It’s not often an Australian firm leaves its global legal market competition behind in any ranking tables, given the relative size of the local market.
But that’s just what Allens
achieved in 2014, coming out ahead of the world’s biggest names in Dealogic’s recently released Project Finance Review, topping the 'Global Infrastructure Project Finance Legal Adviser’ ranking.
“You have to give a lot of credit to various Australian governments,” Allens’ practice head Phillip Cornwell told Australasian Lawyer
“The fact that an Australian-based firm was able to rank number one in the world gives you a feel for how strong the infrastructure market has been in Australia.”
Allens advised on 22 infrastructure deals valued at $6.7 billion to be ranked first, accounting for 8.1 per cent of the global market spend.
The deals included work on the landmark $3.7 billion North West Rail Link.
The run looks set to continue. From the helm of its project finance practice, Cornwell sees a buoyant 2015 for infrastructure finance lawyers.
“I don’t think you would often see a better pipeline of infrastructure spending than we have at the moment,” he said.
Cornwell said large privatisation transactions in Queensland and NSW, as well as ad-hoc privatisation work in other states, such as the Port of Melbourne, would be a central theme.
“The big ticket items are going to be the port, industrial water pipeline and electricity assets in Queensland, and electricity assets in NSW,” Cornwell said.
“There is some element of political risk, given the upcoming Queensland and NSW elections, but the general expectation is that both outcomes will favour progressing with the privatisation of those assets,” he said.
Allens will continue to try and avoid over-specialising in any one aspect of project financing, and will be looking for a variety of roles, Cornwell said.
“We are advising the NSW government on its electricity privatisation proposals, and the Queensland government on its industrial water pipeline sales. For other transactions, we are looking at sponsor and financier roles.”
He has no fears over whether the Australian legal market can service the demand for project finance expertise in the coming year.
“I think Australia is a very sophisticated legal market. Australia has always been something of a pioneer in the project finance arena, and we have skilled lawyers in that market offering good service.”
“People do worry about the capacity of both the capital markets and the local skills base to meet the demands of this current round of privatisations- I don't share those concerns and I certainly don’t think we will run out of good lawyers,” he said.
Cornwell said Allens’ ability to top the Dealogic ranking comes down to a strong team with commercial understanding, enabling clients to enlist a team with a ‘deal mentality’ that gets things done with a minimum of fuss.
That, and a string of past successes to the firm’s name.
“Nothing succeeds like success,” Cornwell said. “We’ve been involved in many groundbreaking transactions over the last 30 years, and that gives people the reassurance they are coming to the right place.”