What makes a law firm stand out? The Best Law Firm competition is complex because of the diversity of Islamic finance markets. Unique styles, powerful personalities and client demands shape a landscape that has more contours than the Three Gorges region of China. Part of this field is shaped by the tested and true: real estate, banking, capital markets and asset management. Other features, one asks, are they permanent? Fintech, environmental, social and governance (ESG)/green/sustainable and responsible investment (SRI)/sustainable? Or will they be washed away by a new fad?
Competitors for our different categories represent national champions and global firms. There are no laggards among them. We try to balance the power of global firms and national champions. Therefore, our panel examines the firms from a qualitative perspective: are they breaking new ground? What is the implication of their work? How broad is their reach? What types of problems are they helping their clients to solve? Nonetheless, we do not ignore the firms that slog through the trenches producing consistent and quality advice.
UAE-based international firms extended the Islamic capital markets into the Commonwealth of Independent States, activated the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and competed aggressively in Saudi Arabia. The dynamic change in Saudi Arabia’s commercial landscape means that we see new firms stepping into the lead. The competition for Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) is strong: it is superheated in Saudi.
Important markets like Bahrain were underrepresented. Kuwait and Oman showed well. Qatar also came to play. Yet, this year’s awards lacked meaningful representation from Africa where there is so much Islamic finance activity.
Malaysian firms are on the national agenda. ESG/green/SRI/sustainable are among the voluminous submissions from the Malaysian team. Perhaps most importantly, the role of Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM)’s Shariah Advisory Council (SAC) was affirmed in Malaysian courts. This result upholds the Banking Act of 2009 and protects the Islamic banking market from judgments which are not consistent with Shariah. One can imagine implications beyond Malaysia.
Stylistically, innovation is not as significant as one might hope. Tawarruq or commodity Murabahah continues to play an outsized role in the market. One nomination even shows it creeping into Oman where it has been banned. Where innovation did arise was in the Arbitration, Insolvency and Restructuring nominations, notably with the recasting of Dana Gas — may this issuer and its headaches be resolved for good — into the Nile Delta Sukuk.
Real Estate remains in the heart of Islamic investors. Size mattered in the UK. Convoluted challenges had to be managed to enter Ireland. The GCC and Australia were active markets as well. REITs remain an important theme. One Saudi REIT went abroad to acquire real estate. Others leveraged. More listed.
Fintech takes a number of new turns with the emergence of tokens listed on the ADGM, the creation of digital trade assets and more payment system evolution.
Innovation was light, efficiency was high. Replication of tested concepts was the hallmark of this year’s submissions.
Arbitration, Insolvency & Restructuring: Allen & Overy
K&L Gates acted for Deutsche Bank in the AED2.1 billion (US$571.62 million) restructuring of Gulf General Investment Co Group’s combined conventional and Shariah compliant debt. The firm also advised a Qatar-based Islamic bank on the restructuring of a US$865 million Murabahah financing made available for a mixed-use real estate development in Istanbul, Turkey. As domestic market conditions have become increasingly challenging, the project has suffered delays. K&L Gates had to address the complicated interplay of English, Turkish and Qatari laws and advise on strategic issues related to dealing with geopolitical concerns in Turkey.
One never likes to award bad behavior. Yet, the Dana Gas saga provided a rich trove of issues for the Islamic finance market to address. Even now, one does not know if the various UAE jurisdictions involved will make specific changes to prevent similar obstreperous acts. The solution is both a repeat of the common GCC resolution of troubled deals — renegotiate — and a replicable capital markets reorganization of the Dana Gas obligations into a form which appears much less susceptible to the types of obstructions to performance raised by Dana Gas.
Allen & Overy advised BNY Mellon Corporate Trustee Services in its capacity as the delegate on the issuance by Nile Delta Sukuk of US$530 million-worth of trust certificates due 2020 (the New Certificates) which were issued in exchange for Dana Gas Sukuk’s US$425 million exchangeable trust certificates due 2017 and US$425 million trust certificates due 2017 (the Original Certificates).
Allen & Overy also advised Deutsche Trustee Company in its capacity as the delegate in relation to the restructuring of, and exchange offer in relation to, the Original Certificates. The issuance of the New Certificates and the exchange offer in relation to the Original Certificates brought an end to the well-publicized dispute between Dana Gas and some of the holders of the Original Certificates. Norton Rose Fulbright and Latham Watkins also trudged through the Dana Gas Sukuk exchange process.
