05 Aug 2009

Clayton Utz advises winning bidder on Victorian Desalination Project

Melbourne, 5 August 2009: Clayton Utz continues to consolidate its reputation as the legal adviser of choice on Australia's largest and strategically significant infrastructure projects, following the Victorian government's awarding to the AquaSure consortium of the contract to build the country's largest desalination plant at Wonthaggi in Victoria.

A Clayton Utz team worked alongside the AquaSure consortium – comprising Suez Environnement, Degremont, Thiess and Macquarie Capital Group – throughout the bidding process, providing strategic and commercial advice on both the bidding documentation and financing arrangements for the project.

The AquaSure consortium will finance, design, construct, operate and maintain the multibillion dollar desalination plant via a Public Private Partnership with the Victorian Government, including an 84-kilometre transfer pipeline to connect to Melbourne’s existing network and undertaking various related renewable energy projects in order to fully offset the electricity used by the project. The project is the largest PPP being undertaken globally since the global financial crisis began.

In a multi-disciplinary and cross-office effort, Melbourne projects partners Dan Fitts, Marcus Davenport and Naomi Kelly led the Clayton Utz team that advised the AquaSure consortium on the necessary project documentation, including the finalising and signing of the Project Deed in late July as part of the bid process.

Meanwhile debt finance partner Simon Irvine and corporate partner Brendan Groves advised on the complex debt funding and equity arrangements for the project, which involved consideration and documentation of innovative structures to secure finance for the project in a challenging market.

The project contract is expected to reach financial close on or before 4 September this year, with the AquaSure consortium to begin construction of the plant and associated infrastructure soon after. Work has already commenced on the project.

Clayton Utz projects partner Dan Fitts said the team was pleased to have advised the AquaSure consortium on a project of such strategic significance to Victoria in meeting its future water needs. "We congratulate AquaSure on securing the contract for this important project and will continue to work alongside it as it enters the construction phase of the project," he said.

"Our experience in major infrastructure and PPP projects being built around the country including Peninsula Link, EastLink, and the Biosciences Research Centre projects in Victoria, the Clem7 Tunnel and Airport Link projects in Queensland, and the New Royal Adelaide Hospital project in South Australia, puts us in a unique position to understand the drivers of such a project and help our client AquaSure deliver on its commitment."

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.