DEAL OF THE WEEK – VIVENDI

Bredin Prat back on track with Vivendi as it scoops M&A deals


As the Vivendi saga unfolds, Bredin Prat has emerged from what partner Sébastien Prat describes as a “nightmare period” to advise on the French conglomerate’s two latest M&A deals. Led by Prat, the firm is acting for Vivendi Universal, traditionally one of its key clients, on the sale of Vivendi Environnement, and the protracted Cegetel deal.

When former Vivendi chief executive officer (CEO) Jean-Marie Messier was ousted and debts were spiralling out of control, the new management reviewed all of its advisers, including Bredin Prat and investment bank Lazard Brothers.

Now both are back, with the Vivendi relationship team comprising Sébastien Prat, Didier Martin and Philippe Beurier. Prior to this name partner Jean-François Prat was the key Vivendi man.

The fact that Bredin Prat had good knowledge of the company and a close relationship with new CEO Jean-Rene Fourtou clinched the business. The firm missed out on just one deal, when Vivendi asked Serra Leavy & Cazals to advise on the sale of its publishing business. But, with Vivendi’s blessing, Bredin Prat advised Lagardere, the victorious acquirer.

Clifford Chance‘s Paris office advised Electricité de France (EdF) and 14 other investors on the acquisition of a 20.4 per cent stake in Vivendi Environnement for around E1.86bn (£1.18bn).

Of the 14 investors, EdF was the biggest and the only one to instruct outside counsel. While Clifford Chance did not have anything as formal as a global mandate, partner Frederic Peltier was in regular contact with all of the investors’ in-house lawyers and the agreement was the same for all.

The other investors were AGF, Axa, BNP Paribas, Crédit Lyonnais, Group CM-CIC, CNP, Crédit Agricole Indosuez (Suisse), Dexia Crédit Local, Eurazeo, Generali, Groupama, Médéric Prévoyance, Société Générale and the Wasserstein family trust. Pierre-Yves Chabert of Cleary Gottlieb advised Vivendi Environnement.

On the Cegetel deal, Vivendi Universal is trying to raise cash to pre-empt Vodafone’s bid for the 26 per cent stake that is owned by BT Group and SBC Communications.

The web of advisers on this deal makes for interesting reading as Linklaters erects its Chinese walls to work for Vodafone and BT in France and the UK. Linklaters has long institutional relationships with both parties, but this is the first time it has advised both Vodafone and BT on the same deal.

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom’s London office is advising SBC Communications.