Allen & Overy worked with the creditors’ committee on the restructuring of Dubai International Capital relating to its sole asset. The firm also worked on the Sukuk issued in conjunction with the reorganization of Aldar Properties.
The firm also represented Network International in amendments to its US$350 million Murabahah facilities in a manner that allowed the reorganization of the group prior to the listing of Network International Holdings. The first stage of the transaction involved (i) the accession of Network International Holding 2 as an additional guarantor to the various finance documents and (ii) the entering into of the global amendment and restatement agreement.
As a result, the mechanics of the Murabahah agreements were adjusted so that pricing resets would reflect the company’s performance. The second stage of the transaction involved Network International Holdings and Network International Holding 1 acceding to the various finance documents as additional guarantors.
Asset Management & Islamic Funds: King & Spalding
In the past year, the strength of King & Spalding (K&S) is clearly reflected in its submission. But Herbert Smith Freehills offered particularly stiff competition. Herbert Smith’s ongoing projects include bringing a moribund asset manager back to life with the launch of a Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) REIT, helping a national player to restructure its fund offerings in the UAE, setting up a Shariah compliant ‘sweep money fund’ and guiding a fund maker to launch a GCC-focused public debt fund. Completed matters include work for Arqaam Capital and Mashreq Capital. As the works in progress continue, K&S should be looking over its shoulder!
K&S’s landmark deal is advising the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation on the launch of the first-ever Shariah compliant fund for sovereign energy transactions. K&S worked with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) on their African Infrastructure Fund domiciled in Labuan. One may hope that the trade fund will take advantage of new concepts and evolve past goods Murabahah and Tawarruq. Perhaps we will see new initiatives like Salam for energy products.
Long the ruler of Saudi REITs, K&S advised Alkhabeer Capital on the launch and listing of its REIT in Saudi Arabia. For Riyad Capital, K&S acted as counsel for the first REIT to not only increase its capital in Saudi Arabia, but to be permitted to invest in assets outside of the Middle East.
Herbert Smith Freehills
Banking & Finance: J Lee & Associates
Nobody can be surprised that the banking competition is the hottest. The volume of high-quality submissions demonstrates the role of banking compared to other forms of finance within the Islamic market. Alexander & Partner Rechtsanwaelte mbB broke new ground on German-GCC cross-border transactions. Dentons and White & Case continued to show well in the GCC.
Addleshaw Goddard Oman became a true domestic champion serving a wide number of banks on diminishing Musharakah and Ijarah facilities. Al Busaidy, Mansoor Jamal & Co competed intensely in the Omani market and worked with Credit Suisse cutting-edge interbank liquidity products for the local market.
Linklaters structured a novel commodity Murabahah for Emirates Steel. In this transaction, the firm avoided the rolling commodity Murabahah. The single fixed term contract was complemented with variable deferred payments and sale and purchase undertakings being used to replicate a floating rate structure.
The rise of Clyde & Co is remarkable. Their 2018/9 transaction spread was remarkable: Saudi Arabian, UAE, Qatari, Egyptian, Bruneian, Malaysian and Singaporean investments into the UK and Turkey, and hedging for a prominent Malaysian investor. The firm is no longer an also-ran in the Islamic banking arena as its growing and diverse customer base puts it into the market lead. All of these in five years. Any other year, this would have been good enough to win.
J Lee & Associates was active with Malaysian banks in bringing its documents up to standard with the latest BNM policy documents. Notably, the firm was successful in two landmark cases that will support the Islamic banking industry in Malaysia.
The first case involved Affin Bank v. Jamaluddin Jaafar relating to a charge on property in Malay reserve land in Kedah. The firm defended the constitutionality of the charge before a five-judge panel at the Federal Court. Dr Mohd Johan Lee represented the Association of Islamic Banks Malaysia (AIBIM) as intervener in that case. The Federal Court judges held unanimously that Affin Bank’s charge does not violate the Kedah Malay Reserve Land Enactment.
The second case was initiated in a legal dispute between JRI Resources v. Kuwait Finance (Malaysia). This case has the widest reach for Islamic banking and finance in Malaysia. In August 2018, the firm represented AIBIM, appeared and submitted before nine judges of the Federal Court of Malaysia regarding the constitutionality of Sections 56 and 57 of the Central Bank Act 2009. The firm submitted that the impugned sections are not unconstitutional. The majority held in April 2019 that the impugned sections are not unconstitutional. The majority decision is that the SAC of BNM does not usurp the judicial power of the judiciary to interpret and apply the law in the case before the court. As a result, the SAC is the leading authority and sole determiner on any Shariah issue in respect of Islamic financial matters in Malaysia, and the courts are bound to any ruling by the SAC on point.
