Industry focus: energy in France
Combining first-class public law, project, finance and M&A expertise, Clifford Chance has impressive capabilities that are difficult to match. In France, the firm is advising sponsors on the country's largest offshore wind projects, and also advised on major gas, heat and renewables infrastructure M&A transactions. It assisted Cube Infrastructures with the disposals of district heating supplier Idex and Taranis. The practice is equally strong in the oil and gas and power sectors at international level, often acting for lenders and also for sponsors. It is advising on large-scale LNG, gas power, geothermal and hydro projects, primarily in Africa but also in other jurisdictions including Georgia and Indonesia. Highlights included assisting Sace with the financing of the Coral Floating LNG project in Mozambique, as well as Cacib with the financing of the Muara Tawar gas-fired power plant in Indonesia, and the government of Ethiopia with a 500MW geothermal project. The group also advises on highly strategic new pipeline projects. Key names include David Préat, Laurent Schoenstein, Benjamin De Blegiers, Anthony Giustini, Nikolaï Eatwell, Delphine Siino Courtin, Richard Tomlinson and Daniel Zerbib. Benjamin de Blégiers is now with Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.
De Pardieu Brocas Maffei has ‘very good knowledge of energy market regulations and efficiently answers precise and complex questions’. The practice stands out for its combination of leading regulatory, financing and corporate expertise. It receives instructions from all sides: banks, sponsors, developers, French blue-chip producers and many leading energy players. The practice recently advised on highly strategic brownfield infrastructure and M&A transactions while the financing of renewables projects in France remains a key area of expertise. Highlights included advising Orano on its reorganisation in view of its asset transfer to Framatome and the sale to EDF of a 75.5% stake in Framatome. It also assisted Total with the acquisition of the Pont-sur-Sambre and Toul Power companies which operate combined 825MW gas powered plants. The team also assisted Neoen with a €245m green bond financing for a global 1.6GW global project portfolio. Enedis, Green Yello, EDF Energies Nouvelles and Veolia are other clients. Regulatory law expert Christine Le Bihan-Graf and Jean-Renaud Cazali, who is the key name on the financing side, jointly head the practice. Patrick Jaïs, the ‘very good’ Thomas Bréart de Boisanger and Cédric Chanas are noted for corporate work.
Gide Loyrette Nouel A.A.R.P.I. advises on several of Africa's largest traditional power, LNG and oil, hydropower and renewables projects, representing sponsors, investors and state entities. The practice is notably assisting EGL and the contracting states with the development of the Ruzizi III 147MWh hydropower plant in the Grands Lacs region. Other highlights include advising EDF on the development of six EPR nuclear reactors in India. The firm houses leading regulatory expertise in Michel Guénaire, who acts for several of France's main energy operators, frequently handling strategic regulatory disputes. He is notably representing electricity grid operator Enedis in facing claims concerning feed-in tariffs from around 130 solar power producers. Stéphane Vernay, John Crothers, Marie Bouvet-Guiramand and counsels Victor Grandguillaume and Nicolas Jean are highly regarded. Petroci, Engie and the state of Mauritania are other clients.
