Legislation and Strategic Changes in the Bulgarian Energy Sector: Several amendments were made to Bulgaria’s energy laws in 2018 facilitating the further liberalization of the energy market. Renewable energy producers exceeding 4 MW installed capacity that enjoyed offtake of their energy at Feed-In Tariff (FiT) were introduced to a different support scheme: Contracts for Premium (CfP), which became effective on January 1, 2019. Under CfP, renewables sell their electricity to the free market – either to the Independent Bulgarian Energy Exchange (IBEX) or to their balancing group coordinators.
Bulgaria, it seems, is in good shape. Fueled by a buoyant tech sector, the country’s economy is registering impressive growth, incomes are rising, and unemployment is down. Still, with corruption still a problem and the prospect of a global slowdown around the corner, few are willing to bet on the good times sticking around long. As always, in the Land of Roses, the thorns are not far away.
Unimpressed by Picadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, Stela Pavlova and Katerina Kaloyanova have, in recent years, left positions with high-powered international law firms in London to return to their native Bulgaria and join Schoenherr’s office in Sofia. Both insist the trade-offs were less dramatic than many assume … and both credit Schoenherr Bulgaria’s Managing Partner Alexandra Doytchinova with making them feel right at home.
The Deal: In May, 2018, CEE Legal Matters reported that Linklaters, Kocian Solc Balastik, the BLC Law Office, Paksoy, and Tsvetkova Bebov Komarevski had provided advice on Czech, English, Georgian, Turkish, and Bulgarian law, respectively, to Energo-Pro a.s. on its EUR 250 million Eurobond issue in London. Allen & Overy, BGI Legal in Tbilisi, Boyanov & Co. in Bulgaria, and Turkey’s Gedik & Eraksoy advised the joint bookrunners, BNP Paribas, Citigroup Global Markets Limited and J.P. Morgan Securities plc, and the Trustee, Citibank, N.A., London Branch.
Bulgaria, along with the entire CEE region, has been experiencing a surge in investment and transactions over the past two to three years. Prior to that, hit by a late wave of the global recession, Bulgarian business faced problems with over-indebtedness, resulting in a large number of insolvencies, especially in the real estate sector. Since then, however, insolvencies have been decreasing. Thus, the recent uptick in the number of insolvency procedures being initiated in a particular sector – energy – deserves special focus and attention.
Two concentrations recently prohibited by the Bulgarian Commission for the Protection of Competition with limited analysis have been widely criticized for their lack of valid economic arguments. Because both decisions were highly publicized and concern the politically sensitive sectors of media and energy, they are worth special attention.
The particularly-challenging nature of CEE law firm marketing becomes especially relevant as we bid adieu to a good friend in Bulgaria, who, after more than four years doing law firm marketing and business development with several of Bulgaria’s leading law firms, is leaving the profession altogether. We asked her some final questions on her last day, honoring her request for anonymity in the process.
Ever since the CEE market opened for private practice CEE lawyers have sought to work on international mandates in collaboration with international lead counsels. Apart from the obvious (we take an oath to serve justice, but it is no secret that we also in fact work for money), the benefits of this cooperation also include the opportunity to draw on the international counsel’s expertise, particularly in transactional work. Such cooperation has greatly influenced the work of local counsel. Those who seized the opportunity had a steep learning curve and developed their practices to a level that is generally referred to, mostly in lawyers’ own pitches, as reaching an “international standard.”
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation is, according to the EU-hosted GDPR website, “the most important change in data privacy regulation in the past 20 years.” The Act, which was approved by the EU Parliament on April 14, 2016 and will become fully effective on May 25, 2018, was designed “to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens’ data privacy, and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy.”
Last year was a good year for the Bulgarian economy, which registered 3.6% GDP growth. The Bulgarian Government plans to further boost the economy in 2018, and initial projections vary from 3% to 4% growth. The main trigger for this will be the continuation of spending public funds on strategic infrastructure projects.
The winners of the 2017 CEE Deal of the Year Awards were announced at the first ever CEE Legal Matters Deal of the Year Awards Banquet last night in Prague. The biggest smiles in the joyous and music-filled celebration of CEE lawyering, perhaps, were on the faces of Partners from Avellum and Sayenko Kharenko, which, along with White & Case and Latham & Watkins, won the award both for Ukrainian Deal of the Year and CEE Deal of the Year for their work on the 2017 Ukraine Eurobond Issue (a story initially reported by CEE Legal Matters on October 2, 2017).
One of the defects of the Bulgarian tax system and of the enforcement authorities in Bulgaria – the lack of direct access to information for the purposes of administrative cooperation (the automatic exchange of information) between the relevant authorities and legal entities – is on its way to being resolved.