Although the decision was not unanimous, it strengthens the position of the SAC and does not invalidate in whole or part of the Central Bank Act of 2009. As Malaysia is often a model for other markets, the learnings from this case are expected to be applied as legislation governing Islamic finance in various countries that recognize Shariah.
Capital Markets: King & Spalding
As always, the Malaysian champions were hyperactive. But efficiency is a trademark of Malaysia. Hence, the submissions are a bit of the old lather, rinse and repeat. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld joined the ranks of top capital markets candidates. The Islamic capital market products, led by Sukuk, are the standard bearer of Islamic finance entering new markets. Allen & Overy remained a stalwart of the GCC market. Akin Gump rose prominently in the GCC, and raised the Sukuk flag in Kazakhstan when it advised the ICD on the establishment and issuance of its first Kazakhstan Stock Exchange-listed tenge (the local currency)-denominated Sukuk program.
King & Spalding (K&S) showed breadth as a go-to firm for new issuers, innovators and new markets. As one might expect, K&S blended its global real estate investment structuring skills with their dominance of the Saudi REIT market to guide Riyad REIT to make its first overseas acquisition. K&S also worked with Riyad REIT to increase its capital and plan its inaugural Sukuk issuance. There was much innovation in K&S’s work as well including the first security token that is eligible to be traded on the ADGM market.
The ADGM has been viewed as somnolent. But it is making its presence felt as it draws crypto transactions, company and REIT listings.
Energy & Natural Resources: Adnan Sundra & Low
Latham & Watkins advised across the GCC including the US$4.6 billion financing of the greenfield Duqm Refinery Project, joining Clifford Chance to counsel on the complex US$1.3 billion refinancing for the Al Dur Power and Water Project. Latham, Norton Rose Fulbright and Allen & Overy all worked on the resolution of the Dana Gas fiasco. Allen & Overy was also part of the Duqm and BAPCo projects.
Adnan Sundra & Low got their fingers dirty working the largest oil and gas deal in Southeast Asia over the past five years. ASL advised Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production Public Company on the purchase of Murphy Oil Corporation’s oil and gas business in Malaysia through acquiring shares in its two Malaysian subsidiaries, Murphy Sabah Oil Co and Murphy Sarawak Oil Co. The acquisition includes five petroleum exploration and production projects in the shallow and deep waters off the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.
The firm also advised on a large-scale solar power plant at Bukit Selambau. ASL advised client on legal matters in the preparation of a bid submission to the Energy Commission Malaysia. The client’s bid was successful.
ESG, Green, SRI: Adnan Sundra & Low
Clifford Chance and Dentons were involved in Majid Al Futtaim Holding’s green issuance of US$600 million 10-year fixed rate trust certificates by MAF Sukuk. Proceeds will be used in accordance with the Majid Al Futtaim Group’s Green Finance Framework to finance or refinance eligible projects within the categories of renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable water management and/or green buildings.
Malaysia’s promotion of ESG and green Sukuk is having an effect. On the 28th February 2019, Pasukhas Green Assets (PGA) made its first issuance of ASEAN Green SRI Sukuk pursuant to the ASEAN Green SRI Sukuk program of RM200 million (US$47.86 million) in nominal value under the Shariah principle of Wakalah Istithmar together with Murabahah (via a Tawarruq arrangement).
PGA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pasukhas Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pasukhas Group. Proceeds from the ASEAN Green SRI Sukuk will be used to finance green projects that aim to preserve the environment and natural resources, conserve the use of energy, promote the use of renewable energy and/or reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as other related expenses. These objectives are consistent with the eligibility requirements of the Securities Commission Malaysia’s SRI Sukuk Framework, as well as the ASEAN Green Bond Standards which are based on the International Capital Markets Association’s Green Bond Principles.
The Pasukhas deal demonstrates the issuer’s commitment to contributing to the nation to reduce its dependence on power generated using fossil fuels.
Fintech: King & Spalding
In our past fintech awards, Simmons & Simmons had been unassailable. In 2018/19, King & Spalding (K&S) upped its game substantially. Where Simmons & Simmons soldiered on with its mega fintech projects, K&S raised its profile as a market leader in this segment.
