Gaz de France gets green light for €67bn Suez merger

News that the Gaz de France (GdF) works council has issued its formal opinion on the proposed e67bn (£53.07bn) merger between French utility company Suez and GdF allows the companies to proceed to board and shareholder approval.

Although the union did not give the thumbs-up, it is a non-binding opinion and it was one of the last obstacles the companies had to overcome before becoming the world’s third-largest utility.

The increasingly likely tie-up is a blow to niche labour lawyer and union adviser Alain Levy, whose client successfully stalled the process by suing in a Paris appeals court.

Gide Loyrette Nouel partner Jean-Emmanuel Skovron worked alongside partner Nicholas Julich to advise the French government on all aspects relating to its 80 per cent stake in GdF.

Skovron said that while the unions have not come out in favour of the merger, which will see the government reduce its stake in the company to 37.5 per cent, it has “decided not to oppose it”. He added: “From a technical point of view the anxiety is finished.”

The protracted process, which was triggered by a potential hostile takeover bid from Italian utility Enel in 2005, had other casualties along the way.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton held a longstanding relationship with GdF. Partner Pierre-Yves Chabert had advised on its successful IPO in 2005. However, Cleary also had a relationship with Enel and so was conflicted out of the merger.

Chabert said: “We used to be close to them, but there’s times when you have to make choices. Hopefully there will be new opportunities.”

Debevoise & Plimpton stepped in, with partners Raman Bet-Mansour, Pierre Clermontel and Drew Dutton advising. GdF also instructed Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier partner Herve Pisani on French M&A matters, Wilkie Farr & Gallagher on competition and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer on employment and competition matters.

Suez was advised by partners Patrick Dziewolski, Mark Loy and Agate Soilleux at Bredin Prat, Linklaters and Weil Gotshal & Manges respectively. Davis Polk partner Margaret Tayhar and senior associate Siobhan Dalton advised on all US aspects.