Latham Advising Hess as Company Sheds Utica Shale Assets

, The Am Law Daily

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Capstone Drill Site in Ohio, June 2012.
Capstone Drill Site in Ohio, June 2012.

Oil and gas company Hess has enlisted Latham & Watkins as counsel on its latest divestment—the $924 million sale of roughly 74,000 acres of dry natural gas assets to a buyer whose identity has not been disclosed.

Faced with flagging profits and dissatisfied shareholders, Hess announced last March that it planned to sell of its oil and gas refining and marketing businesses and use the proceeds to support an increased emphasis on drilling and exploration aimed at bolstering its bottom line. Since then, the New York–based company has initiated a series of asset sales that have created a great deal of work for a diverse array of legal advisers.

White & Case advised Hess last April on the $2.1 billion sale of its Russian subsidiary, Samara-Nafta, to Moscow-based Lukoil. Three months later, the company turned to attorneys at Kirkland & Ellis for counsel on the $1.03 billion sale of its energy marketing business to a North American unit of British energy company Centrica. More recently, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer got the call when Hess decided to unload its Indonesian offshore oil and gas assets. The Magic Circle firm advised Hess on the sale of its stake in the Pangkah oil field to Jakarta-based PT Pertamina and Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production for a total of $1.3 billion in a deal announced at the beginning of December.

Now it's Latham taking the lead on the sale of Utica shale acreage that is expected to close at the end of this year's first quarter. Houston-based energy M&A partner Robin Fredrickson is leading a Latham team advising Hess that also includes associates James Cole, Patricia Hammond and Yvette Schultz. Fredrickson represented Hess in 2012 in connection with the dissolution of its joint venture with ZaZa Energy, a deal that saw Hess pay $85 million to the Houston-based company to terminate exploration and development agreements in Texas's Eagle Ford shale play and France's Paris basin.

Hess' general counsel is former White & Case M&A cochair Timothy Goodell—the brother of National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell.

Hess recently reported that it has reaped $7.8 billion all told from the asset sales it has undertaken over the course of the past year, a revenue boost that has allowed the company to pay down $2.4 billion in short-term debt. Hess’ fourth-quarter report also noted that the company's asset sales have succeeded in boosting profits, though its revenues still dropped 6.1 percent, to $5.57 billion, compared to the same period a year earlier.

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