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ZICOlaw wins two awards at The American Lawyer’s Global Legal Awards, 2014

ZICOlaw was recognized at The American Lawyer’s second annual Global Legal Awards and won the Global Pro Bono Deals of the Year (Environmental): Cambodian Carbon Credits award and the Global Finance Deal of the Year: Project Finance (Asia): Surgil Project Financing award.

The America Lawyer’s Global Legal Awards honors “all law offices that played a substantial role in the most distinguished cross-border work.” This year, winners in 36 categories were chosen from more than 270 nominations submitted by 66 law firms around the world.

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Global Finance Deal of the Year, Project Finance (Asia)

Winner: Surgil Project Financing (Uz-Kor Surgil Project)

Honorees: Vinson & Elkins; Leges Advokat; Cheong Kee Fong & Co; Shin & Kim; Norton Rose Fulbright; Colibri Law; Zaid Ibrahim & Co. (a member of ZICOlaw); Kim & Chang; Uz-Kor Gas Chemical

Long ago Uzbekistan was fabled for its Silk Road glories. Its turquoise-domed cities still attract a hearty tourist crowd. But for the most part it’s just another mineral-rich Central Asian nation that has yet to shake a post-Soviet grip on economic life and political expression.

Now, a major petrochemical project in the heart of Central Asia promises to bring major changes to the region. Indeed, an Uzbek foreign minister has said that the gas and chemical project may prove to be the foundation for Uzbekistan’s transformation into a knowledge economy. But first the Uzbeks have to capitalize on their natural resources.

This project is remarkable in a number of ways. Most projects in this sector are either upstream, involving the extraction of the resource, or downstream, involving the processing and delivery of the resource. But Uz-Kor combines an upstream project (the development of the Surgil gas and condensate field) with a downstream project (the construction of the Ustyurt Gas Chemical Complex) into a single financing.

The $4 billion project includes the largest South Korean financing component ever assembled for a project ($1.8 billion), and the largest petrochemical project financing in the CIS region. Putting the deal together required first creating a project company. Uz-Kor is jointly owned by UNG, the Uzbek national gas company, and Kor-Uz Gas Chemical Investment Ltd, the latter a consortium owned by three Korean energy companies. Second, the money was raised from a combination of quasi-public development agencies across Asia, nine commercial banks and several European export credit agencies. The financing closed last November. Ultimately the project will produce 21st-century polymers that will be sold across Europe and Asia, taking advantage of a location valued since ancient trading days.

Global Pro Bono Deals of the Year (Environmental)

Cowinner: Cambodian Carbon Credits


Honoree: Dentons, Sok Siphana & Associates
 (a member of ZICOlaw)

Cowinner: Climate Adaptation Swaps in Small Island Nations

Honoree: Ropes & Gray

To save the planet’s environment, sometimes you have to harness the power of financial creativity. This year we give the Global Environmental Citizenship Award to two groups who seem to have done just that.

We start with the Seychelles, a nation of 115 islands in the Western Indian Ocean. Its economy depends on tuna and tourism, but rising sea and warmer water due to climate change are challenging marine life and threatening to inundate part of the islands.

As part of a solution, the Nature Conservancy and Ropes & Gray have created a debt-swap program for the Seychelles. A pair of Ropes associates, Kasia Walawska and Sandy Boer, and the Conservancy have kick-started the project by drafting enabling legislation and setting up a national Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust.

The trust will buy $80 million in long-term national debt at a discount, of which about a quarter will be forgiven, and $34 million will fund ecosystem projects aimed at enhancing marine conservation and climate adaptation. The program also will also establish a permanent endowment to finance the Seychelles’ conservation efforts.

Meanwhile, Dentons’ Jeffrey Fort has been trying to stop the clear cutting of the mountain forest area in Cambodia known as Oddar Meanchey, by creating a program to sell carbon credits on international markets. The project aims to reduce emissions from deforestation by 8 million tons over 30 years, while also generating an income stream for the 58 villages within the great forest. The continuation of the project depends on the further sales of these verified carbon credits.

Fort has teamed with San Francisco’s Terra Global Capital, and a husband-and-wife legal team in Phnom Penh called Sok Siphana & Associates to design the program. By coincidence, the forest is also the region where the Khmer Rouge made their last stand, and the rangers who patrol it have to be mindful of dangerous but undiscovered ordnance.

To date, Terra Global has not made a lot of money, because the existing markets for carbon credits are limited. But Fort, Dentons and the Cambodians continue to press on, waiting for the world to embrace this mechanism for cleaner and safer development. Whether in 2015 or beyond, Oddar Meanchey will be waiting.

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