Energy and infrastructure
Guatemala is trying to become more economically competitive and has realised that more infrastructure in the country is needed and there is a push to build new roads and ports. 2015 marks an election year – Guatemalans go to the polls in September to choose a new government – and it is expected to be a more subdued year in terms of projects until that new government is selected.
Here’s how one partner puts it: “Most politicians like to inaugurate new infrastructure work but they don’t want to pay the price of initiating them. If they complete the project within their terms, they will not bother going through with it. For example, an airport takes 10 years to build and right now we have an unfinished one because of the change in government. There is also social opposition to large infrastructure projects. Infrastructure is needed in rural areas and when you go there to build projects, there is a lot of push back and the government doesn’t want to bother the residents to carry on with the projects.”
On the other hand, the electricity sector is very active right now because of the two large distributors bidding for PPAs, which has attracted a lot of interest. There has been a shift from US and European companies coming to the country to small local and regional players. There is also new technology in the solar, wind and hydro sector. Renewables is also a hot sector. The government has changed the composition of the electric grid which heavily relied on fuel oils.
Christopher Cooper – Journalist Latin America
Aguilar Castillo Love has experience in the privatisation of electricity distribution and generation assets, airports and ports. All of the firm’s recent transactions are confidential.
Arias & Muñoz focuses on energy, oil and gas and infrastructure projects. Its clients include Chevron Guatemala, Empresas Públicas de Medellín, and oilfield services company Schlumberger. “They’re very knowledgeable and very professional. They’re very responsible and time sensitive,” one client says.
The firm’s recent transactions are confidential.
Carrillo & Asociados focuses on providing regulatory, tax and arbitration advice to energy, mining, and infrastructure clients.
Rodolfo Alegria - who, with his focus in energy, natural resources, construction and infrastructure, is the main partner in the practice – is praised by one client for his “very good attention and involvement in the process”.
One example of the firm’s transactional work includes advising four energy generating companies on forming a joint venture.
In energy and infrastructure Central Law Guatemala focuses on advising foreign investors interested in entering Guatemala. Its most recent transactions involve representing mining companies.
Key projects include advising Cunico Resources on several matters: a mining project, the operation of a nickel ore drier plant, and storing petroleum coke.
Consortium Legal focuses on mining and hydrocarbon matters, particularly PPAs and contract work.
The firm’s recent work includes advising the Inter-American Investment Corporation on a $57 million loan to finance two power plants in Guatemala. The rest of the firm’s transactions are confidential.
Lexincorp focuses on land purchases for projects within the energy and infrastructure sector, but also works on financings, contracts, and due diligence.
Key projects include advising Tuncaj on negotiating land purchase agreements in Taxico and Santa Rosa, and in securing environmental and ministerial authorisations; advising Ixtal in regards to a participation agreement with Xolhuitz; and, advice to Xolhuitz on the process of repaying a land trust.
Mayora & Mayora is particularly active in the energy sector.
“Very happy with the advice they have given us; [They are] highly trained professionals, ahead of our needs, always willing to help and resolve all doubts,” says one client.
Key projects include advising Grupo Ortiz with the second phase of its solar plant and advice to OHL on a hydropower station.
QIL+4 Abogados focuses on oil, gas and renewables as well as infrastructure and acts on restructurings, M&A, financing, bidding and compliance issues.
The firm hired associate Xavier Duran, who focuses on finance, corporate, M&A, energy and infrastructure, from Aguilar Castillo Love in 2015.
“She is the best energy lawyer in Guatemala,” says one client of Gabriela Roca.
The firm worked on the EPC and operation and maintenance contracts for an El Salvadoran solar project; advised Solaris energy on contract negotiations; and advised EHS and Defensores de la Naturaleza on hydro-power projects.
Aguilar Castillo Love advises on loans, M&A, corporate restructurings and provides general corporate legal advice to its clients. Juan Carlos Castillo Chacón and Francisco Castillo Love head the department. All the firm’s work is confidential.
Arias & Muñoz is an active financial and corporate player in Guatemala. The firm’s various Central American offices can be seen working closely together such as when the firm advised Havas on its acquisition of Tribu. All other work was confidential but the firm worked on a series of interesting finance and M&A transactions.
Carrillo & Asociados is active in projects and restructuring matters and while most of the firm’s work is confidential one public matter saw the firm advise Ormat Technologies on refinancing a geothermal power plant.
During the research period deal highlights for Central Law include advising MABE Guatemala on a capital increase; advising Baxter de Guatemala with its corporate restructuring; and advising Diagnostic Imaging Supplies and Services on its expansion into Guatemala.
Comte & Font advised Construtora Norberto Odebrecht on expanding Route CA-2 in a matter worth $500 million. The firm advised another client on building a dry bulk terminal to supply power plants, but most other work was confidential.
Consortium Legal remains one of the leading financial and corporate players in the market.
