Slaughter and May has built its reputation on top-quality legal brains spread throughout a small but well-connected network of offices. Despite its relatively tiny footprint, the London-based firm remains attractive to big-ticket, global energy deals.
Corporate partner Hywel Davies heads a small team of 15 partners and 45 associates working across the firm’s infrastructure, energy and natural resources (IEN) group, and encourages a culture of multi-specialism, versatility and client cross-selling among partners.
Paul Stacey, Slaughters’ head of finance and also a key member of the IEN group, admits that the firm is unlike others in that it does not have hard and fast groups or departments.
“We like to keep a broad spread of practices,” Stacey says.
BHP Billiton and Centrica, which it advised on the sale of a 50 per cent equity stake in a 270MW UK £50m offshore wind farm to DONG Energy and Siemens Project Ventures, are among the firm’s top energy clients. Stacey believes the firm’s corporate might and wide skills-base make it an attractive proposition to major clients.
“This is a powerful, corporate-driven firm and we want to do a huge proportion of Centrica’s corporate and M&A activities and energy work as well,” he says.
The firm’s modest collection of four offices in London, Brussels, Hong Kong and recently Beijing stands in stark contrast to the four, sprawling UK global heavyweights’ list of locations. But Stacey insists that Slaughters’ small network, alongside its best friends agreements with firms in other jurisdictions, is sufficient to attract major energy deals.
“We’ve worked everywhere from Estonia to Malaysia, and we benefit from a ’best friends’ network and referrals,” he says. “It depends where you think your profitability is going to come from, but at Slaughter and May we’re not interested in doing every small piece of work at cut-throat rates. We try to do the more cutting-edge work across the piece. We’re not going to be able to chase the volume, but we’ve shown we are able to deal with the most complicated transactions.”
Top energy deals for Slaughters include advising Kosmos Energy on the financing of its $1.25bn Phase 1 development of the Jubilee offshore oil field in the Republic of Ghana.
The project financing, led by partner Steven Galbraith, was challenging because of highly volatile oil prices, the global financial crisis and limited lender capacity and appetite for reserves-based financing.
Slaughters also advised a number of international lenders providing $2.6bn to the Egyptian Refining Company towards the construction of a $3.7bn greenfield oil refinery in Cairo, but Stacey admits that the recent political unrest in the region has caused frustration at the eleventh hour of the deal.
“We’d signed the documentation and financial close was imminent, but at the moment we’re in a holding pattern ,” he says.
The firm’s most recent office launch was in Beijing in 2009. The new office, which has two partners, works closely with local firms and has tapped into gas and power deals as well as litigation work. Stacey, however, admits the base is still a work-in-progress and needs more time to develop into a market-leading presence.
“We don’t open offices easily, but I think it’s a natural springboard from the Hong Kong practice into China,” he says. “It’s going well, but it’s early days for a small office to find traction. We’re doing bond work and acquisition work for China International Capital Corporation, but I’d put it down as something to work on.”
Despite political frustrations in Egypt and slow progress in China, Slaughters believes it has struck on a rich vein of work in the UK, where it has advised key client Centrica on a series of wind farms.
The firm is also advising the Department of Energy and Climate Change on electricity market reform and decommissioning arrangements for new nuclear generation in the UK.
“At the moment, one of the most important markets to be in is here in the UK,” Stacey states.
Steven Galbraith, Nigel Boardman,
Hywel Davies, Paul Stacey
Top three sectors
Oil and gas
Top three geographical regions
Financing of Phase 1 development of $1.25bn Jubilee offshore oil field in Ghana
Client: Kosmos Energy
Lead partner: Steven Galbraith
Egyptian Refining Company funding for greenfield oil refinery in Cairo
Client: Lenders including Tokyo-Mitsubishi Bank and European Investment Bank
Lead partners: Helen Griffiths, Peter Jolliffe, Steven Edwards
BHP Billiton’s $40bn offer for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan
Client: BHP Billiton
Lead partners:Richard de Carle, Phillip Snell, Andrew Balfour