Herbert Smith, Norton Rose join North American firms on Chinese oil group’s $15bn mega-deal

Herbert Smith and Norton Rose joined a raft of Canadian and US firms advising on the $15.1bn (£9.7bn) acquisition of Canadian oil and gas producer Nexen by China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC).

Canadian firm Stikeman Elliott and US firm Davis Polk & Wardwell acted for CNOOC, the large Chinese producer of offshore crude oil and natural gas, in its latest offshore mega-takeover.

The transaction team from Stikeman Elliott was led by Toronto-based senior partner and corporate specialist William Braithwaite, while Davis Polk fielded a team of eight partners across its New York, Beijing, Hong Kong and Washington DC offices.

The Davis Polk team consisted of corporate and M&A partners George Bason (New York), Howard Zhang (Beijing), Leonard Kreynin (New York), Kirtee Kapoor (Hong Kong) and John Reynolds (Washington DC), New York antitrust partner Ronan Harty and Hong Kong-qualified corporate partners Paul Chow and Antony Dapiran, both in Hong Kong.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street firm worked with CNOOC for the company’s $2bn guaranteed bond offering as issuer’s international legal counsel.

Herbert Smith advised CNOOC on the UK and EU aspects of the takeover bid. The firm’s team was led by competition head James Quinney and energy partner Simon Tysoe, both of whom are based in London.

Nexen was represented by Canadian outfit Blake Cassels & Graydon and US firm Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, as well as an in-house legal team led by general counsel Alan O’Brien and chief counsel Rick Beingessner.

Blakes fielded a team of twelve partners headed by Calgary-based corporate partner Pat Finnerty, while the Paul Weiss team consisted of Hong Kong-based corporate partner Jeanette Chan and New York corporate partners Andrew Foley and Edwin Maynard.

Canadian counsel Blakes is a longstanding adviser to Toronto and New York dual-listed Nexen, having previously advised the client on several fundraising and M&A transactions.

Nexen also instructed Norton Rose London partner Mark Jones for competition advice.

Nexen’s board sought out Richard A. Shaw Professional Corporation and Calgary-based Burnet Duckworth & Palmer for legal advice.

BMO Nesbitt Burns, financial adviser to CNOOC, turned to Morrison & Foerster, with New York corporate partners Jonathan Melmed and Spencer Klein and Hong Kong managing partner Venantius Tan, also a corporate specialist, leading the team. Citigroup also acted as CNOOC’s financial adviser.

The transaction, which will be completed by way of a Canadian plan of arrangement, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2012, subject to satisfaction of closing conditions.

Nexen has oil-sands operations in the Canadian province of Alberta, shale gas in the province of British Columbia and extensive exploration and production holdings in the Gulf of Mexico, offshore West Africa and the North Sea, including the UK’s largest oil field, Buzzard.

The bid represents one of the largest offers by a Chinese company for a foreign oil producer since CNOOC’s 2005 attempt to buy US-based Unocal for $18.5bn.