CC and A&O tie up work on $16bn restructuring of Dubai's Nakheel

Clifford Chance (CC) and Allen & Overy (A&O) have concluded their work on the landmark $16bn (£10bn) restructuring of troubled Dubai construction giant Nakheel, which has seen it split from parent company Dubai World.

The restructuring was implemented last week (24 August) after around two years of work for the magic circle duo, which were instructed in 2009.

CC acted for Nakheel, with A&O advising the banks throughout, while US firm Latham & Watkins also played a key role, advising the Dubai authorities.

The restructuring was particularly complex due to the company’s liabilities including bank debt, sukuk, government debt, trade creditor liabilities, customer liabilities and inter-group debt. The bank debt was also a mix of both conventional and Islamic facilities and a number of hedging arrangements, while there were around 30 financiers involved.

The deal also marked the first time Islamic sukuk bonds have been used to settle outstanding creditor claims in the Middle East, with AED3.8bn (£634m) worth of bonds issued last week (25 August) by Nakheel to trade creditors.

CC’s team was led by London-based restructuring partner Mark Hyde and Dubai-based counsel Debbie Walker, while other partners to have advised on the restructuring included London restructuring partner Adrian Cohen.

Dubai-based partner Debashis Dey led the team advising on the capital markets sukuk transaction alongside Dubai partner Qudeer Latif and US law partner Bob Trefny. The separation advisory team was led by senior associate Melissa Coakley, Dubai counsel James McCarthy as well as Walker.

A&O, which was not involved in the capital markets transaction, fielded a team advising the creditor banks led by Hong Kong bank restructuring partner David Kidd. Latham’s team was led by Middle East head Bryant Edwards.

CC Dubai banking partner Robin Abraham commented: “It took a Herculean effort on the part of our banking, capital markets and corporate teams to close the bank and trade creditor restructurings as well as the legal separation from the Dubai World Group all in the same week.”

CC’s Walker added: “It was certainly a huge challenge to pull the transaction together. There was no template to follow and there were so many parties involved with different interests that it required a great effort to come up with a structure that could be implemented. Implementation itself across all creditor classes was a mammoth task – and we had to do it at the same time as transferring Nakheel from Dubai World’s ownership to the Dubai Government.”

Nakheel is just one of many Dubai companies to have been hard hit by the global financial downturn, and in 2009 it was reported that it had held discussions with DLA Piper regarding alleged late payment of a significant sum in fees. However, it is understood that the outstanding fees were paid to DLA during the summer of 2009.