Black Gold Rush

Frank Turner, Douglas Bryce, Tristram Mallett

November 2010

By Julie Triedman, The American Lawyer

On June 25, as the G20 met in Toronto, the grand, century-old Chateau Laurier in Ottawa became the stage for an unprecedented display of Canadian-Chinese economic knot-tying.... After short speeches by ministers from both countries, the Chinese and Canadian executives were called up front to sign various deal documents.

Watching from the audience were lawyers from most of Canada’s elite law firms, who had shepherded the deals to this point.


[M]ake no mistake about it, say Calgary deal lawyers: The Chinese are prize clients. In an environment where private equity buyers have stayed on the sidelines in energy deal making and many strategic buyers hesitate to take new risks, the new state-owned clients are the biggest game in town. “They are the type of clients we want to work with,” says Osler oil and gas partner Frank Turner. “They are an entrée into the biggest deals in the world right now.”


Osler was the first Canadian law firm to hook a Chinese state-owned company on a major Canadian-sided oil deal. In mid-2005 ... CNPC [China National Petroleum Corporation] made a play for PetroKazakhstan Inc., a Calgary-based, Toronto stock-exchange-listed company that was at the time the second-largest oil company in Kazakhstan.


The PetroKazakhstan deal tested the mettle of the Osler lawyers – including Douglas Bryce in New York, Clay Horner in Toronto and Tristram Mallett in Calgary – like few other deals ... shareholders approved the sale in October 2005.


In February 2006, Osler stepped up efforts to drum up other Asian and Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund and state-owned oil company clients. The firm developed “coverage teams,” groups of partners focusing on India, China and the Middle East. That same month, Osler lured Kevin Cramer ... [and o]ne of [his] connections got Osler a foot in the door with another important client, the China Investment Corporation (CIC). Its first role for CIC was advising on a $500 million secured convertible debenture investment in Toronto-listed SouthGobi Energy Resources Ltd. In March 2010, CIC asked the firm to put together a proposal for its largest Canadian investment yet: a $1.2 billion joint venture with and an equity investment in Canada’s Penn West Energy Trust.

“We recognized opportunity,” says Osler’s Turner, who worked on the CIC deal. “And we followed up relentlessly.”


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