Amid Deal Doldrums, Energy M&A Still Flows to Some Firms

, The Am Law Daily

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Oils rigs in the Permian Basin, Texas.
Oils rigs in the Permian Basin, Texas.

Though the volume of energy-related M&A transactions has dipped to a nine-year low, several law firms are closing out 2013 by grabbing lead roles on a spate of big deals tied to the industry.

In the United States, shale plays continued to be the main driver of energy-related transactional work in 2013, says Joseph Dilg, an oil and gas industry veteran at Vinson & Elkins who headed the firm from 2002 through 2011.

Dilg and Vinson took the lead this week advising Houston-based energy investor EnerVest Ltd. on its $950 million sale of oil and gas assets in Texas’ potentially shale-rich Permian Basin to QEP Energy, a subsidiary of Denver-based oil and gas exploration company QEP Resources.

“The market is still strong in the number and size of transactions, particularly in the upstream space, and I think you’ll see companies continue to consolidate plays where they think they have some technical advantages in certain basins,” Dilg says. “And I think that’s something that will continue into 2014.”

Other Vinson lawyers advising EnerVest on its Permian Basin sell-off, which is expected to close in January, include tax partner Todd Way, environmental partner Sue Snyder and associates Julia Pashin, Shannyn Piper, Paul Seifert and Mingda Zhao. Former Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Haynes and Boone partner Fabene Welch is EnerVest’s general counsel.

Holland & Hart corporate partner Janet Harris, tax partner John Maxfield, finance partner Lucy Stark and energy partner Elizabeth Mitchell are advising QEP on the transaction, along with company senior attorney Heidi Hande. Former senior attorney Christopher Woosley succeeded the retiring Eric Dady last year as QEP's general counsel.

Vinson has also handled assignments for QEP in the past. The firm advised the company last year on its $1.4 billion acquisition of shale plays in North Dakota, where the money pouring into the state as a result of the local energy boom has been a financial boon to lawyers, as well as somewhat less savory industries.

TPG Capital also turned to Vinson this week to advise on its $435 million sale of a field solutions unit owned by portfolio company Valerus to British oil services group Kentz Corp. Vinson advised TPG in 2009 when the Fort Worth–based private equity firm took control of Valerus, according to our previous reports.

Vinson M&A partners W. Matthew Strock and Edward “Ted” Stockbridge are leading a team from the firm advising Valerus on its current deal with Kentz. Other lawyers working on the matter include M&A and private equity practice head Keith Fullenweider, employee benefits partner Brian Bloom, labor and employment partner Thomas Wilson, tax partner John Lynch, environmental partner Larry Nettles, litigation partner Neil Imus, M&A partner Francois Feuillat and associates Lauren Anderson, Matt Dobbins, Han Gao, Robert Jacobson, Martin Luff, Russell Oshman, Mark Wang and Jared Whalen.

Kerry Galvin serves as general counsel for Valerus, whose compression services unit TPG will continue to own. The private equity firm hired former Cravath, Swaine & Moore M&A partner Ronald Cami as its general counsel in 2010. (TPG’s billionaire cofounder David Bonderman is a former Arnold & Porter partner.)

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