Perez Alati Grondona Benites Arntsen & Martinez De Hoz (PAGBAM) has swelled the ranks of its partnership to 26 with the promotion of five associates. The firm also announced three appointments to its special counsel team.
Maximiliano Batista, Enrique Betemps, José Martínez de Hoz III, Jimena Vega Olmos, and Federico Wilensky join the firm’s partnership in several practice areas.
Batista has spent 14 years at the firm, practicing tax and insurance law. He spent the period between 1999 and 2001 at Deloitte & Touche’s New York office as an associate, after working as a counsel at the Argentine Superintendence of Insurance between 1997 and 1998. Betemps, a specialist in employment and social security law, was in-house counsel in the human resources divisions of Trenes de Buenos Aires in 1995 and Metrovías in 1994 before joining PAGBAM in 1996. Vega Olmos specializes in foreign exchange and finance law, administrative law, government contracts and public utilities, and international arbitration.
Martínez de Hoz III and Wilensky joined the firm in 2005 and specialize in corporate finance including corporate and project financings, capital markets, debt restructurings, M&A and private equity. Martínez de Hoz III spent two years as an international associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York and Sao Paulo. He was a member of the team that advised Axion Energy Argentina on its inaugural issuance, valued at $73 million, in August 2014. He also counseled Corporación Andina de Fomento when it lent $238 million to Pan American Energy in February 2014.
Wilensky was a foreign associate at another global law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell, in New York in 2010 and 2011. In November 2013, he assisted with a $100 million bond issuance by Pan American Energy Sucursal Argentina.
Wilensky said Argentina’s M&A market is slowly recovering after tough years stemming from political factors. Barring any unforeseen volatility over the next two years, Wilensky expects Argentina to see a “remarkable inflow of foreign investment” that will produce a lot of work in the M&A and private equity markets.
“Argentina has been sort of set aside of the exceptional wave of foreign direct investment in Latin America,” he said. “We have been very busy working on corporate finance deals, mostly corporate capital markets debt, securitization and lending, but it also looks like a stronger M&A period is coming.”
Wilensky also noted that Argentina has untapped potential in areas such as oil and gas, construction, retail, telecommunications, agribusiness, and financial services.
The team of special counsel at the firm has grown to 11 with the promotions of Cristina Di Benedetto, Andres Galíndez, and Tomás Lanardonne.
Di Benedetto joined the firm in 2006, and specializes in tax law, while Galíndez joined the firm in 2012 with a focus on customs law.
Lanardonne, who joined in 2005, concentrates on oil and gas, electricity, and renewable energy, as well as litigation and international arbitration related to the energy industry. Lanardonne was a visiting foreign attorney at King & Spalding in Houston between 2013 and 2014.
Lanardonne works primarily with oil and gas and energy companies doing business in Argentina and Latin America.
“These companies need external counsel who master local law in detail, are active in keeping them posted on any novelties in regulation or governmental affairs that may apply to their business, and that understand their industry,” he said. "I have been working for eight years in the energy industry, both in Argentina and abroad, so I believe I can add value as a PAGBAM counsel to our clients doing business in the oil and gas and energy industries. In addition to my role as an expert in energy law, being responsible for the Neuquén office of PAGBAM allows me to develop business with potential clients that service the oil industry in Neuquén, which is known as the shale capital of Argentina.”
To hear Lanardonne tell it, we are in an exciting period for Argentina´s oil and gas sector for several reasons.
“YPF has been increasing its annual investments in upstream projects in the main Argentine oil and gas provinces,” he said. “The shale oil and gas play located in the province of Neuquén is the gem everybody is looking for, but we are seeing many enhanced oil recovery projects in mature fields, and even off-shore developments in Tierra del Fuego.”
Lanardonne added that in addition to YPF, several other players such as French-Total, German-Wintershall, Shell, and Exxon are participating in projects in Vaca Muerta.
Although the price of crude-oil continues to plummet, Lanardonne said there are several factors that influence Argentine companies to continue investing in oil and gas projects.
“Argentina has two distinct situations,” he said. "First, it needs a lot of investment in natural gas production. And the price of natural gas has not decreased as crude oil. Second, the price of crude-oil in Argentina has not decreased at the same pace as the international price. While the international crude-oil price was plummeting to levels around US$50/Bbl. during December 2014, the domestic crude-oil price was at US$84/Bbl. due to a combination of government de-facto price subsidies, and the existence of a state-run oil-integrated company (YPF) that needs cash to invest in its upstream projects."