In May this year Ashurst unveiled plans to launch a New York project finance practice, underlining its ambition to secure a piece of the expected boom in US infrastructure projects, many of them related to the energy and natural resources market.
The move, which will see infrastructure partner Jason Radford relocate to New York later this year, will also mark the first strategic growth of the City firm’s US practice since it launched two years ago with a 10-partner structured finance team from US firm McKee Nelson.
Elsewhere, Ashurst has been rejigging its resources internally. The firm’s energy practice group chair Geoffrey Picton-Turbervill has been focusing strongly on its practice in the Middle East and North Africa, a region where much of the firm’s recent activity has been characterised by major power project developments and financings.
Ashurst has been involved in the development of more than 20 projects, including Petro-Rabigh and Tihama in Saudi Arabia, Ras Laffan B and C in Qatar, Fujairah F2, Shuweihat S2 and Shuweihat S3 in Abu Dhabi and Hadjret Ennouss in Algeria.
The firm is also increasingly active in the United Arab Emirate’s (UAE) civil nuclear power programme and is also involved in the proposed nuclear new build push.
Picton-Turbervill now splits his time between Ashurst’s Dubai, Abu Dhabi and London offices, a reflection of the level of present and future activity the firm sees in the region.
Indeed, the Middle East is key to Ashurst’s energy practice, and the energy and infrastructure sectors are the primary focus of its offices in the UAE.
The UK firm believes that Picton-Turbervill’s presence on the ground will play a significant part in strengthening its Middle East team.
Further afield, Ashurt’s Asian bases in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo, coupled with its strategic alliance with Guantao Law Firm in China, exposes the firm to work on a range of projects across the energy sector.
Like many firms in the market, Ashurst is seeing increasing opportunities in Asia and Indonesia in particular, with the firm recently involved in deals advising clients such as Medco Energi, Mitsui & Co and Marubeni Corporation.
The firm is also currently investigating opportunities in Brazil for providing local law and regulatory advice, although it has ruled out an office launch in the short-term.
“We have good contacts in Brazil so we’re looking at whether we can do anything with best friends that would let us offer a better and closer service,” Ashurst global head of energy, transport and infrastructure Mark Elsey says.
Over the past two years Ashurst has been focusing on bolstering its relationships in the energy market with a number of senior-level recruitments, primarily from the in-house sector. Former Centrica Energy general counsel and upstream energy projects specialist Peter Roberts joined as a partner in February 2010 while Judith Kim, a former Allen & Overy senior associate, joined from Shell Gas & Power as a counsel in the same month. Kim, who is based in Ashurst’s Dubai office and has worked in the Middle East for six years, was promoted to partner in April 2011.
The team’s most recent senior arrival, Dan LeFort, joined from Qatar Petroleum in November 2010 as senior counsel in Ashurst’s Tokyo office. LeFort’s arrival lends weight to Ashurst’s claim that it has a higher proportion of former in-house energy lawyers than any other major firm.
Two years ago in October 2009 the firm turned to its private practice rivals for talent when it hired Linklaters energy specialist Antony Skinner, a specialist in the European power and renewables sectors, as a partner in London. One of Skinner’s major mandates was advising DONG Energy and Scottish Power Renewables on the West of Duddon Sands 500MW offshore wind farm joint venture.
John Inglis, Anthony Patten, Philip Thomson, Geoffrey Picton-Turbervill, David Wadham
Top three sectors
Oil and gas
Top three geographical regions
EnQuest’s acquisition of interests from Petrofac and Lundin Petroleum
Lead partners: Geoffrey Picton-Turbervill, Jan Sanders
DONG Energy and Scottish Power Renewables offshore wind farm joint venture
Client: DONG and Scottish Power
Lead partner: Antony Skinner
Jubilant Energy’s AIM IPO
Lead partners: Nick Bryans, Anthony Patten