Akin Gump and Linklaters lead on ExxonMobil-Rosneft Siberian JV

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Linklaters have landed mandates as Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft and America’s ExxonMobil sign an agreement to jointly explore tight oil reserves in the far reaches of western Siberia.

Cold cash: law firm duo wins mandates from oil giants
Cold cash: oil giants hand out Siberian instructions

Two companies are set to establish a joint venture to run the project in which Rosneft will own a 51 per cent stake and ExxonMobil a 49 per cent stake. The oil duo are then set to carry out a feasibility study across 23 licence blocks covering 10,000 sq km of the Bazhenov and Achimov shale formations.

The onshore deal will see ExxonMobil provide $300m (£186.1m) in financing.

Akin Gump acted for ExxonMobil, with a team led by corporate partners Richard Wilkie and Alexey Kondratchik in Moscow.

Linklaters advised Rosneft, fielding a team led by Moscow-based corporate counsel Mikhail Semyonov.

Background to this deal:

Rosneft last year signed an Arctic exploration agreement with ExxonMobil after Rosneft’s proposed share-swap deal with BP collapsed following a dispute with TNK-BP’s shareholders. The venture granted ExxonMobil exploration rights in the Russian Arctic in return for minority stakes in projects in the Gulf of Mexico and Texas. Rosneft retained Freshfields on that occasion, while Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom advised ExxonMobil (31 August 2011). Akin Gump also acted as counsel to the US multinational on Russian corporate regulation and oil and gas matters.

Since last year’s deal, Akin Gump has continued to advise ExxonMobil on its exploration agreements with Rosneft. In April this year it advised the oil company on an agreement to implement a long-term strategic cooperation agreement with Rosneft. Wilkie and Kondratchik have advised the group on all of these developments.

Skadden, which has acted as international structuring counsel on ExxonMobil’s recent Russian offshore deals, was not involved in this onshore deal.

Linklaters acted alongside Freshfields as co-counsel to Rosneft earlier this year when it signed four new joint ventures to explore oil and gas fields in the Arctic and Pacific Oceans with Norwegian rival Statoil (3 September 2012). Semyonov formed part of the Linklaters team on the deal.

Freshfields and Linklaters are both among Rosneft’s go-to firms. However, Linklaters, as a longstanding adviser to BP, has been conflicted out from acting for the Russian oil giant recently in any negotiations or disputes between it and the UK oil company.

The transaction also comes after Rosneft finalised a deal last Wednesday (12 December) to buy a 50 per cent stake in TNK-BP from the Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) consortium (30 October 2012). Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton partners Russell Pollack and Daniel Braverman advised Rosneft. Akin Gump partners Ilya Rybalkin and Steven Blakeley acted for Renova, while Weil Gotshal & Manges partners Marco Compagnoni and Peter King and Skadden partners Michal Berkner, Scott Simpson, Dmitri Kovalenko and Linda Davies all acted for AAR.

The same Cleary team also advised Rosneft on BP’s sale of its stake in TNK-BP (22 October 2012).