Schoenherr Partners Ilko Stoyanov in Bulgaria and Slaven Moravcevic in Serbia Talk About The Deal of the Year in Bulgaria
CEELM: First, congratulations on winning the Deal of the Year Award in Bulgaria!
Ilko: Thank you! Although 2019 was a bit slow at the start it ended with a few major deals for us, including one involving Vivacom. Ending the year on a strong note gives you a gentle push for the upcoming year – you want to keep going with the same pace and enthusiasm, so we are really happy with our overall performance!
CEELM: Can you describe the deal for us, and Schoenherr’s role in making it happen?
Slaven: Vivacom has been probably the single most recognizable asset in the M&A market in Bulgaria. Since its privatization 2004, the company has gone through a number of follow-on sales which attracted media coverage and interest from professionals and the general public who are, in fact, Vivacom’s subscribers. As a result of this deal, a large strategic investor with experience in CEE steps in, and we are happy to have been able to advise on all Bulgarian legal aspects. These included the legal due diligence review and advising on the Bulgarian angles of the deal structuring, the negotiations, and the offering memorandum related to the financing.
CEELM: Why did the United Group choose Schoenherr to assist it in this matter?
Slaven: Schoenherr has advised the United Group on almost all major deals across CEE in the last five years. The people from United Group know us and our work and it was natural for them to come back to us. But we do not take this for granted. There were a number of buy-side law firms on this deal advising on very specific aspects – transaction, financing, regulatory, deal insurance or local law. It was fiercely competitive and there were no generalists. Staying focused on your strengths in your particular field is what, we believe, matters in deals such as this.
CEELM: What was the significance of the deal, in your opinion?
Ilko: The deal had a very large value for Bulgaria – USD 1.3 billion, as reported. More importantly, however, the deal was complex and the complexity was driven by the ongoing legal disputes initiated in various courts/jurisdictions by a former shareholder. So, there was an element of hostility to this deal. The transaction structuring had to deal with this and the disentanglement of the legal disputes, which was challenging.
CEELM: This makes the second year in a row Schoenherr Sofia has won the Deal of the Year for Bulgaria, following the firm’s success last year for its work on OTP’s acquisition of Societe Generale Expressbank. How is the office continuing to obtain such high-profile mandates?
Ilko: Both mandates resulted from deals which went far beyond Bulgaria and included many other countries across CEE. The strategic decision of Schoenherr to position itself as a firm with a very strong CEE footprint has made these mandates possible. Our goal is to deliver stellar legal advice to all our clients. So on the cases where this also results in winning an award – even better! We were lucky to have won the awards in two consecutive years and we will do our best to make it three in a row next year.