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP has ‘a strong energy practice, including a strong oil and gas practice and a very good African practice’. The ‘very responsive’ team stands out for its ‘exceptional quality of legal drafting in multiple languages’ . The Paris office also benefits from a strong office network in London, Africa and Asia. With a strong local and international footprint, the Paris team, which combines civil and common law expertise, has historically been very strong in conventional energy. However, its involvement and client base has recently diversified, mirroring the new trends of an energy market currently in transition. The Paris team remains a leading player for oil and gas, power and mining work, especially in Africa where it is retained by the world’s largest utilities companies but is also increasingly acting for new players, including corporates undertaking private energy projects; it frequently partners with the firm's TMT (for smart grid projects in particular) and private equity departments. The group is also increasingly active in large renewable projects in France and Africa. Nina Bowyer, who co-heads the firm's Africa practice, is ‘an excellent negotiator whose experience in West Africa is very helpful’; she recently assisted Engie with the $3.9bn global sale of its upstream oil and gas business in 12 countries and acted for shipping company CMA GGM on its highly innovative strategic agreement with Total for LNG fuel supply for new build container ships. Paris head of energy and infrastructure, Christophe Lefort is advising private interconnector developer Aquind on its France-UK interconnector project, and EDF, IFC and the government of Cameroon on the development of the Nachtigal 420MW hydroelectric power plant. Rebecca Major is assisting SkyPower Global with its investment in a 100MW solar project in Nigeria, and advised MPDC Gabon on the sale of upstream assets in offshore Gabon blocks to Perenco. The experienced Stéphane Brabant, who is co-chair of the firm's Africa practice, of counsel Mathias Dantin and project finance experts Eric Fiszelson, Régis Oréal and Rachel Campbell are highly regarded. The practice was further bolstered by the return of Bertrand Montembault from the Johannesburg office.
Linklaters impresses with its national and African reach in the energy sector. The practice combines public law, regulatory, project and financing expertise and is entrusted by various high-profile French and international utilities operators, as well as many leading sponsors, investors and banks. It is a leading national player, especially for energy M&A and large-scale renewables projects. The team recently handled major regulatory, disputes, corporate and projects work for key client Engie, including defending it in two abuse of dominance cases, as well as assisting the client with the €4.7bn sale of its 70% interest in Exploration & Production International. Its Africa-focused work includes advising lenders and sponsors on renewables projects, including assisting the IFC with the development of its Scaling Solar programme for Africa and subsequent implementation in Zambia and Senegal. It is also involved in high-profile hydrocarbons and mining projects. Ardian, Valorem, Glencore and Neoen are other clients. Bertrand Andriani, Paul Lignières, Bruno Derieux, François April, Marc Petitier and Pierre Zelenko are all highly regarded in their fields. Also recommended are counsels Mark Barges and Jérémie Marthan.
Norton Rose Fulbright is a popular choice for sponsors and investors in the renewable energy sector. It advises on large offshore wind projects, landmark solar projects and oil and gas and mining work. Practice head Anne Lapierre is highly regarded. Other key names include Christophe Asselineau, Arnaud Bélisaire and Alain Malek.
Orrick Rambaud Martel has strong domestic and African capabilities in energy-related regulatory, project and financing matters. On the domestic side, the firm is handling high-profile regulatory, M&A and project matters including advising the Ecological and Solidary Transition Ministry on negotiating contracts with the developers of six offshore wind farm projects including the renegotiation of government-sponsored tariffs. Jean-Luc Champy and senior counsel Noël Chahid-Nouraï are key names. Corporate partner Patrick Tardivy assisted Axa Investment managers and Crédit Agricole Assurances with the €2.4bn acquisition of EDF’s assets in the Dunkirk LNG terminal. In Africa-related work, the team is advising on several of the continent's largest hydro and power plant projects, as well as assisting with several smaller solar and other power projects. The practice is notably acting for the Ministry of Energy of the Republic Democratic of Congo on the construction of the Inga 3 4,800MW hydroelectric project and is advising Eneo on Cameroon's €1bn Nachtigal 420MW hydroelectric power plant project. The group also handles mining work, including assisting the Republic of Guinea with the negotiation of a mining agreement concerning a $474m investment by Chalco Hong Kong. The firm also handles energy work in other parts of the world including Mongolia and is assisting Engie Brasil Energia with a major project sale in Brasil. Pascal Agboyibor heads the firm's Africa practice and Yves Lepage is deputy head of the firm's global energy and infrastructure group. Simon Ratledge and of counsel Philippe Zeller are also noted.
