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August 4, 2010 6:23 PM

Morgan Lewis Snags Some BP Work

Posted by Zach Lowe

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius snagged a piece of the BP asset sale work when it advised the oil giant on the sale of its Colombian assets, including oil fields, to two Colombian companies for $1.9 billion, according to lawyers who worked on the deal.

Macleod Dixon, a Canadian firm with a long history in South America, led the team advising the buyers--Ecopetrol, Colombia's state oil company, and Talisman Energy, according to the lawyers. Shearman & Sterling also advised Ecopetrol, a longtime firm client.

Morgan Lewis was not among the raft of firms that advised BP on the sale last month of $7 billion worth of assets around the world to the gas company Apache, according to our prior reporting. David Asmus, who led the Morgan Lewis team along with Michael King, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Representatives for BP would not disclose their legal advisers or otherwise comment on the deal.

The $1.9 billion sale of production and exploration assets is part of BP's drive to raise as much as $30 billion to cover the costs of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, according to Bloomberg. The buyers are putting down a $1.25 billion cash deposit, an extremely unusual move in a deal this size. A source familiar with the matter tells us that BP demanded the cash deposit, a sign that the oil company wants movable money fast.

Adam Givertz and Fernando Mantilla-Serrano led the Shearman team on the deal. The firm has advised Ecopetrol on several prior transactions.

Glenn Faass led the Macleod Dixon team on the deal. The firm, which is headquartered in Calgary, has an interesting history in South America. It set up shop in Venezuela in 1997 with two lawyers and the goal of advising major international energy companies interested in entering the Venezuelan market, Faass says. But the firm opened its office just days after the expiration of a two-week period in which the government allowed firms to bid for work on key energy sector deals. "Impeccable timing," Faass says with a laugh.

Hugo Chavez was elected president a few months later, and he quickly closed the energy sector to international firms and began expropriating assets from global companies, Faass says. The market was suddenly closed, but companies who had secured assets in Venezuela needed lawyers who could advise them on selling those assets back to state entities, Faass says. Macleod won a lot of that work and has watched in recent years as its core energy clients have focused more on Colombia. The firm does not have an office there, but it has relationships with local Colombian firms, Macleod says. The firm now has more than 50 lawyers in Venezuela, Faass says.

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