Project Finance Group Of The Year: Nossaman
Nossaman's Infrastructure Practice Group was profiled in Law360 as a result of being named to the publication's list of Top Project Finance Practice Groups of the Year for the second consecutive year. The article noted that Nossaman represented at least 70% of all public-private partnership deals that netted financing for infrastructure projects across the U.S. in 2013. The article also highlighted the group's work for the state of Indiana, including the $2.6 billion Ohio River Bridges project — the state's first "P3" deal and one of the largest transportation projects in the country.
Nossaman Partner Patrick Harder pointed out that Nossaman works primarily on the public agency side, representing a huge proportion of the nation's public borrowers.
"We do work where there's an innovative element to the project," Mr. Harder said. "We've been very successful in representing the public agencies on a very high percentage of the large, innovative deals that have occurred in the U.S."
Nossaman Partner Corey Boock told Law360 that institutional investors in the U.S. are just now beginning to see public agency financings of major infrastructure projects as a viable place to put money for the longer term.
"Infrastructure might not be as sexy as heavy-duty M&A and things of that nature, but it is stable, it is oftentimes inflation-indexed, and it's the type of thing that pension funds in particular have really become attracted to," said Mr. Boock.
He also pointed out that public agencies are taking a more sophisticated approach toward the idea of accepting private investment dollars to fund public projects they couldn't otherwise afford.
"It's just going to become a more common feature in the way public entities meet their financing needs," Mr. Boock said. "For major projects, for complex projects, we're going to see more and more of this."
Mr. Boock added that the idea is starting to spread from transportation to other sectors. Indianapolis called on Nossaman to represent it as it negotiates public-private financing for a "criminal justice compound" that will include courthouses, a jail and related buildings.
Mr. Boock told Law360 that he predicts further growth of the P3 market. "What we saw in 2013 I think foreshadows that what we'll see in 2014 is a real explosion in public-private partnerships in the U.S.," he said. "We've reached the tipping point with these deals."
Mr. Boock noted that early P3 investors were primarily international investors, but now U.S. players are starting to see opportunities as they better understand the risks involved. But as more deals develop, the international investors are coming in more assertively.
"The players are multiplying by the project. We're seeing new faces and new players coming in. It's very exciting because that leads to competition," which nets more competitive borrowing rates for his agency clients, Mr. Boock said.
Mr. Harder pointed out that Nossaman has advised public agencies on financing for 20 years, starting with several highways in southern California.
"We worked on all the seminal deals, the first deals that happened," he said. "We spend a lot of time on planes."
Mr. Harder also noted that even Nossaman's youngest associates have a say in how deals are done, keeping the firm's perspective fresh. The result, he added, is a library of precedent and a long history of success that begets future clients.
"We have an excellent and pretty compelling story to tell in terms of our experience. All of those things play a role in other agencies wanting to hire the firm that actually has done the transaction, not the one that is going to experiment on their billion-dollar deal," said Mr. Harder.