Adamas has strong regulatory expertise and has successfully handled several high-profile disputes. The team obtained a victory for EDF in a case concerning regulated tariff issues and was also successful in acting for grid operator Enedis in mass litigation concerning solar tariffs. It is also advising on a large electricity interconnection project and on new innovative projects such as assisting Region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes with its call for tender for its zero emission valley projects. EDF, Guernsey Electricity, Vinci Energy and E.ON are other clients. Practice head Jérôme Lépée and Gilles Le Chatelier are highly regarded. Romain Granjon is also noted.
Allen & Overy LLP
Allen & Overy LLP acts for a prominent client base consisting of leading French and international utilities operators, investors, states and lenders. The firm advises on highly strategic M&A transactions, and notably assisted Total with the acquisition of Engie's LNG assets portfolio. The firm also handles major regulatory issues and large-scale renewable projects in France, notably for key client Engie, which it is advising on two offshore wind projects (1GW total). Other work includes advising on a series of Georgian hydro power projects including assisting the project company with the Nenskra 280MW project. The practice is also advising on power projects in Africa and is well known for handling arbitration in the energy sector. Practice head Alexandre Ancel is a key name for M&A deals in the energy sector. Public law expert Romaric Lazerges and Christine Poyer-Rufenacht are also noted.
Ashurst LLP significantly strengthened its involvement and capabilities in the energy sector by hiring Vincent Trévisani from Watson Farley & Williams LLP; in headline work, Trévisani, who is a well-known figure in the market, advised wpd offshore on the first French offshore wind farm tender (3,000MW in total). The team utilises its strong corporate, project and public law expertise to advise sponsors, leading energy operators and investors on traditional and renewable energy projects in France and Africa. It is notably advising Moroccan governmental agency Onee with a €4.6bn LNG-to-power project in Morocco. The group is also advising EDF on the $1bn Octopus project in Chile, which includes offshore LNG storage and the development of a 660MW gas cycle power plant. In other work, the practice handled a major regulatory dispute as well as M&A and greenfield energy project transactions, and is assisting a client with an offshore oil exploration project. Enel Green Power, John Laing and Engie are other clients. The team is led by Michel Lequien, Trévisani and counsel Nacim Bounouara. Counsel Jacques Dabreteau and Yann Alix are also noted.
A leader in the renewables and offshore energy sector, BCTG Avocats has ‘solid public and private law litigation expertise’. The firm, which is able to provide a full range of expertise, including public law, regulatory and contractual law expertise, acts for several of France’s leading production and developer companies including long-time client EDF Energies Nouvelles, as well as Total Eren and Quadran, in addition to international clients. The practice is currently involved in the majority of France’s flagship offshore wind projects and recently handled sensitive administrative authorisation disputes in which it obtained positive outcomes. The team also advised EDF Energies Nouvelles on the acquisition of Futuren, and Voltalia on the financing of a biomass project in French Guyana. It is also sought out to advise on newer issues including auto-consumption and private project contracts and also handles a high number of regulatory litigation cases including matters concerning sponsored tariffs and access to network infrastructure and grid connection issues. The team includes the highly experienced Paul Elfassi, Diane Mouratoglou and Catherine Dupuy-Barin des Roziers. Alain de Rougé was promoted to the partnership and counsel Nelsie Bergès is also noted.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton focuses on advising states, state entities, as well as certain sponsors in the emerging markets, and especially Africa. The firm has a strong focus on the oil and gas sectors and recently assisted various states with renegotiating their countries' external debt level through oil debt refinancings. Other highlights include advising the Republic of Chad and state-owned oil company SHT on the restructuring of a $1.3bn oil-for-cash facility agreement granted by Glencore and the renegotiation of the related commercial contract for the sale of the country’s crude oil entitlements to Glencore, as well as assisting the Lebanese Energy Ministry with its tender offer for its first offshore licensing round. It also acted for the Republic of Congo and state-owned oil company SNPC on the restructuring of various oil pre-financings. The team also regularly advises on major Africa mining work and is assisting with a major African hydro power project, as well as renewables projects in Eastern Europe. Barthélemy Faye, senior counsel Jean-Pierre Vignaud and Andrew Bernstein are high-profile lawyers.
