White & Case wins historic Czech deal

White & Case Feddersen has advised German gas giant RWE Gas on the biggest privatisation deal in Czech history, worth $3.6bn (£2.47bn).
RWE, Germany's second largest gas utility, has acquired 97 per cent of TransGas and shares in eight Czech Republic gas distributors from the National Property Fund, as part of its European expansion plan.
Led by partner Ivan Cestr, the team of lawyers from White & Case advised RWE on the M&A, regulatory, structuring and competition aspects of the deal, which took just less than a year to complete. Jiri Balastik and Martin Solc of Kocian Solc Balastik advised RWE on domestic, corporate and due diligence issues.
The deal is the largest transaction ever to be reviewed by the Czech competition authorities. As a result, its completion was subject to final approval from the Czech antitrust office.
“This is a landmark deal, not just for the Czech Republic, but for the European utilities sector,” said Cestr, who thinks it also represented “one of the last opportunities to buy such an entity in Europe”.
He added: “The antitrust office ensured that competition will not be restricted. The integration of the gas business is good news for customers in this country.”
White & Case lawyers also had to assess what impact RWE would feel if the Czech Republic successfully enters into the European Union in 2004.
Brussels-based competition partner Mark Powell said: “The competition law analysis of the acquisition took into account the evolving regulatory scheme set out in the new Energy Act, which is modelled on EU energy law.”
The firm's relationship with RWE first began last spring when Cestr advised on its acquisition of a gas storage business in Slovakia.
The National Property Fund was advised by a team from Weil Gotshal & Manges, led by Karel Muzikar.