The K&S deal roles included guiding Riyad Taqnia Fund to deals involving Souqalmal, Beehive operating in Saudi Arabia and half a dozen other tech firms. K&S also worked with FinFirst Capital, KISP Ventures (a joint venture between KFH Capital and Impulse International), Adeem Capital, Gulf Capital, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, Malaz Capital, East Chain, Dar Al Mal, King Abdullah University of Sciences and Technology and the ICD on a joint fund, and Permian Holding SPV. Somebody made up for lost time in a big way!
The initial Permian transaction was followed by a new capital raise to develop blockchain and digital asset technology for use in the oil and gas sector to develop a solution for mining cryptocurrency using natural gas or flared gas to power containerized data centers with graphic processing units for digitalization and virtualization of oil and gas datasets.
This subsequent offering is being conducted through a private placement of shares in the ADGM which will be followed by a security token offering. This is expected to be the first security token offering authorized and regulated in the UAE by the ADGM Financial Services Regulatory Authority.
The security tokens will be traded on a regulated security token platform. The offering and SPV’s underlying transaction have been structured on a Shariah compliant basis. The SPV is the first Shariah compliant platform globally for digitizing oil reserves. The Shariyah Review Bureau has acted as the Shariah advisor. This type of transaction could lead the way for digitized trade finance assets on exchanges and in Islamic markets.
Honorable Mention: Simmons & Simmons
Mergers & Acquisitions: Khoshaim & Associates
Clifford Chance advised Union National Bank in the three-way merger of Union National Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Al Hilal Bank. This is an unusual case of a conventional bank with an Islamic window taking over a fully-fledged Islamic bank. The merger is expected to be a harbinger for the GCC banking industry as regulators promote and analysts encourage consolidation.
Albar & Partners was active in an array of Malaysian and ASEAN transactions. The most significant was Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor Holdings and its RM2.55 billion (US$610.16 million) disposal of its entire equity interest and redeemable unsecured loan stocks of its subsidiary, Syarikat Pengeluar Air Selangor, to Pengurusan Air Selangor, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the investment arm of the Selangor state government.
Adnan Sundra & Low acted on Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production Public Company’s purchase of Murphy Oil Corporation’s oil and gas business in Malaysia.
Saudi Arabia continues to generate significant M&A activity. Again, it brings us a winner. This time, Khoshaim & Associates (K&A) stepped up. Three of their prominent deals included advising Saudi Aramco on the acquisition of Shell’s interests in SASREF, a leading refinery in Saudi Arabia; advising Sipchem, a major listed petrochemical company, on its business merger with Sahara; and advising Saudi Aramco, as a purchaser, on its acquisition of Ta’shelat Marketing Company.
K&A’s landmark deal was advising Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) in relation to Saudi Aramco’s acquisition of 70% of its shares from the Public Investment Fund. The deal is the largest M&A transaction in Saudi’s history worth US$69.1 billion. It is the first deal of this size that allowed a listed company to utilize the private sale transaction rules under the Capital Market Authority (CMA)’s Merger & Acquisitions Regulations, without triggering the mandatory offer requirements of the CMA. The deal allowed SABIC to share information with Saudi Aramco under the private sale transaction rules and enter into agreements that would smooth the integration between the two companies, all the while navigating the fairness and equality rules.
Also, given SABIC’s listing, K&A had to handle a number of capital markets issues, including insider trading restrictions, change of control, competition, finance and public disclosure simultaneously. The transaction was a thorough test of the CMA’s rules on mergers and acquisitions. The deal also represents a reordering of the concentration of hydrocarbon activities in the Kingdom.
Offshore Finance: Trowers & Hamlins
Australia popped its head up more prominently as King & Wood Mallesons and Zaid Ibrahim advised on a number of cross-border deals for Malaysian investors in property. Maples always stands tall with its core business in funds and Sukuk. King & Spalding used a Labuan structure for the IDB’s African Infrastructure Fund and guided Riyad REIT in its acquisition of US property, the first offshore deal for a Saudi REIT.
Trowers & Hamlins’s dynamic real estate business was fundamentally offshore as they traditionally guide GCC and Malaysian investors into the UK. Their most recent coup was to guide Warba into a novel Irish structure to co-invest with a conventional investor in Irish real estate. This created a joint venture between Warba, as the majority holder, and private equity investor Henley Investment Management (Henley).