CMS has strong regulatory expertise in the energy sector through Christophe Barthélemy, who is among the top experts in that area. The firm is advising on key matters in France spanning projects, disputes and newly introduced regulatory issues. It is notably assisting Ailes Marines with the Saint-Brieuc offshore wind project and is handling highly strategic litigation for Engie which is challenging the EU legality of France's regulated gas and electricity tariffs. The practice is also advising on hydropower, biomass and LNG projects, as well as on energy certificates matters. Public law expert François Tenailleau also advises on energy projects.
Dentons assists French and global energy, power, oil, gas and mining companies. On the domestic side, public law partner Marc Fornacciari successfully acted for US client Schuepbach Energy in a dispute with the French state relating to shale gas exploitation; the French state was ordered to pay damages to the client. The firm is primarily involved in wind, solar, mining and oil and gas projects in Africa and Iran. It recently advised on several large projects including assisting Meridiam and Eiffage with the development of a 30MW solar plant in Senegal, as well as Quercus with a €500m deal with Iran’s Ministry of Energy for the development of a 600MW solar energy plant. Practice co-heads Ramin Hariri and Leïla Hubeaut are noted.
Eversheds Sutherland (France) LLP's team has ‘a sophisticated and in-depth knowledge of the energy industry’. The ‘proactive and hands-on’ team is, according to one client, ‘really patient and knows how to handle working with a West African government and proactively proposed solutions’. It is involved in several of Africa’s largest hydro and solar projects acting for state entities or sponsors. The practice also advises on solar and nuclear projects in France. ING Bank, Trinasolar and Greenwish Partners are clients. The firm also has strong contentious and non-contentious oil and gas and natural resources expertise and is a top choice for energy companies undertaking projects in Iran. Practice head David Sellers has ‘deep knowledge, the ability to think through the commercial aspects of legal matters, and a strong command of details, and also maintains good professional relationships’. Also involved are environment expert Louis-Narito Harada and banking and finance partner Sophie Perus. Boris Martor joined Bird & Bird in 2019.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP has strong experience handling greenfield and brownfield energy and infrastructure work mainly in France, for key French clients and international companies. The firm recently advised on several of France's most high-profile M&A transactions in the gas, utilities, storage, pipeline and nuclear sectors for leading infrastructure investors and energy companies. The practice is also advising on major power, wind and offshore renewables projects. Total, Engie, EDF, Direct Energie and Antin Infrastructure are clients. Key contacts include Pascal Cuche for public law and regulatory work and Hervé Pisani for high-profile M&A transactions. The practice also has considerable arbitration expertise.
Hogan Lovells (Paris) LLP
Energy is one of Hogan Lovells (Paris) LLP’s core sectors. The firm advises high-profile utilities and developers, as well as investors on projects, financing and M&A matters. The group also has additional expertise in several other areas including in the arbitration and property space. The practice is advising on large-scale domestic projects encompassing renewable and electricity interconnector projects. It is also very active in Africa and elsewhere, assisting clients with power and renewables projects. The team recently advised Themis Energy on the construction of a 40MW hydro power plant in Ivory Coast. It also handled significant matters for key client EDF, including advising on the sale of its minority stake in Powernext, and on the acquisition and financing of four power plants (750MW combined) in Chile. GE, ABB and NEoT Capital are other clients. Ludovic Babin, Bruno Cantier and finance expert Olivier Fille-Lambie are the key contacts, as well as Xavier Doumen for corporate matters and Sharon Lewis for structured finance work.
