An emergency evacuation of a fleet of lawyers and corporate heads from Brisbane to Sydney was carried out last week to ensure one of the biggest recent corporate deals was signed.
The final investment decision by the various partners in the $US16 billion ($16.1 billion) Gladstone Liquid Natural Gas Project (GLNG) was due to be signed in the Brisbane offices of Freehills last Wednesday (13 January), with around 25 lawyers and senior business people present. However, the Brisbane floods meant a change of venue was required.
"We had essentially set up a signing room in the Brisbane office," Freehills partner Sharon Wilson said. "If you can imagine a boardroom of around 70-odd documents where we were getting the conformed copies together all ready for execution, and then at about 5pm (13 Jan) we were finally told by the building management and the SES that we had to evacuate the building that night."
The main parties to the joint venture are Australian gas producer Santos, Malaysia's Petronas, the French company Total and Kogas from South Korea.
Wilson said that after being told they had to leave, it was a "mad dash" to Sydney, where the deal was signed the next day (14 January).
"A number of the team members who were air lifted from Brisbane to Sydney were leaving behind houses ... that were under threat," Wilson said.
Freehills acted for Santos, with over one dozen lawyers involved and nine partners.
Wilson led her fim's team on governance and sale transactions, with partners Matthew FitzGerald, Tony Damian, John Tivey, Don Robertson, Lucy McCullagh and Phil McMahon also involved.
The Freehills team acted on negotiations surrounding three engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts, dredging funding agreements and port logistics and materials off-loading facilities, and was led by partner Jay Leary, with Luke Simpson involved in discussions on port land access agreements.
Allens Arthur Robinson acted for Total, with Gavin MacLaren leading his firm's team. Other prominent partners involved from Allens included Steve Pemberton, Anna Collyer, Steve Potter, Jeremy Loeliger and Igor Bogdanich, with a further nine partners from the firm also having a role.
Blake Dawson acted for Kogas, with project finance and energy and resources partner Rupert Lewi the lead partner, and Sydney firm Addisons acted for Petronas, with Michael Ryan the main partner involved.
In December, Santos sold part of its stake to Kogas and Petronas for $665 million. The Australian company retains a 30 per cent stake in the GLNG.
Freehills partner Tony Damian said that although the floods in Brisbane affected the final signing of the deal, it should have no impact on investor confidence in Queensland.
"I think the investment in resources in Queensland and in LNG projects in particular will continue to grow," Damian said. "People often think of Perth when thinking of Australian resources, and Western Australia is obviously very important, but in my view, the east coast resources scene is equally important."
The final investment decision by the GLNG partners was welcomed by the Australian Government, with Martin Ferguson, the minister for energy and resources, saying that the project will deliver 5000 jobs during construction and 1000 permanent positions.
A number of environmental conditions were imposed on the project by the Federal Government.