The acquisition structure accommodated Warba’s requirement for a Shariah compliant investment alongside non-Shariah investor Henley. A Musawwamah agreement, perhaps for the first time in Ireland, was deployed to manage specific partnership issues.
Private Equity: K&L Gates
Linklaters advised Saudi Investment Recycling Company (SIRC) on its commodity Murabahah financing in relation to its US$470 million acquisition of Global Environmental Management Services from Jadwa Investment, Fajr Capital and Ashmore. In early 2019, King & Spalding closed a transaction on behalf of Geidea, the leading payment systems company in Saudi Arabia, on a partial sale to Gulf Capital.
K&L Gates advised a leading regional investment bank, as financiers, in relation to a US$35 million secured convertible Murabahah facility made available to a leading global investment fund as the purchaser, to finance the acquisition of a stake in an internationally recognized asset management and investment advisory firm. The financing also incorporated a conversion option permitting the financiers to take interests in the general partners of the investment fund as a further means to exit.
K&L Gates also supported GCM Grosvenor (GCM) on the structuring and documentation of a Shariah compliant platform to facilitate investments by Middle Eastern investors in GCM’s conventional private equity platform.
Project Finance: Allen & Overy
Project finance remains a well-contested area. Linklaters enters the arena having advised on the largest new petrochemicals deal in the MENA region, the Farabi Petrochemicals expansion; and the largest export credit agency (ECA) deal for the US$6 billion brownfield BAPCO Modernization Project in Bahrain. Both deals were mixed financings which included Istisnah–Ijarah legs.
Allen & Overy (A&O) was also involved with the BAPCO transaction as part of its extensive GCC project finance activity: the US$9 billion greenfield Duqm Export Refinery Project in Oman, the SAMAPCO refinancing in Saudi Arabia and capex financing for Saudi Electricity Company.
A&O advised the obligor on Duqm. The Duqm project is noteworthy for several reasons: (i) it is the largest-ever project financing in Oman, the largest oil and gas project financing globally in 2018 and the largest EMEA project financing in any sector in 2018; (ii) it is the first oil and gas joint venture between GCC government-owned oil companies; (iii) it is the first project of this size in the GCC to be conducted on a complete greenfield basis; (iv) it is the first Middle East refinery to process crude from another country on a long-term contractual basis; (v) it is a complex financing package including four ECA facilities, two commercial facilities and an Istisnah–Ijarah Islamic facility; (vi) the financing was concluded against a macroeconomic background of highly volatile oil prices and downward pressure on the Omani and Kuwaiti sovereign credit ratings; (vii) the US$860 million market-first Ijarah tranche is the largest Shariah compliant facility on an Omani project; and (viii) it is a complex project-on-project with issues driven by the development by third parties of critical infrastructure. Latham & Watkins was also involved in the Duqm project advising the financiers.
Real Estate: Norton Rose Fulbright
As one might expect, real estate is as intensely competitive as banking. Allen & Overy (A&O) and Khoshaim & Associates advised on the establishment of a SAR11 billion (US$2.93 billion) domestic Sukuk issuance program for Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company. This will play a key role in the supporting of home finance for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A&O also worked on the Al Dar Sukuk transaction.
Zaid Ibrahim and King & Wood Mallesons cooperated on Malaysian investment into Australian real estate. Linklaters worked on the Ijarah financing provided to the Al Ahli REIT. And Trowers & Hamlins carried a substantial cross-border real estate workload including their novel cross-border structure for Warba Bank’s investment in Ireland.
The UK’s largest Islamic finance deal during this period was for the redevelopment of Regent’s Crescent in London. Norton Rose Fulbright advised Bank ABC and a syndicate of banks on a GBP250 million (US$311.13 million) senior Islamic facility. This transaction was highly complex as it involved a historic Grade I-listed building and its conversion into luxury apartments.
The scheme has a gross value at over GBP500 million (US$622.25 million). The title to the property, the technical challenges relating to the planning, demolition and construction and the complexity of the debt and security structure made this transaction challenging to execute for all parties involved. In addition to the senior facility, Fortress extended a GBP70 million (US$87.12 million) mezzanine Islamic facility, demonstrating the continued acceptability of Islamic financing as an alternative mode of financing in the UK.
Trade Finance: Allen & Overy
Simmons & Simmons has initiated work with Monimove, a Shariah compliant trade finance platform with offices in the UAE, the UK and the US. The Monimove platform plans to enable its customers to track approved funds and optimize their liquidity management processes.
