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Horea Popescu, Managing Partner of CMS Bucharest and Head of CMS’s Corporate M&A Practice in CEE Looks Back at an Unusual Year.

After many years of liberalization and globalization, recent years have shown a reversal of the European Union’s approach concerning foreign direct investment from third countries. As in much of the world, the EU has taken a more restrictive view than in the past, and this view is reflected on the legislative level with the FDI Screening Regulation.

One of the most important issues facing businesses in CEE is the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on litigation and arbitration. In-person court and arbitration hearings have become problematic, if not impossible, and the importance of certain boilerplate contract clauses has skyrocketed. Zsolt Okanyi, Global Head of Dispute Resolution at CMS, Malgorzata Surdek, Head of Dispute Resolution at CMS Poland, and Daniela Karollus Bruner, Head of Dispute Resolution at CMS Austria, evaluate the current situation.

New Counsel Victoria Pernt on Schoenherr’s impressive Arbitration practice.

On May 12, 2020 after a long-lasting proceeding between the general importer Peugeot Austria and Austrian Peugeot dealer Buechl, the Austrian Cartel Court decided in first instance that Peugeot Austria had abused its market power vis-à-vis Buechl. The dispute revolved around the imposition of contractual conditions by Peugeot which, in the opinion of the court, put dealers at a substantial economic disadvantage. Peugeot Austria has expressed its surprise at the court’s decision and has announced that it will file an appeal.

As Europe begins a tentative re-opening following several difficult months of quarantining, social distancing, and working-from-home, we spoke to CMS’s Warsaw-based Employment Partner Katarzyna Dulewicz and Vienna-based Dispute Resolution Partner Daniela Karollus-Bruner for their perspective on the process.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the vulnerability of supply chains worldwide, creating an increased awareness of the need to protect critical domestic infrastructure. On April 3, 2020, the Austrian Parliament adopted a motion encouraging the Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs to put forward (“as soon as possible”) a government bill designed to protect companies in key industries from takeovers by third country entities. Eight weeks later the resulting bill was presented to the public.

In Austria, like in many other countries, the current restrictions due to the COVID-19 situation are causing extensive and opaque changes in social life and related legal issues. Although home office has become well established, it is still associated with limited opportunities for personal interaction. The situation raises many legal questions, one of which is how people can pragmatically conclude or sign a legally effective contract.

On March 11, 2020, CEE Legal Matters reported that Kinstellar had advised Austria’s European City Estates – a group of companies owned by the Austrian Humer Private Foundation – on its acquisition of the 22,000-square-meter Rosum office complex in Bratislava from Penta Real Estate, which was advised by Skubla & Partneri.

Ivan Males, from Croatia, is Senior Associate with DLA Piper in Vienna. He is a Finance, Projects & Restructuring practitioner with a focus on financing transactions and the infrastructure sector. In addition, he has gained particular knowledge on corporate and M&A cross-border transactions, notably in CEE and SEE markets.

Austria is one of the most desirable destinations for investors from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. It is frequently chosen as a country for investment or as a hub for doing business in Eastern and Southern Europe. In addition to Austria’s attractive economic and political environments, investors can benefit from Austria’s legal environment, in particular (a) the general accessibility of its market; (b) Austria’s flexible corporate law, which has a lot of similarities with CIS corporate law; (c) the country’s comfortable tax regime; and (d) benefits the country extends to startups. Below we briefly consider these benefits.

The move by the Big 4 firms – Deloitte, KPMG, EY, and PwC – to capitalize on their client lists and their multi-disciplinary capabilities by extending the ability of their legal arms to compete with traditional law firms is by now well-established. In Austria, their legal arms have begun competing aggressively for talent as well.

Love them or hate them, conferences are a fundamental part of the successful commercial lawyer’s calendar. But time is precious. Those calendars are full. It’s vital for conference organizers to get them right, and critical for lawyers to choose wisely in determining which events to attend and which to skip.

Until a few decades ago, litigation funding was nowhere to be seen. Today, it is daily business across law firms in the US, UK, and Australia. Although it has taken longer to reach Europe, and particularly CEE, it has now firmly made its mark, and it looks like it is here to stay.

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