Winner: White & Case
White & Case put together a truly impressive portfolio of work in the project and infrastructure space over the past year.
The team, headed by Carlos Viana, the firm’s head of Latin America practices, were involved in three of the winning category winners, including the Bond of the Year category.
Despite the slowdown of deals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the battle for the top spot was decided by razor thin margins and marked the firm’s winning the category for the first time in five years.
White & Case was involved in the $1.1 billion MV24 project bond that was chosen as the Bond of the Year transaction, which had the size and strategic importance of the asset for not only Brazil but the energy industry as it pushes to extract oil from deep water wells.
Also among the winners it was involved with were the historic $457.6 million zero coupon notes sold to finance the Government of Paraguay’s efforts to build major highways, Rutas 2 and 7. This project, which had an additional $200 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, was named the PIFA’s Infrastructure Financing – Southern Cone, deal of the year. This was the largest private investment in the history of Paraguay and the first completed under the land-locked nation’s seven-year-old Public Private Partnership law.
In describing the work it did on Rutas 2 and 7, White & Case said the financing broke new ground by including a letter of credit facility provided by a multilateral lending agency “to fully support advances to a project company using bond proceeds to finance working capital. It is the first time ever IDB Invest and IDB have provided a letter of credit facility for a project finance transaction.”
“The solid governance and above-average transparency scores, result mainly from management’s decision to structure the debt as a project finance, including a very detailed cash flow waterfall, robust covenant package, and the creation of a set of accounts that will allow the isolation of proceeds,” S&P Global said in its report on the photovoltaic initiative.
White & Case worked on the historic Energia del Pacifico LNG-to-power infrastructure project in El Salvador that won the LatinFinance Infrastructure Finance – Central America category. The $657 million project finance loan helped secure the necessary funds for a first of its kind project that also represented the largest private sector investment in the country. The financing, closed late last year, for the plant under construction in the Port of Acajutla, will result in an expected $1 billion in foreign direct investment that helps underpin the electric grid.
Viana points to the large integrated team that has input from both Europe and Asia as well as Latin America, allowing the team to pick up on trends elsewhere and see how they might impact the region.
Looking at the current landscape, given the pandemic, Viana said there of course has been an impact on both the way business is being conducted but also the number of business transactions taking place.
“I think some investment decisions for large capex budgets are being deferred in some jurisdictions in Latin America that are perceived to have been most affected by (the pandemic),” Viana said in an interview with LatinFinance.
“We still see a good amount of impetus and efforts to try to resume projects, energy projects, divestments,” he said, pointing to renewables across the region and especially in Brazil where there appears to be large potential for such projects.