Allen & Overy advised Noor Bank on a trade finance facility of up to US$200 million for Axiom Telecom to purchase its stock requirements structured using a Murabahah structure. The firm also advised two leading global investment banks as mandated lead arrangers on the latest round of Murabahah facilities for a leading Saudi Arabian telecommunications firm. The US$291 million facilities were backed separately by the Finnish Export Credit Agency and the Swedish Exports Credit Guarantee Board. The BAPCO transaction also required management of export credit agency (ECA) funding from six ECA providers.
Simmons & Simmons
Law Firm of the Year
In 2019, the number of categories rose to 16 with more than 30 firms competing. Selection was difficult. We saw a large number of firms do very well, repeating excellent work in well-trod activities like capital markets and banking. Quite often, the top firms had a large volume of good deals that built on their capacity to deliver quality with speed. The 2019 awards represent important new themes: the expansion of REITs, the emergence of the ADGM and an expansion of green Sukuk from Malaysia to Dubai.
As expected, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia were the busiest countries. Latham & Watkins, Clifford Chance and K&L Gates were all highly competitive. New firms came to the fore as winners with J Lee rising to the occasion in Banking.
Adnan Sundra and Low (ASL) was a top contender, winning Energy & Natural Resources and Green/SRI. This was an intriguing contrast as ASL won with the old dirty carbon and its alternative. The firm also showed in M&A.
Within the UAE, King & Spalding (K&S) was active in both the DIFC and ADGM. The K&S funds and capital market businesses in the UAE and Saudi Arabia showed why the firm is a repeat Best Law Firm of the year. A kinetic K&S dethroned Simmons & Simmons from the Fintech sector. K&S would seem likely to repeat as market champions.
Allen & Overy (A&O), however, pipped K&S as the best firm in this year’s competition. Like its global peers, A&O was very competitive in capital markets. The firm showed very well in the GCC with excellent execution across its breadth of clients.
One of the standout deals that might have carried A&O to win the Capital Markets category was its work for the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Corp. This transaction established a program for the ‘Fannie Mae’ of Saudi Arabia to be able to fulfill its role in expanding home ownership by refinancing the banks and home finance companies of the Kingdom.
A&O’s capital market honorable mention is fundamentally real estate. The firm also advised Aldar Investment Properties on its Sukuk issuance. This related to the complex reorganization of Aldar Properties, transfer of financing facilities between entities and the tender for Aldar Properties certificates issued in 2018.
Aldar was not the only reorganization and restructuring deal for A&O. The firm played a prominent role in the Nile Delta Sukuk facility which was issued in exchange for the Dana Gas Sukuk; and the resolution of issues relating to Dubai International Capital and Network International. Each of these had a unique complexity that earned A&O top honors for Arbitration, Restructuring and Insolvency.
A&O showed well in Energy & Natural Resources and was among the firms cooperating on Dana Gas, Duqm and BAPCO. The latter two deals were part of A&O’s resume as Best Project Finance team. This win also included work for SAMAPCO on its refinancing, and the Saudi Electricity Co for capital expenditures.
A key theme for A&O which is reflected in their Project Finance and Trade Finance wins is work with export credit agencies (ECAs). The BAPCO and Duqm transactions, like the Scandinavian export deals, required critical work with ECAs. Either ECAs have to be managed in relation to the common terms and inter-creditor relationships with Islamic tranches or there is a structuring element as with the Scandinavian deals.
There is an element of the mundane to A&O’s victory. Like many rivals, the firm produced a high volume of well-advised deals as testimony to its performance in the market. Key deals are complex, contributions are incremental.
Law Firm of the Year: Allen & Overy
|Table 1: IFN Law Awards 2019 — categories and winners|
|Arbitration, Insolvency & Restructuring||Allen & Overy|
|Asset Management & Islamic Funds||King & Spalding|
|Banking & Finance||J Lee & Associates|
|Capital Markets||King & Spalding|
|Energy & Natural Resources||Adnan Sundra & Low|
|ESG, Green, SRI||Adnan Sundra & Low|
|Fintech||King & Spalding|
|Mergers & Acquisitions||Khoshaim & Associates|
|Offshore Finance||Trowers & Hamlins|
|Private Equity||K&L Gates|
|Project Finance||Allen & Overy|
|Real Estate||Norton Rose Fulbright|
|Trade Finance||Allen & Overy|
|Law Firm of the Year||Allen & Overy|