Gaz de France, Suez merger finalized

The merger of Gaz de France and Suez, which was approved July 16 by each company's shareholders, has ended a 29-month saga of alternate burial and resuscitation of the Franco-Belgian entity, GDF Suez.

Doris Leblond
OGJ Correspondent

PARIS, July 24 -- The merger of Gaz de France and Suez, which was approved July 16 by each company's shareholders, has ended a 29-month saga of alternate burial and resuscitation of the Franco-Belgian entity, GDF Suez, which is now one of the largest providers of electric power and natural gas in Europe and its leading LNG supplier (OGJ, Sept 24, 2007, p. 28). The merger took effect July 22 when it was introduced on the Paris Stock Exchange.

A workforce of 200,000—134,000 of them in energy and energy services—and combined sales of €74.3 billion, including the 35% remaining after spinning-off Suez' water and waste business, makes the new group a rival of Germany's E.On AG and Electricite de France.

GDF Suez provides a gas-electricity profile balanced over the full energy chain: exploration and production; LNG; electricity production, including nuclear and renewables; and the offer of combined electricity and gas services for downstream clients, with operational synergies hovering at €1 billion/year planned.

Suez Chairman and Chief Executive Gerard Mestrallet has assumed the same role in the merged group while GDF Chairman and Chief Executive Jean-Francois Cirelli is vice-president and delegate chief executive officer.

France, which had an 80% stake in GDF, now holds a 35% blocking stake in the merged group, partly privatizing GDF but also partly nationalizing Suez. It is GDF that has taken over Suez on the basis of 21 of its shares for 22 of Suez'.

GDF Suez's leading position as the first European LNG buyer bolsters its natural gas supply diversification from new sources, giving it added clout when negotiating its gas supplies with giants such as Gazprom and Sonatrach where the force ratio is becoming increasingly important.

LNG development is strategic to GDF Suez, which aims to increase its regasification capacity in France and Belgium to 44 billion cu m by 2013 from the previously planned 40 billion cu m in 2009.

Suez owns the 6.84 billion cu m capacity of the Everett LNG terminal near Boston and is building an LNG terminal in Meijillones in Chili, which is due on stream in 2010. It has a project for two offshore terminals in the US—Neptune LNG off Massachusetts, and Calypso off Florida—and has a terminal in Singapore and another in Rabaska, Canada. In addition it had signed long-term LNG supply contracts with Yemen and Qatar. GDF has shares in liquefaction capacities in Egypt and Norway.

The new group also has a fleet of 15 methane carriers plus five under construction to transport LNG.

In upstream E&P, GDF Suez in 2006 had proved and probable reserves of 685 million boe, of which 74% was natural gas, and a production that year of 42.4 million boe.

Reserves are mainly in the North Sea, Germany, and North Africa. The Group has exploration licenses enlarged through acquisitions in Germany, Egypt, and the UK as well as in the Gulf of Mexico and Indonesia, which Suez acquired from Eni SPA in part exchange for Distrigaz.

Mestrallet told the press the group intended to invest an average of €10 billion/year over the next 3 years for its overall development, of which €8 billion is targeted for this year. These investments would be in gas, E&P, LNG terminals, infrastructure, and power generation. Oil and gas reserves are expected to be increased to 1.5 billion boe in the future, depending on market conditions.

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