Clifford Chance snubbed on GDF Suez’s first-ever legal panel

GDF Suez has not appointed Clifford Chance to its inaugural legal panel, despite the magic circle firm’s relationship with the energy giant’s  £17bn tie-up partner International Power.

Linklaters, French independent Bredin Prat and US firm Shearman & Sterling are understood to have won places on the company’s first-ever legal panel.

Linklaters and Bredin Prat both advised GDF on its investment in International Power early last year. The deal involved the transfer of the French company’s international energy division to International Power in return for a 70 per cent share in the enlarged group.

Clifford Chance advised International Power on the £17.1bn deal, one of the biggest of 2011, fielding London partners David Pudge, Brendan Moylan, Kathy Honeywood and Andrew Grenville (7 February 2011).

The decision not to include Clifford Chance on the new panel is understood to be related to the requirement to keep the governance of the UK-listed International Power independent from other companies’.

Lawyers indicated that UK listing rules oblige International Power to retain independence from GDF Suez, including in its choice of corporate counsel.

One individual close to the matter said GDF and International Power were “keen to make sure there’s a clearly established independence in terms of representation”.

Clifford Chance, however, is expected to maintain is close relationship with International Power.

GDF is still in the process of finalising paperwork, with agreements expected to be signed in the coming weeks, but it is understood that at least some panel firms have been given verbal indications of their success.

The protracted procedure, led by general counsel Sandra Lagumina, is understood to have included inquiries into firms’ global fee arrangements and is believed to have started in late summer last year, when firms made submissions. The Lawyer flagged the company’s decision to launch its first legal roster slightly earlier (6 June 2011).

A GDF spokesperson said it was too early to comment on the panelists as the process was still not finalised. International Power and Clifford Chance both declined to comment.