Vinson & Elkins is one of Houston’s – and therefore the US’s – oil and gas big two.
Along with Baker Botts, the firm dominates the local Houston and US domestic market while, thanks to its decades-long track record in advising on energy deals, features equally prominently in the global sector.
According to Thomson Reuters data, in terms of overall energy and power-related M&A, Vinson beat Clifford Chance, Kirkland & Ellis and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in securing plum roles, advising on a total of 21 deals (more than any of its rivals) worth $24.4bn so far this year.
As one partner at a rival firm sums up: “Vinson and Baker Botts are the two key Houston firms, and they’re doing well because the markets are doing well. It’s their day job.”
Vinson, like Baker Botts, is steeped in all aspects of the oil and gas sectors. Firmwide, more than 400 Vinson lawyers regularly advise clients on energy-related matters.
And while the majority of those lawyers are based in the US, over the past couple of years Vinson has been focusing on extending its reach overseas.
In London, corporate transactional partners Keith Hughes and Kimberley Wood joined the firm from Dewey & LeBoeuf early in 2011, strengthening Vinson’s links to the burgeoning Africa market.
Further east, in May 2011 Vinson launched an office in Riyadh to expand its coverage in the Middle East, linking up with the Law Office of Looaye M Al-Akkas, who joined the US firm as a partner.
Al-Akkas’s arrival took the number of native Arabic-speaking partners that Vinson has resident in the Middle East up to five.
The firm’s expansion also continued closer to home last year when it opened in Palo Alto with three Vinson partners relocating to California. The office is focused primarily on serving clients in clean energy technologies such as biofuel, solar power and wind power.
Indeed, renewables is the sector Vinson is targeting most aggressively.
Head of the energy practice group Rell Tipton says: “As global concerns about climate change mount and the economic downturn lessens, we anticipate some appetite for investment, financing and development of utility scale renewable energy projects focused on wind, solar, tidal and biofuel power generation.”
Elsewhere it is also targeting significant power project finance and development in nations not within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in the next decade and consolidation among US investor-owned utilities.
“The mining industry in 2010 experienced a significant uptick in M&A and we expect that trend to continue,” says Tipton. “We have significant experience with such transactions and expect to capitalise on the consolidation of assets driven by economic and population growth in India and China.”
China tops the list of countries that will be most important for the firm’s energy practice over the next three years. The US firm is hiking coverage in the Far East due to its belief that Chinese companies will continue to invest in energy, particularly in the Americas, where plentiful gas supplies and advantageous off-take pricing terms are available.
Last year that focus paid off when a partners David Blumental, Tres Cochran and Jay Kolb represented CNOOC on the first significant US onshore oil and gas deal by a Chinese oil company.
Vinson also has its eye on India, where rapid infrastructure and industrial expansion and the growth of a middle class is driving demand for energy supplies.
Vinson’s third geographical target is Latin America, mainly Brazil, where the growth of natural gas discoveries in fields offshore will drive ventures between Petrobras and many global energy companies.The country is also investing in infrastructure development projects to fuel its economic and social growth.
Vinson currently has no office in Latin America. But do not rule one out long-term.
Marcia Backus, Douglas Bland, David Blumental, Keith Fullenweider
Top three sectors
Mining and minerals
Top three geographical regions
KNOC’s purchase of one third of Anadarko’s Eagle Ford shale assets
Lead partners:Marcia Backus, Douglas Bland, Thomas Crichton
CNOOC’s $2bn deal to develop Chesapeake’s Eagle Ford and Pearsall Shale interests
Lead partners: David Blumental, Tres Cochran, Jay Kolb
Reliance Industries joint venture with Atlas Energy for Marcellus shale development
Lead partners:Marcia Backus, Douglas Bland