Herbert Smith Paris advises on Tunisian oil sale

The Paris office has advised OMV on the US$866 million acquisition of the Tunisian oil exploration and production subsidiaries of Pioneer Natural Resources, an independent US oil and gas company. The transaction was signed on 6 January 2011 and closed on 18 February.

OMV is one of Austria’s largest industrial companies and central Europe’s leading oil and gas company. This acquisition will enable OMV to substantially increase its production and reserves base in Tunisia, where it has been active since the early 1970s. Herbert Smith Paris has been advising OMV on its Tunisian operations since 2007, with this being the most significant transaction to date.

Mehdi Haroun, who led the team, commented:

“This was a demanding transaction in many ways. A major challenge – which was possibly unique in the career of a business lawyer – was to deal with the legal fallout of a revolution occurring in the target country between signing and closing, with the former president being forced to flee the country and the dismissal of the government.”

Paris-based partner and North Africa specialist Mehdi Haroun led the deal, assisted by associates Salimatou Diallo, Nora Djeraba, Maïa Melyon and Yann Alix. Nina Bowyer and Isabelle Desgranges in Paris and Matthew Job in London advised on the English-law aspects, while Paris associates Ruxandra Lazar and Mathias Dantin handled the administrative law issues arising from Tunisia’s recent political events. Potential arbitration and related issues were handled by Charles Kaplan, with Sergio Sorinas and Milena Sabeva advising on the competition aspects. US firm Vinson & Elkins acted for Pioneer.

The deal value is US$866 million and is the most significant upstream acquisition to date in Tunisia. Our work on this landmark transaction enables us to strengthen our position in the country and to build further on our leading reputation in North Africa.