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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Wikborg Rein

18 February 2016

Naftogaz is using the Norwegian firm in two gas price disputes with Gazprom

People in Who’s Who Legal: 46
Value of pending counsel work: US$47.8 billion
Treaty cases: 0
Current arbitrator appointments: 1 (of which 0 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 1

Wikborg Rein has practised international arbitration since its foundation in 1923, particularly in the area of shipping. It opened an office in Singapore in 2000 and a Shanghai office in 2002. It also has offices in Bergen, Oslo and London.

The London office expanded in 2010 with the hire of three English partners – Clare Calnan, Chris Grieveson and Robert Jardine-Brown – part of a strategy by the firm to follow its clients into the international arena. It reckons to be the largest non-UK specialist shipping law firm and the only Norwegian firm with a significant English law capability.

Other notable practitioners include Trond Eilertsen and Ola Haugen in Oslo and Øystein Meland in Bergen, who have all served as arbitrators.

Outside its core areas of shipping, energy and offshore oil and gas, Wikborg Rein reports an increasing caseload in banking, defence and telecoms disputes.

Who uses it?

Seajacks, Bassoe and Norwegian engineering company Kvaerner are some of the offshore clients who have relied on the firm’s London office, as well as shipowners Spar Shipping and Navig8. Commodity traders Ronly Ltd and Bulk Trading are also clients.

Since 2011, the firm has advised HNA Group, one of the largest privately owned conglomerates in China.

Track record

In 2013, Oslo partners Dag Mjaaland and Aadne Haga won a gas price adjustment for a Czech affiliate of Germany’s RWE against the export arm of Russia’s Gazprom in an ICC arbitration seated in Vienna. In 2012, the firm persuaded a different ICC panel to reduce the client’s “take or pay” obligations for gas purchased under the same contract.

Another success was in 2011 for Norwegian shipping group Odfjell, securing the enforcement of an SCC award worth US$44 million against Russian state-owned shipyard Sevmash in the courts of St. Petersburg.

Wikborg Rein’s London office also acted for a client in a US$112 million LCIA dispute with a major Italian oil company over a major offshore project in Kazakhstan. The hearing was conducted over nine days in January 2014.

Recent events

In 2014, the firm was retained as counsel to Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz for two SCC disputes with Gazprom – one filed by Gazprom to recover arrears for gas deliveries, the other filed by Naftogaz to enforce a price formula in a 2009 supply contract and seek reimbursement for allegedly overpriced gas purchased since 2010. The claims arose after Gazprom cancelled two discounts it had previously granted on gas exports to Ukraine, almost doubling the price charged to Naftogaz.

In 2015, the firm also began advising a major Italian oil and energy company and a Chinese financial leasing company in separate arbitrations.

Client comment

Eirik Thomassen, head of legal in the project department at Kvaerner, has high praise for the firm’s work on a complex dispute that encompassed a vast number of technical and commercial issues. “I think it is their good balance between attention to the details and a holistic approach that distinguishes them from other arbitration teams,” he says.

Thomassen also applauds Clare Calnan for her skilful management of the entire arbitration team – not just the lawyers, but the technical consultants, quantum experts, barristers from 4 Pump Court Chambers and the client’s own project team.

An in-house counsel at a multinational oil and gas company whose case settled before the hearings stage, singled out Mjaaland and Haga for their knowledge and experience in gas price review disputes. “They were certainly far superior to those of the lawyers assisting the defendant,” she says.

Nori Bali, managing director of London-based metallurtical and agricultural company Ronly, describes the firm as “excellent”, praising lawyers for “practical and creative solutions” and a cost-effective and commercial approach.