Colombia has been a hot spot for infrastructure investment in the Andes, especially with its ground-breaking 4G infrastructure projects, and the Covid-19 pandemic was not enough to bring the sector to a halt.
It did, however, create plenty of difficulties, including legal challenges that required the active participation of lawyers who had to work within their own pandemic-imposed restrictions.
Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría, the winners of the Infrastructure Lawfirm of the Year in the Andes, invested in technology to maintain its ability to advise clients on tricky legal topics.
“We were all very worried last year when we had to go home because of the pandemic. We invested a lot in technology,” says Bogotá-based partner Juan Carlos Rocha. “As a regional company, we have no alternative to working with our Santiago and Lima offices via an IT platform.”
And work they surely had aplenty. In Colombia alone, PPU was an advisor to major deals such as the Puerta de Hierro financing, LatinFinance’s Local Currency Financing of the Year. It involved the issuance of a pioneering $760bn COP social bond for the funding of one of Colombia’s marquee 4G road projects.
“The Colombian government had it clear that it was necessary to throw the necessary lifeboats for the infrastructure sector to keep on moving,” says partner Carlos Padilla.
He notes that the government sought to reach sector-wide deals to reduce litigation linked to the pandemic. It acknowledged Covid-19 as force majeure, accepted exceptions to the compliance of certain obligations during limited periods of time, and acknowledged that revenues would fall in some projects, while looking for ways to somehow compensate for loss.
Infrastructure projects continued running as a result, but lawyers had much work to do in order to adapt contracts to the changes.
“The goal was to avoid that too much litigation was generated around the pandemic. And the reality is that today there are only a couple of projects that have demands linked to Covid-19,” Padilla says.