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‘Enhancing the role of the panel’: GDF Suez set to launch major panel review

The world’s second largest energy utility GDF Suez, which generated €39.4bn in the first six months of this year, is reviewing its procurement of legal services ahead of a major panel review set for the start of the New Year.

GDF Suez launched its first legal panel in January 2012, with Magic Circle firm Linklaters; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Shearman & Sterling; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy; Norton Rose Fulbright and French firm Bredin Prat all earning places.

The panel process is being run out of the company’s Paris office, headed by GDF Suez general counsel Francois Graux, but London-based general counsel Christopher Trower will also have input. The pitching process for the company’s second panel review was originally scheduled for late 2014 but Legal Business understands that this has been pushed back to the New Year. The new panel is expected to be confirmed during the second quarter of 2015. 

Clifford Chance missed out on the previous panel after advising the UK’s International Power on a mammoth deal in 2010 that saw it become part of GDF Suez, but has worked on an increasingly number of mandates for the French utility since the previous panel was confirmed and is expected to pitch.

Linklaters acted for GDF Suez on that multi-billion merger and has remained the company’s go-to law firm in London since then, having handled the company’s €2.9bn sale of its interest in a LNG plant in Trinidad and Tobago to China Investment Corporation. M&A partner Marc Loy worked closely with the utility company but he recently departed Linklaters for French boutique BDGS Associés, leaving Iain Wagstaff in London as the Magic Circle firm’s strongest relationship with GDF Suez.

White & Case, which recently acted for GDF Suez subsidiary Tractebel Engineering on its acquisition of German engineering group Lahmeyer, is not on the current panel but will also be pitching for a place.

One lawyer set to be involved in the pitching process commented: ‘There are around 15 law firms on the panel but GDF Suez is looking to reduce that and also tighten when the company can go outside the panel to appoint lawyers, as currently it only appoints to major deals worth at least $500m.’

Another added: ‘GDF Suez are looking to continue the trend of enhancing the role of the panel.’