Formed in 2000 as a result of the merger of a number of energy companies, Galp Energia has quickly become one of Portugal’s largest companies and sees itself as the driving force behind the reshaping of the country’s oil and gas sectors.
Iberian Lawyer met up with Rui Mayer, General Secretary for the group to find out more about his role in this dynamic company.
Fundada en el año 2000 como resultado de una fusión entre un grupo de empresas del sector de la energía, GAP Energía se ha convertido en poco tiempo en una de las mayores empresas de Portugal y se identifica como una de las fuerzas motrices en la readaptación del sector del petróleo y del gas. Iberian Lawyer habla con Rui Mayer, Secretario General del Grupo, para observar de más cerca el papel que tiene en un entorno empresarial tan dinámico.
For a General Counsel of one of Iberia’s global energy companies, Rui Mayer has a unique background. Having completed his degree, he started his working life at Partex-CPS, an Engineering and Project Consulting company belonging to the then Gulbenkian Foundation before joining Neste Oy, of Finland, managing its offices first in Lisbon and then in Algiers. Mayer joined Petrogal where he held the role of company secretary for four years, before assuming the role of general manager for HR. When Galp Energia was created in 2000, he was appointed as their general legal consultant.
The very varied nature of the business activity at Partex-CPS served as a good grounding for his work at Galp but above all he feels he brings a very commercial outlook to his role.
“In-house counsels have to be very attuned to the commercial environment and requirements of the role,” he explains. “We have to be able to measure and accept risk, and, above all, help guide the business managers through that risk. The very nature of our business means that the company is continually taking risks; my role and that of my team is to help the business manage those risks.”
Integrating with the business
That team is nine lawyers strong, all with distinct backgrounds and at different stages of their career. As a manager, Mayer sees his role as getting the best possible solution for any given situation the business sends his way. To do this, he distributes work carefully, assessing the requirements of each issue and matching it to the team member with the most relevant expertise and experience.
One of the biggest changes that Mayer has witnessed is the extent to which the role of the legal department has been integrated into the business.
“In the 1980s and the early 1990s, the legal department was regarded as something managed quite remotely from the rest of the business,” he says. “The lawyers did not get involved in the dayto- day running of the company. Today, the lawyers see themselves as an integral part of the business. They work closely with the managers and are able to add more value to the business as a whole.”
A generalist approach
In terms of his legal priorities, Mayer believes that he needs to develop his inhouse lawyers to become a good team of generalists. They handle the day-to-day commercial relations and negotiations as well as the HR issues. Currently, regulatory and competition work is outsourced, but Mayer sees this as an area of growth and so he will try and develop the team’s in-house skills in these disciplines. While he finds it difficult to estimate the proportion of work that he currently passes to law firms, he explains that it tends to comprise the more “specialised” areas, and all the company’s litigation.
Mayer does not use a formal panel of legal advisers, but he does have a preferred handful of firms that he uses regularly. He sees himself in the fortunate position of being able to choose from some of Portugal’s best law firms.
“We are constantly being approached by law firms who are keen to work with us. When choosing a firm, what I really look for is past experience and a good approach to the company’s requirements.” He is clear that he is not looking for “law for law’s sake”. “If I want a specific legal opinion on an issue, I’ll use a professor. Ordinarily, I am looking for someone with a practical outlook, someone who can provide solutions.” While he believes that an understanding of his business and the energy sector is helpful, “it is more important to me that we have someone who is going to be solutions-focused”.
According to Mayer, the trend for law firms to become more business-like in their approach is helpful. He feels he gets a good level of service and support from those he uses. Although if he were to give one piece of advice to firms it would be to ensure that they align themselves as much as possible with the client’s business. For him, having an external firm that operates as an extension to the in-house team is invaluable.
Internationally, Galp Energia is expanding with operations in Spain, Brazil and Africa. Generally, outside Portugal, Mayer tends to use local firms because the nature of the advice he needs is so specialised, although in places like Angola and Mozambique he tends to look for practices that have solid international connections. Commenting on the internationalisation of law firms in Portugal, he notes that there have been changes in the last decade. He believes that the Anglo-Saxon firms that want to be in Portugal are already there and it is unlikely that more UK and US law firms are thinking of entering the market. However, he feels that the synergy that exists between Spanish and Portuguese firms might result in more interest from Spanish firms. A major factor will be the integration of the Spanish and Portuguese energy markets which Mayer feels is inevitable but is likely to take a few years to come to fruition.
Mayer sums up his view of his work in a bright and upbeat manner: “I wouldn’t call myself a workaholic, but I really enjoy being part of this team. The variety of projects we handle through our involvement with the business as a whole makes this a very exciting place to work. Of course, there are frustrations. There are with any job. My way of dealing with these is to keep a positive outlook – to view the challenges as opportunities instead of difficulties and stumbling blocks.”
With Galp Energia’s continuing drive to enter the Portuguese electricity market and its imminent partial privatisation through an IPO, one thing is certain – the next phase of this growing company’s life will keep Mayer and his team well occupied.