Jeantet's team includes ‘well-versed international lawyers’, who have ‘a depth of experience in infrastructure and mining projects in West Africa’. The firm is advising international companies on several of Africa's largest mining deposits including assisting Canyon Resources with a first-class Bauxite deposit development project in Cameroon. Oil and gas is another area of sector expertise which also extends to arbitration and litigation. Highlights included advising Wineco on the acquisition of Total’s import, storage and distribution LPG business in Haiti and representing Europa Oil and Gas in French court proceedings following the state's refusal to authorise the transfer and extension of an exploration permit. Practice head Thierry Lauriol is ‘well versed in the energy, mining and infrastructure sectors and has a depth of knowledge and contacts throughout French speaking Africa’ where he is ‘a mover and shaker in the sector’. The firm also combines energy and corporate expertise to advise on renewables projects in Europe and Africa. Corporate partner Karl Hepp de Sevelinges is ‘solution-oriented, commercial and gets things done’.
Jones Day is retained by leading French utilities companies to advise on high-profile regulatory issues including tariff regulation. The firm is assisting EDF with the opening up of the operation of French hydropower plants to competitors and with France's tender offer to renew dams and hydropower plants concessions. Philippe Delelis and Nicolas Brice are top public law experts. The practice also advises on domestic renewable projects. It assisted La Banque Postale with the financing of several renewables projects including with the joint financing of a 20MW EDF Energies Nouvelles onshore wind farm. Sophie Chevallier is a key name for project finance work. The firm also handles oil and gas work. Rémy Fekete assisted Chevron with the negotiation of the renewal of a hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation concession in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Litigation and arbitration are also strengths.
King & Spalding LLP has ‘remarkable energy and mining expertise’ and provides ‘excellent quality work’. The team is handling groundbreaking hydrocarbons and mining work in France including challenging the French state and its legal framework before the courts for major oil and gas operator clients. Counsel Ruxandra Lazar is praised for her ‘exceptional commitment and expertise, and ability to never leave anything aside and to ask herself the right questions’. The practice is also a popular choice for handling strategic and complex hydrocarbons deals in North Africa and was recently particularly busy in Algeria and Morocco. It is advising Dea Erdoel on various legal aspects of the Reggane upstream developments in Algeria. Arbitration and environment-related work are also strengths, while the firm is also developing its involvement in large renewables energy projects in Europe. General Electric, OMV, Vermilion Energy and Chevron are other clients. Practice head Mehdi Haroun is highly regarded and ‘responsive’ senior associate Nora Djeraba provides ‘clear answers’.
LPA-CGR avocats has ‘very precise expertise’ that brings ‘high added value’ and also has ‘very good availability in case of emergency’. The firm ranks among France's leading players for domestic renewables projects. The practice handles a wide range of matters but its public law, permit and regulatory expertise particularly stand out. It is advising on some of France's largest offshore projects including handling litigation and permit issues. The firm is notably assisting Iberdrola and Res consortium with France's first offshore wind farm calls for tender, as well as as Engie and EDP Renewables on France's second offshore wind calls for tender. The practice also advised Langa on energy and regulatory due diligence regarding its acquisition by Engie SA. In other work, the team advises on energy efficiency, auto-consumption and urban heating matters. Quadran, Solaire Direct and Kallista are other clients. Practice co-heads Fabrice Cassin and Hélène Gelas have strong expertise in public law renewable energy matters. Christophe Jacomin advises on project finance.
Mayer Brown provides ‘high-level work that always corresponds to clients' expectations’, stands out for its ‘availability and responsiveness’ and is singled out for its ‘high-level expertise and its great knowledge of Africa and the Middle East’. It is advising investors and sponsors on the development and financing of a high number of large solar African projects. The practice recently assisted Total Eren with the development of a 30MW solar project in Guinea. It also advised Orion Solaire and Générale du Solaire on a number of similar projects. In other work, the team advised on a major hybrid solar project and on the construction of a large-scale coal-fired power plant and is also highly active in the oil and gas sector. It assisted Maurel & Prom with several matters including the negotiation of a $600m loan for the refinancing of its oil and gas operations in Gabon. Mining sector-related work is another strength and it assisted Toro Gold with the project financing and development of the Mako gold project in Senegal. Practice head Olivier Mélédo ‘has a deep understanding of the business and the industry’ and is ‘able to provide the required legal guidance to protect his clients and take care of any potential risks during all phases of a transaction’. Alban Dorin has a focus on work involving the mining sector.
