US firms scoop Croatian oil and gas privatisation

Baker Botts advises Ministry of Economy; shortlisted buyers instruct Hogan & Hartson and Allen & Overy

The London offices of US firms Baker Botts and Hogan & Hartson as well as Allen & Overy have won lead roles advising on Croatia's largest ever privatisation.

Baker Botts' London office is advising the Croatian Ministry of Economy on the part-privatisation of INA (Industrija Nafte d.d.), the state-owned oil and gas company.

MOL, a Hungarian oil and gas company, Austria's OMV and Russia's Rosneft were shortlisted last month out of 20 companies that expressed an interest in acquiring a 25 per cent strategic stake in INA.

Garry Pegg, Hogan & Hartson's joint London managing partner, is advising longstanding client MOL, while Allen & Overy is acting for Rosneft. OMV, however, is relying on advice from its in-house legal team. The Croatian government's local counsel is Bogdanovic & Dolicki.

Houston-based Baker Botts won the instructions through partner Samantha Hampshire, who is leading the deal. Hampshire is being assisted by partner Steve Wardlaw and associates Geoff Peters and Hamish McArdle.

Joint financial adviser PricewaterhouseCoopers introduced the Ministry to Hampshire due to her once being a partner at the accountancy firm's legal arm Arnheim Tite & Lewis. It is understood that Freshfields has previously ad-vised the Croatian government.

The Ministry is expected to announce the winner of the tender process early next month, although bid details are not likely to be released immediately afterwards. It is understood that the companies have submitted bids between $250m (£175m)to $400m (£250m). OMV's bid is reportedly the lowest, while Rosneft's is the highest.

Hampshire said: “We are very pleased to be working towards a successful conclusion to this privatisation, so that the best strategic partner is found to ensure INA's development and expansion in accordance with future plans.”

INA, estimated to be worth between e1.2bn (£0.8bn) and e1.8bn (£1.2bn), is Croatia's largest corporation, encompassing oil and gas explorations and production, trading and refineries, as well as more than 450 service stations and various other property holdings.