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13 July – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – The initial public offering…

13 July – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – The initial public offering of Gaz de France is reported to be the largest IPO in the world for three years

Linklaters has acted as French and US counsel to the underwriters, led by Calyon, Lazard-IXIS, Merrill Lynch International and Société Générale as joint global coordinators, in the initial public offering and privatisation of Gaz de France. The transaction was launched on 23 June 2005, priced on 7 July 2005 and will close on 13 July 2005.

Taking into account the high rate of subscription by retail investors in the French public offering portion of the global offering, as well as demand by French and international institutional investors, the IPO of Gaz de France constitutes one of the greatest successes in the French privatisation programme in the last five years (since the privatisation of Crédit Lyonnais in 1999) and is the largest IPO in the world for three years.

The proceeds from the sale of shares by the French State, whose shareholding in GdF will diminish to 79.45 per cent upon completion of the IPO, are around EUR 2.5 billion after exercise of the over-allotment option. The proceeds of the issuance of new shares by Gaz de France are around EUR 2 billion, after exercise of the over-allotment option. Gaz de France is consequently valued at EUR 23 billion based on the offering price.

Philippe Herbelin, a partner in Linklaters’ Paris office, commented:

“Following our representation of Air France in its privatisation and listing of shares on the New York Stock Exchange, we are especially pleased to have been further involved in the French privatisation programme. The IPO of Gaz de France is a benchmark French equity offering this year and a market leading transaction in the rapidly changing natural gas sector in Europe.”

The Linklaters team in Paris included Philippe Herbelin and Tom O’Neill, partners in the capital markets group, assisted by associates Eurydice Goulet, Xavier Amadei, Deborah Smith and Kevin Paviet-Salomon. Also assisting in Paris were Paul Lignières, partner, and François April and Ruxandra Lazar, associates in the public law/project finance group, and Annick Laine-Audouard, partner, and Laurent Dabernat, associate, who advised on French tax law. Francisco Duque advised on US tax law from Linklaters’ office in New York.

Other counsel on the capital markets aspects of the IPO included Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, French and US counsel to Gaz de France, and Gide Loyrette Nouel, French and US counsel to the French State.

British MP George Galloway and his opponent the Daily Telegraph will leave no stone unturned to sort out what could be a spectacular libel case.