Schneider ruling opens windows of opportunity for private equity houses

The European Comm-ission's decision to block Schneider's takeover of rival French electrical manufacturer Legrand has opened up a host of opportunities for private equity lawyers.
The commission ruled last week that Allen & Overy (A&O) client Schneider must divest or demerge at least 93 per cent of Legrand, in which it holds 98 per cent of the listed shares. Schneider has stuck by longstanding adviser A&O, and Brussels partner Jacques Steenbergen will mastermind both the corporate aspects of Legrand's divestment and a possible appeal before the European Court of Justice.
One of the most obvious candidates to pick up Legrand was Clifford Chance client General Electric. Last week, however, the US conglomerate, which is still smarting from the blocked GE-Honeywell deal, indicated that it would not be bidding for Legrand.
Most of the interest is understood to be coming from private equity houses and a successful bid could lead to Europe's biggest ever buy-out. Private equity houses have found new opportunities from the regulators and recently used the UK Government's decision on Interbrew to put in bids for Carling, which were ultimately defeated by brewing company Coors.
The favourite for the bid is Cinven, which normally uses Ashurst Morris Crisp or Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for European work.
However, BC Partners, Blackstone, CVC Capital Partners and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co are also believed to be interested, which could bring in a host of law firms, including Linklaters, Clifford Chance, Dickson Minto, Latham & Watkins and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.
The deadline for expressions of interest to Schneider's advisers Merrill Lynch was last Friday (15 February).