Pinsent Masons LLP's expertise spans the renewables, nuclear, hydropower and oil and gas sectors in France and Africa. The team has construction (FIDIC), regulatory, project, litigation and arbitration expertise, acting for major French and international energy companies, as well as engineering companies and contractors. On the domestic side, it is advising Fusion for Energy (F4E) on the International Thermonuclear Energy project. It is also assisting with inter-connector and oil refinery projects and handles litigation related to the manufacturing of turbines. The team is also advising a member of a consortium on a large-scale nuclear construction project abroad and is involved in large hydropower projects in Africa. Other areas of expertise include advising on pipeline and oil production sharing contracts. BP, Engie Green, Nec, Neoen and Vinci Construction Grands Projets are also clients. The practice is jointly headed by Stéphane Gasne, who stands out for his ability to speak fluent Mandarin, and Frédéric Gillion, who has extensive knowledge of FIDIC contracts and handles arbitration. Melina Wolman is the key name for litigation.
Ravetto Associés has ‘a great energy practice’. The firm is entirely dedicated to the energy sector, where its expertise spans gas, power, heat, biomass and renewables energies, and serves a wide range of players, including alternative operators, investors, banks, as well as energy transporters and consumer companies. The 12-lawyer team has ‘high-level regulatory expertise ’ and notably advises on M&A, projects and contractual work. It also has complementary banking and finance expertise. Highlights included assisting Total with the purchase of a 23% stake in Eren Renewable Energy, and EBM Trirhena AG as seller with the purchase of 73.4% of Direct Energie by Total. The practice also has strong regulatory litigation expertise and is involved in several strategic cases for major operators. Other clients include Engie, CDC, Landesbank and Leclerc. Practice head Paul Ravetto is ‘thorough, responsive and commits to his words’. Also noted are public law expert Patrick Labayle-Pabet, the ‘very available and reliable’ Anne-Laure Proisy, Claire Bretheau, who ‘solves every problem that arises’, and of counsel Rémy Coin, who was a new hire from GRTgaz where he was legal affairs director.
Simmons & Simmons ‘helps to make things happen’. The ‘outstanding team’ is singled out for its ‘active listening and solid ability to convert knowledge into business value’, as well as for its ‘abilities in francophone Africa and its rare ability to develop strong relationships with governments and regulatory bodies’. Lawyers are ‘on top of their game with the latest legislation both for the sector but also for businesses to operate in such jurisdictions’. The firm has a strong energy and natural resources African practice and the team is currently advising on a number of large-scale and complex projects, notably involving Chinese investors. It is assisting China Three Gorges International Corporation with its bid for the Inga 3 hydro-power project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (4,500MW). The firm is also advising investors and sponsors on several other power, renewables and off-grid projects. The practice is also handling oil and gas work in Senegal and Gabon and is advising on large mining projects, particularly in Guinea. It is assisting Mauritanian Copper Mines with its mining operations in Mauritania, as well as De Run International Resources with the negotiation of a mining convention concerning a bauxite mining project in the Republic of Guinea. ‘Outstanding’ practice head Yves Baratte is ‘a trusted adviser’, ‘delivers very high-standard work’ and ‘marries high levels of intellect and general commercial acumen with a razor sharp understanding of a client's particular culture and approach’.
White & Case LLP is advising on several large-scale hydro power projects in Georgia and Africa. The firm is notably acting for the state of Georgia on the 434MW Namakhvani hydropower plant project, as well as the Nareva and Enel consortium on a 850MW wind energy programme in Morocco comprising five onshore wind farms. In domestic work, the firm is assisting the ITER Organization on the construction of the eponymous international thermonuclear experimental reactor project. M&A and international arbitration are other strengths. Practice head Paule Biensan, Jacques Bouillon and François-Guilhem Vaissier are key names.