Linklaters is among the firms where the energy practice has long benefited from its global approach.
The firm prides itself on its ’three-plank’ model, which involves corporate M&A on one side, finance on the other and the energy practice sandwiched between, drawing expertise from both sides.
The magic circle firm might not register on the radar of too many US-based firms’ energy teams, at least in terms of US domestic matters, but its track record in big-ticket M&A and project financing deals, many of them multijurisdictional, is proof that you don’t have to be big in America to be big worldwide.
“Our US practice has an important part to play in servicing the global needs of our clients,” says the co-head of Linklaters’ energy practice Owen Clay. “It’s very much international work, into and out of the US, but we’re not particularly focused on bulking up our US domestic work like some firms.”
While Clay and follow energy head Jeremy Gewirtz are reluctant to identify which regions they are prioritising, Asia is clearly regarded as a huge source of opportunities in the energy field.
In fact, Linklaters has relocated a number of lawyers with expertise in energy and infrastructure to its Asia practices. They include Stuart Salt, Linklaters’ Asia managing partner, who is now based in Hong Kong, and senior energy and infrastructure partner James Douglass, who has moved to the Beijing office.
“Even compared to most other sectors, the energy sector is a truly global business,” Gewirtz says. “Asia is really important for our clients but so is Latin America, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. We’re constantly investing in our energy practice and looking at where our clients want us to be.”
One of Linklaters’ highest-profile Asian deals recently was advising Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC) on its £1.9bn hostile takeover of Dana Petroleum last year. London partner Fiona Hobbs and Clay jointly led on the deal, which was the first hostile bid by an Asian national oil company.
“The deal was brought to us by Fiona Hobbs because of the energy work she’d done for KNOC previously, but the other reason we got that transaction was the strength of relationship our Asian energy practice has with KNOC,” Gewirtz reveals.
Linklaters is also bullish about Brazil and energy opportunities across Latin America. It recruited energy specialist Carlos Mello from Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados into its Sao Paulo office in August 2010.
“We have a co-operation agreement with Lefosse Advogados in Brazil and we’re doing a huge amount of work in Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela,” Gewirtz adds.
In terms of anchor clients, the firm prides itself on a historic relationship with BP dating back to the 1920s, and has remained one of the oil company’s chosen firms following a recent panel review.
Despite a recent, well-documented, shift in momentum that has seen significant portions of BP work go to rival Freshfields, Clay and Gewirtz insist that the firm’s relationship with the oil giant remains strong, and point to their recent work on BP’s disposals and the share swap deal with Rosneft.
“We have a longstanding relationship with BP. There was a lot of press last year about Freshfields, but the fact is they have done work for them for a long time as well,” Clay says. “We’re pleased that following the panel review the relationship has been strengthened.”
GDF Suez is also a big client on Linklaters’ books. The firm acted for the French energy company on the recent merger of its international energy division with International Power.
Despite historically being viewed as primarily an M&A firm, Gewirtz and Clay say Linklaters integrated energy practice now benefits from equal clout on the banking and finance side.
“One of the biggest focuses for us is the integration of the energy practice to pull together the strength we have in M&A and finance,” Clay states.
Fiona Hobbs, Marc Loy, Matthew Middleditch, Stuart Salt, James Douglass, Carlos Mello
Top three sectors
Oil, gas and coal
Electricity and power
Top three geographical regions
UK and Europe
Financing for Saudi Aramco and Petrochemical’s Jubail Refinery project
Client: Finance parties
Lead partners:Manzer Ijaz, Sarosh Mewawalla
Korea National Oil Corporation’s £1.9bn hostile takeover of Dana Petroleum
Lead partners: Owen Clay, Fiona Hobbs
Merger of GDF Suez’s international energy division with International Power
Client: GDF Suez
Lead partners: Marc Loy, Pierre Zelenko, Matthew Middleditch, Arnaud Coibion