Morgan Lewis, Magic Circle Help Ukraine Find Energy Freedom

, The Am Law Daily

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(l-r, front) Chevron's general manager for Europe Derek Mangoes, Ukraine's minister of ecology and natural resources Eduard Stavytsky and Nadra Oleska chairman Viktor Ponomarenko sign documents related to the $10 billion shale gas deal between Chevron and Ukraine.
(l-r, front) Chevron's general manager for Europe Derek Magness, Ukraine's minister of ecology and natural resources Eduard Stavytsky and Nadra Oleska chairman Viktor Ponomarenko sign documents related to the $10 billion shale gas deal between Chevron and Ukraine.

Moving to end its dependence on natural gas imported from Russia, the Ukrainian government announced this week that it has reached a $10 billion shale gas exploration and production-sharing agreement with energy giant Chevron.

The transaction, which could have huge geopolitical implications given the former Soviet republic's push to shed its reliance on Russian energy, has yielded roles for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and independent Ukrainian shop Asters, the second Ukraine-centered deal in which both firms have had a hand this year.

The Am Law Daily reported in January that both firms had advised a company affiliated with the Ukrainian government as it sealed a $10 billion joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. While that deal focused on shale gas fields in Ukraine’s eastern region, this week's transaction involves the Oleska field in the western part of the country, which is thought to possess vast natural gas reserves.

Moscow-based business and finance partner Jonathan Hines is leading the Morgan Lewis team advising state-owned Nadra Oleska in connection with the Chevron joint venture. The other lawyers from the firm working on the matter include energy transactions partner David Asmus and associates Ksenia Lopatkina, Alexander Marchenko and Jennifer Mosley.

Hines, who joined Morgan Lewis last year from now-defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf, and the Houston-based Asmus, who arrived in 2009 from Baker Botts, have been busy in recent months working on a string of notable energy deals.

Asmus advised Texas-based Newfield Exploration just last week on its $900 million exit from Malaysia, according to sibling publication The Asian Lawyer, and The Am Law Daily reported this summer on Hines handling the nearly $3 billion sale of Moscow-based Itera Group to Russian state-backed Rosneft in a deal that helped consolidate the Kremlin’s grip on the country’s energy industry.

Asters is also advising Nadra Oleska on the Chevron deal through Kiev-based senior banking and finance partner Armen Khachaturyan, corporate and natural resources partner Tamara Lukanina and associate Yaroslav Petrov.

Separately, Asters and Morgan Lewis are acting as outside counsel to state-run Nadra Ukrayny—a national joint stock company formed to develop Ukrainian energy assets—on yet another large natural gas project, this one with an ExxonMobil-led consortium looking to tap into the Black Sea's Skifska offshore gas field. Though that agreement was announced in August 2012, the parties have not yet signed a formal deal or worked out the specifics of a planned joint operating agreement.

Chevron spent months negotiating its 50-year accord with Ukraine, which was announced Tuesday in Kiev. President Viktor Yanukovych has said publicly that he hopes his country's deals with Chevron and Shell will allow it to reach full energy independence by 2020. At the moment, Ukraine is locked in a trade war with Russia over chocolates, with the latter attempting to use its energy prowess to strong-arm the former Soviet republic back into its sphere of influence.

Chevron—which is currently keeping a bevy of Am Law 100 lawyers busy in a federal courtroom in New York in a case involving its operations in another part of the world—was advised on its Ukrainian shale play by senior managing counsel for major transactions Ricardo Reis Veiga and senior counsel Jeffrey Truskey and John Doorlay. Counsel Dmytro Fedoruk and senior associate Andriy Moskalyk from Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance also assisted Chevron on the deal.

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