BLP and King & Spalding scoop lead roles as Greece opens up oil sector

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and King & Spalding have taken the main legal advisory roles on the awarding of Greece’s first oil and gas exploration leases for two decades.

King & Spalding, alongside Greek firm M&P Bernitsas, represented the Greek government on the agreements, with the instruction marking a new client for the firm. Meanwhile BLP, together with local firm Potamisvekris, acted for successful bidder Hellenic Petroleum. 

London managing partner Garry Pegg led King & Spalding’s team, which included partner Hywel Jones and associate Anthony Long, alongside M&P Bernitsas partner Yannis Kourniotis.

The auction for the licences began in 2012, when the Greek Ministry of Environment Energy & Climate Change launched an “open door” sale of exploration rights of areas in Western Greece. Combined it is estimated these blocks may have up to 300 million barrels of oil deposits and the investment value is around €700m (£559m).

A group led by BLP client Hellenic Petroleum won the lease agreement for a block in the western Gulf of Patraikos, covering 1,892 sq km. Hellenic teamed up with Edison and Petroceltic Resources for the bid.

BLP head of finance Adam Dann led the firm’s advice, alongside oil and gas associates David Cook and Tim Sumner. Potamisvekris partner Euripides Ioannou led the local work.

Energean Oil & Gas and Canadian company Petra Petroleum won the lease for the onshore Ionannina block, with Energean also awarded the licence to explore the offshore Katakolon block in the north-west Peloponnese islands alongside UK-headquartered Trajan Oil. Greek firm Charalambides & Partners acted for Energean.

Background to this deal:

BLP has advised Hellenic Petroleum on numerous matters over the years, including its €605m refinancing last year. Meanwhile the instruction from the Greek government was the first time the state had turned to King & Spalding. 

Lead partner Garry Pegg acted for the Greek government on the legal framework for the last oil exploration licensing round in 1996 when he was a partner at legacy LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae. Pegg left LeBoeuf Lamb for legacy Hogan & Hartson in 2001 (10 December 2001), before moving to King & Spalding shortly after Hogan & Hartson’s merger with Lovells in 2010 (16 June 2010).

The Greek government previously picked Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton to advise it on its 2012 bailout (22 February 2012).

Neighbouring Cyprus is also looking to exploit hydrocarbons, following the discovery of a vast offshore gas field.

For more on the Greek legal market, read our special report Survival of the leanest.