“Excellent service and response. The task division between partners, senior associates and junior associates is adequate. All team members provide quick response to all needs,” one client says. Another adds: “The firm provides top of the line services. The partners' are always available to answer questions and the associates are responsive. As an in-house counsel, I feel very comfortable in delegating matters to Consortium.”
Several lawyers received individual praise. Alvaro Castellanos is “one of the best attorneys, always courteous, responsive, with much information on the subject, and prepared to study and complement all the information he is requested” according to one client, while another says: “Alfredo Rodriguez is one of the best lawyers in Guatemala. He has in-depth knowledge of the law but at the same time he has a business perspective. He always has a solution for issues and thinks outside the box. You can't go wrong with him.” Yet another says: “Rafael Alvarado Riedel has a great understanding of the financial sector and knows how to apply it in a practical manner.”
Deal highlights during the research period include work for Credit Suisse on facilitating Banco G&T Continental’s issuance of notes; work for Citigroup Global Markets as lead arranger in GMG Holding’s term extension of an earlier loan; work for Coveris Holding Group on its acquisition of Olefinas; and work for ASSA on its acquisition of AIG Seguros.
García & Bodán advises the likes of Corporación G&T Continental, Comunicaciones Celulares and Root Capital. The firm advised IC Power with acquiring a stake in Distribuidora de Electricidad de Oriente, helped G&T Continental with a $200 million tranche of diversified payment rights and helped Grupo Ecos acquire a minority stake in Escotel Investments.
Lexincorp recruited corporate associate Rodrigo Coronado during the research period. The firm advises global companies and subsidiaries like IHOP Guatemala and Sony Interamerican and has offices throughout Central America.
“Very good support, their availability, responsiveness and knowledge of Central America markets are characteristics I’d highlight,” one client who worked with the firm on M&A matters says.
Fernando Midence-Mantilla was praised for his “excellent knowledge, solutions and the support provided, very good communication.”
Deal highlights include advising Productive Business Solutions Guatemala in obtaining a syndicated loan; and advising Banco General as lender on a loan to a local company.
Mayora & Mayora is an active firm in Guatemala which recently expanded into the wider region by opening an office in Honduras. The firm provides corporate advice to Bolsa de Valores Nacional de Guatemala and Compañía guatemalteca de maquinaria but most transactional work is confidential.
Pacheco Coto’s Guatemalan office is headed by Ruby Asturias who remains the sole partner at the firm. The firm lost three corporate senior associates over the past year but gained Annie Dougerthy as a senior associate in corporate, M&A and foreign investment. Dougherty is already acting as a leading lawyer for reviewing the corporate contracts of Kimberly Clark. Pacheco Coto, whose headquarters and largest office remains in Costa Rica, has a unique international presence with international offices in Switzerland, Spain and New Zealand.
“We have been working with Pacheco Coto for almost three years. The law firm has shown a quality service and understanding of our needs. The last three years we have been very happy with the firm, and hope they can improve their actual processes to meet the service they have shown in the past or even better,” says a client who works with the firm on regulatory matters.
A partner at a firm that the client worked with praised the firm: “Excellent, they know the country and the law, they exceed expectations in client service. They are always available and they speak the international language of financial and corporate matters.”
Ruby Asturias was singled out: “Beyond capable and available, outstanding.”
Palomo & Porras is an active corporate and M&A player, advising on restructurings and acquisitions throughout the jurisdiction.
Deal highlights from the research period include work for Grupo Dorion on its restructuring; advice on the restructuring of Vanity Fair; and work for Dek International on the sale of casinos to another gambling company.
QIL+4 Abogados recruited a finance, M&A and corporate associate Xavier Durán, over the past year. The firm, a result of a merger between 4 Abogados and QIL, is one of the leading players in the market and advises frequently on project finances and syndicated loans.
“Impeccable, affordable, practical, intelligent, timely, service-oriented,” says one client of the firm.
Another says the firm is “very knowledgeable and an expert in regulatory affairs as well as EPC negotiations. Gabriela Roca has a solid reputation within the Central American power sector.”
During the research period the firm advised Generadora San Andrés y Generadora San Mateo in obtaining a credit facility for the construction of two hydro power projects, and is advising Renace as borrower for obtaining a syndicated loan for hydro plants.
Arenales & Skinner-Klée is a part of regional network LatamLex, allowing the firm access to regional mandates. The firm advises the likes of Nova Scotia, BAC Guatemala, and Banco Internacional.
“Detailed advice and counsel on the best course of action to take. Solid guidance and follow up throughout the entire project, making sure it was finalised in all regards. We can truly count that they will get the job done,” says one client. Another who worked with the firm on project finance and real estate matters adds: “Arenales & Skinner-Klee has given our company excellent advice on buying, selling and contracts.”
Andrés Calderón was praised for his “quick response time and willingness to provide creative solutions”.
The firm has advised on loans and M&A within the banking sector during the research period, though the details are confidential. One public matter saw the team advise Rio Alto mining on due diligence for its agreement with Tahoe Resources.