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Clifford Chance and Travers Smith Braithwaite have key roles advising the French nuclear group Areva and nuclear fuel consortium Urenco on a politically-charged $3.6bn (£2.08bn) joint venture that is expected to result in a new dawn of uranium enrichment for France.
Areva is planning to buy a 50 per cent stake in the Enrichment Technology Company (ETC), Urenco’s centrifuge design, manufacturing and research subsidiary. Subject to political and regulatory approvals, the joint venture will give the French access to Urenco technology. Urenco is the only EU company that uses its centrifuge technology for uranium enrichment. BNFL, for example, sends its uranium to Urenco to be enriched.
The deal requires clearance from the UK, Netherlands and German governments. BNFL, Germany’s RWE and Eon and the Dutch Enrichment Company are all Urenco shareholders. The European Commission must also give clearance.
Christophe Perchet, a French commercial partner at Jeantet & Associés, is leading the deal for Areva. He instructed Travers Smith Braithwaite partner Alistair Wilson. Wilson, a specialist in joint partnerships, is handling the joint venture side, which is under English law. On the competition side, Perchet instructed Shearman & Sterling Brussels partner Annette Schild. Urenco instructed Clifford Chance partner Kate Howles on corporate law and Oliver Bretz on competition.
Areva plans to use the centrifuge technology in its uranium enrichment plant in Tricastin near Avignon, due to begin construction in 2005. Areva and other companies are currently reliant on old-fashioned gas diffusion technology as a means to enrich uranium. Areva will also have a financial interest in ETC.