Freshfields and Clifford Chance had been advisers to two separate consortia that merged to form the Galileo Operating Company (GOC). The GOC includes two companies from a third failed consortium which instructed Allen & Overy (A&O), opening the door for a possible surprise coup.
A source close to GOC told The Lawyer: "There was a need to conduct a short beauty parade to pick counsel to represent the consortium in the next phase of the transaction. The decision is fraught with all the usual issues faced when eight large European companies try to come to a common decision."
Of the eight GOC members, EADS, Inmarsat and Thales are known to favour Freshfields, while Alcatel, Finmeccania and Vinci favour Clifford Chance. Aena and Hispasat had instructed A&O in the failed consortium bid.
The GOC is due to start a three-week negotiation period on the detail of the public private partnership within the month. Lovells is advising Galileo Joint Undertaking (GJU), a public sector body jointly owned by the European Union and European Space Agency.
Lovells project finance partner Charles Robson said he would work closely with the GJU's "significant" in-house team for the negotiations in Brussels.