The Government's decision to block two massive takeover bids in the electricity industry has caught City law firms by surprise.

Teams of lawyers from a clutch of big firms had been advising companies involved in the latest wave of consolidation sweeping the sector.

Tim Clarke has led for Linklaters & Paines, which is instructed by National Power.

Freshfields is adviser to Southern Electric, which accepted the terms of a £2.5 billion offer from National Power before the bid was disallowed by Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade.

Lang also blocked a bid from PowerGen for Midlands Electricity. Freshfields represents PowerGen while Midlands had instructed Slaughter and May.

But the City is still on bid alert with offers expected from foreign predators for UK generators and electricity distributors.

The favourite takeover candidate remains National Power which analysts believe could fall to America's giant utility, Southern Company.

Southern is being advised by Allen & Overy. Norton Rose is acting for merchant bank SBC Warburg which is financial adviser to Southern.

A bid from the US company will probably be resisted by National Power whose bid for Southern Electric was designed to bolster its defences against the US group.