International law firm Gowling WLG has been named Legal Advisor of the Year at the Partnership Awards 2019.
Securing the Gold award, the firm's Projects and Infrastructure team was recognised for its leading advisory services to a host of clients, including Highways England and a deal involving the GuarantCo/Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF).
Bringing together key decision-makers from the public and private sectors to recognise and reward outstanding achievements in PPP (Public Private Partnerships), these prestigious awards recognise the top leaders in industry in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The core focus of the award win was the level of innovation which the firm brought to bear on a long-standing and wide variety of legal advice given in relation to infrastructure-based projects for clients such as Highways England. This involved demonstrating the level of innovation delivered through the team's work and the impact this has had on the market.
The work for Highways England involved advising on the procurement of the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down (Stonehenge) road/tunnel project, a significant national project, with the client commenting on Gowling WLG's ability to balance innovation and a 'can do' attitude with a sensible approach towards risk.
"Gowling WLG has supported the A303 project in a very positive and proactive manner having brought a wealth of experience to the project. They operate a very genuine 'can do' rather than 'can't do' attitude whilst still managing to balance objectivity on issues of risk. Gowling WLG is part of the team rather than just an advisor."
The Gowling WLG team is supporting the organisation in developing the Outline Business Case, procurement strategy and the procurement and contract documents, bringing their wider experience of delivering projects in complex environments. Delivering on time is key to enabling this project to come to the market on time and achieve Highways England's objectives in delivering this project in a World Heritage Site. This should result in a high quality route which will remove traffic bottlenecks, improve connectivity and unlock economic growth and wider social benefits in the South West.
The work for the GuarantCo/Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF), which was led by Head of International Projects Jonathan Brufal, involved advising on the refinancing of Quantum Terminals Group (Quantum), a leading Ghanaian energy infrastructure developer, whereby the former provided a 75% partial guarantee of a GHS 45 million (US$10M) publicly tradeable corporate bond issued by Quantum.
This complex deal required a high degree of innovation as it had to run in parallel with the Bridge Power 424MW gas-fired power project in Tema, Ghana (Early Power). Without a successful refinancing Quantum could not have delivered Early Power, making this a hugely significant deal for PIDG, Quantum and the Ghanaian power market.
Gowling WLG's advice and drafting successfully combined GuarantCo's English law guarantee and recourse documentation with local law listed corporate bond documentation (which focused on project finance mechanics/protections), ensuring complete consistency with EAIF's Equity Bridge quasi debt/equity documentation. We had to ensure legal protections of Quantum's existing business operations and its equity rights under Early Power.
This was a highly rewarding transaction, given the potential effect the dual listing is anticipated to have in Ghana (and wider) going forward - a great example of how development finance institutions should be partnering with the private sector, with the following client testimonial supporting our contribution:
"..this landmark corporate bond issue…will support the construction of essential energy infrastructure…. It is our hope that through the precedents and framework which this transaction establishes, other corporates and investors can benefit and stimulate the growth of the local capital markets.'
"Delighted to have worked with [Gowling WLG] again, we had more than a few twists and turns as the deal developed over the months, but the team kept supporting us and, most importantly, supporting what all parties were trying to achieve, credit to them and great to get this over the line."
Lasitha Perera, GuarantCo CEO
Commenting on the overall achievement, Stephen Kenny, infrastructure partner, said:
"This is a fantastic achievement demonstrating the team's high performance within the legal framework on major UK and global infrastructure projects. It reflects the core abilities of the team, with this latest award being a testament to their ongoing hard work, effort and above all, innovation."
This latest award win comes in the wake of recent shortlisting success in the Legal Week Innovation Awards, Responsible Business Awards, as well as successes in the HR in Law Awards and Great Place to Work rankings, in which the firm was named in the Top 10 super-large businesses to work for in the UK.
Gowling WLG is an international law firm, which brings together the strength of 1,400 legal professionals across 18 cities worldwide. This collective expertise allows the firm to deliver sector-focused advice and seek out the most effective and innovative solutions to the practice, business and process of law.