seventh, ninth and eighth on the global table for 2006, 2005 and 2004, respectively, and has been the only Australian-based firm in the top 10 for the past three years.
“Obviously we are very pleased to see the result,” said Allens partner Phillip Cornwell, team leader of the firm’s project finance group. “I think it’s a tribute to our particular push, consistent with the whole firm’s emphasis to get more involved in Asian work,” he said.
One of the key deals for Allens in the Asia-Pacific region last year was the Phu Kham copper-gold project in Laos. “It was actually one of the more complex and challenging deals we did last year,” Cornwell said.
Overall Australia bucked the upward global trend in the global project finance sector. Regional analysis from Dealogic indicated that while Australia held firm at fifth position in international rankings, overall the Australasia region traded at a volume of US$14.7 billion ($16.6 billion), with 51 deals, a drop of 43 per cent from the previous year. See diagram: Dealogic Global Project Finance Review regional analysis.
Cornwell explained the reasons for the dip in the market in 2007. “I think one of the impacts, certainly in 2007, was that a number of transactions that might otherwise have been project financed were in fact funded in the corporate bond markets, particularly US high-yield markets. There’s some prospect that with difficult conditions in the bond markets that trend will be reversed in 2008.”
“I think possibly another factor is that there has been some consolidation, the bigger resource players in Australia tend to do less project finance, so that has perhaps led to a little restriction on deal flow,” Cornwell said.
“I think the booming equity markets of last year meant that for smaller players it was often easier for them to tap the equity markets than to negotiate a project financing with the bank, even though ultimately the project financing would be cheaper.”
When asked why other Australian firms don’t seem to be able to crack the Dealogic tables, Cornwell diplomatically declined to comment on his competitors’ performance. “I think we’ve just … been very strong in project finance for a long time and we’ve developed strong relationships with the key clients, the key players in the project finance sector,” he said.