The Abraj Al Bait project, in the heart of Makkah and overlooking the Ka’baa the holiest place in Islam and the direction towards which all Muslims around the world pray to was my first project and indeed the first legal work that I did in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The transaction involved most of the major banks in the GCC, being a project that every country in the GCC wanted to get involved with, the transaction was religiously very sensitive and accordingly thestructuring and the terms of the transaction documents went through one of the most stringent Shariah due diligence.
I took over this project in the middle of the transaction and effectively restructured the key provisions and drafting accordingly having negotiated with Shariah boards of the various banks. The transaction was based on Ijara financing. The current value of the project is estimated around US$15 billion. Financial close occurred in Jeddah just before morning prayers, I and several of the bankers were invited to perform the Umrah to Makkah by the sponsor – this was the mostamazing start to my career in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The project was in the middle of construction and had a cost overrun.
I restructured the original financing, as well draft new Shariah compliant financing document, the documents on the original financing were drafted by the borrowers counsel, and accordingly the lenders thought that I should draft all the new and addendum documents for the transaction going forward due to the fact that it was no longer a straight forward transaction but effectively a restructure of the whole financing.
Managing a group of Saudi Arabian lenders and a international bank was complicated as is expected as each bank had differing views on the risks involved with the project that had effectively entered into significant difficulties to complete.