Lead roles for independents as Gaz de France, Suez join forces

A heavyweight corporate quartet of French independents Bredin Prat, Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters have bagged lead roles on the merger between Gaz de France (GdF) and Suez.

Darrois Villey partner François Sureau is advising GdF, with Freshfields partner Jacques Gunther giving antitrust advice.

Linklaters corporate partner Marc Loy and competition partner Olivier d’Ormesson are advising Suez, alongside a team from Bredin Prat. All four law firms have existing relationships with the clients. However, the instructions are a blow to Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, which advised the company on its partial privatisation last year. Darrois Villey also had a role for GdF on the hugely successful IPO, which raised ?3.5bn (£2.38bn) in June 2005.

The merger was approved by the GdF and Suez boards last week, and will create a company with revenues of ?64bn (£43.6bn). It comes after speculation over a potential takeover of Suez by Italian electricity company Enel. Slaughter and May best friend Bonelli Erede Pappalardo is on standby to advise regular client Enel.

The deal has been approved by the French and Belgian governments, and the European Commission has confirmed that it meets EU rules on the free movement of capital.

The Suez deal effectively means that GdF will be fully privatised, with the French government’s stake in the company expected to drop from 80 per cent to a 34 per cent ‘blocking stake’.

Gide Loyrette Nouel has further consolidated its relationship with the French government by advising on the merger. The firm acted for the state on the 2005 IPOs of GdF, Electricité de France and the French motorway system.

Gide partner Jean-Emmanuel Skovron is once again leading the work, supported by fellow partners Didier Martin and Youssef Djehane.