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Domestic and international markets are still feeling the effects of the low oil price. Upstream and midstream mandates have largely come to a halt, although law firms continue to secure advisory roles on major exploration and pipeline projects in Africa and other emerging markets. Similar low commodity prices in the mining and minerals sectors are driving renewed focus on the secondary market, particularly on the M&A and private equity side. The gap left by traditional lenders is being filled by new players such as PE funds, although fundraising activity has yet to translate into a surge of investment activity.

On the contentious side, dedicated mining firms such as Norton Rose Fulbright and Herbert Smith Freehills LLP have been increasingly collaborating with their HR teams to advise on issues arising from the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

Unconventional investors such as pension funds continue to strengthen their presence in the secondary market within infrastructure, driving competition both domestically and internationally, but it is unclear to what extent any ongoing and future investments in the UK will be affected by the EU referendum. The European Investment Bank (EIB) has been playing a significant role as the primary lender in a number of landmark UK and European transactions, with firms such as Hogan Lovells International LLP taking roles on these mandates.

Although new PFI work has largely disappeared within the UK, firms such as Addleshaw Goddard LLP continue to provide ongoing advice concerning pre-existing PFI contracts, particularly within the healthcare sector. A number of firms have secured roles in major PF2 and PPP projects: CMS, Pinsent Masons LLP and Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP are all acting on projects stemming from the Priority Schools Building Programme.

As a result of significant cuts to the energy subsidy regime in the UK, firms have been following clients to emerging markets. Jurisdictions in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa have experienced growth in investments in the renewables sector, particularly relating to solar photovoltaic projects. In the UK, waste-to-energy has been a key area of activity, as has work relating to interconnectors. CMS and White & Case LLP have been advising National Grid and Eleclink, respectively, on the 1,000MW interconnector project between France and the UK.

Despite tighter control on demand, law firms have benefitted from an increase in water-related power projects. Herbert Smith Freehills LLP and Hogan Lovells International LLP have been assisting the sponsor and primary investor, respectively, with the Tidal Lagoon (Swansea Bay) project, which is the first of six planned tidal lagoon power plants in the UK.

Following its merger with BG Group, Shell’s global panel is now down from 11 to six firms: Allen & Overy LLP, Clifford Chance LLP, Baker McKenzie LLP and Norton Rose Fulbright have been reappointed alongside newcomers Eversheds LLP and Reed Smith LLP.

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