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"December tie-up for Sak II" 
Project Finance International, Issue 279 (December 10, 2003)

December tie-up for Sak II

It is anticipated that roughly US$5bn of project funding for the Shell-led Sakhalin II offshore project in the Russian Far East will be tied-up with the core lending group some point this month. This core lending group is purely export credit / multilateral agencies, namely JBIC, ECGD, EBRD and US Exim. The deal will then be approaching the bank market for first-tier commercial bank underwriters/arrangers in late Q1/early Q2 next year.

JBIC will be the largest lender in the core group, taking up to US$2bn - this will likely come as a direct loan. The remaining US$3bn or so will be split among the others, with US Exim set to be the smallest lender. It is the commercial bank slots on these tranches that the potential arrangers will be looking at - the exact mix between the agencies and types of cover still has yet to be determined by the procurement pattern. The end of the transaction will also probably involve other export credit agencies. CSFB is the sponsor's financial advisor and ABN Amro is currently advising the core-lending group.

As previously reported, sponsor Sakhalin Energy has put lenders on notice that it will be asking them to push the envelope on what is considered sufficient contracted anchor offtake for the 9.6mtpy LNG element that is the centrepiece of the project. The project currently has some 3.4-3.8mtpy in long-term sales already accounted for, thus far only to Japanese utilities, however, Sakhalin Energy says it hopes to add more deals with customers in both the Far East and also possibly the US early next year.

While project funding for the deal is being concluded at the core lender level, a coalition of US-based conservationist groups is now seeking to block the US Exim loan coverage to the development on the grounds that it will threaten the critically endangered Pacific grey whale population.

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