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Baker Botts Opens Rio Office as Brazil Oil Auctions Begin

Baker Botts LLP, the fourth-biggest adviser on North American oil and natural gas deals this year, is expanding to Brazil as Petroleo Brasileiro SA and rivals prepare for the 15 billion-reais ($6.5 billion) auction of an offshore lease.

Baker Botts is opening an office in Rio De Janeiro, its first in Latin America in almost 50 years, the Houston-based legal firm said in a statement today. The company, founded in 1840, has more than 700 lawyers operating in 15 offices worldwide and has been working with Brazilian clients for at least seven years.

Brazil in May held its first oil block auction since 2008, with Total SA, BP Plc and BG Group Plc among the winners. In October, the government is scheduled to auction the offshore Libra oil field with a signing bonus set at 15 billion reais. State-controlled Petrobras will operate and hold at least 30 percent of the field, which the country’s oil regulator says holds between 8 billion and 12 billion barrels of oil. An auction of gas blocks is scheduled for November.

“It’s a historic moment for Brazil -- after a hiatus, the bid rounds are coming quick and fast,” John White, one of two resident partners at the Rio office, said in a phone interview today. The office will focus on infrastructure as well as the oil and power business, he said.

Baker Botts has a 13 percent share in the market for North American oil and gas deals this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The firm’s market share for Latin American deals during the past five years is 0.1 percent, the data show.

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