Turkey focus: Crisis, what crisis?

Turkey focus: Crisis, what crisis?

As Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc, many countries face both an economic and a health crisis. But for Turkey, the concept of crisis is nothing new: it has long been part of everyday life. The current malaise, which predates the pandemic, has its origins in the attempted coup of 2016 and the government’s authoritarian response: over 300 people were killed and 75,000 arrested, including 2,700 judges. Such coups d’état have punctuated Turkey’s historical narrative in every decade since the 1960s. More recently, there was the currency and debt crisis of 2018, which saw the credit rating agencies downgrade Turkey’s debt to junk status.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, President Erdoğan is still firmly in control. Added to the $120bn in infrastructure spending since 2003, new highways and rail links are planned. Turkey’s $730bn economy, the world’s 20th-largest, even managed to expand slightly last year. But problems persist: inflation at 15% and interest rates recently hiked to 19%, while the Turkish Lira’s precipitous decline against the US dollar has sparked an exodus of foreign capital. In an effort to boost tourism, one of the country’s strongest sectors, Turkey announced that it would be the first country to accept British holidaymakers without Covid checks. Despite Erdoğan’s promises to cut inflation in an attempt to restore confidence, sustained turbulence undermines the country’s economic credibility. Continue reading “Turkey focus: Crisis, what crisis?”

Africa focus: Africa first

Africa focus: Africa first

In times of stress and unpredictability, it pays to be conservative. Most sensible investors will plump for safe havens during troubled times. So is Africa a senseless gamble?

Some 20 years after the term ‘Africa rising’ began to enter the world’s consciousness, the continent still delivers a plentiful supply of extreme volatility and complexity, intimidating factors that seep into deals, projects and other legal engagements. It is not a benign environment for law firms. Continue reading “Africa focus: Africa first”

Switzerland focus: Still standing

Switzerland focus: Still standing

Switzerland is often singled out as the prime model for a stable economy – apart from a temporary blip in 2009 following the global economic crisis, GDP growth has moved consistently upwards. The country’s strong employment figures and national debt position have only underlined its positive reputation even more. But when Covid-19 hit, not even Switzerland could roll with all the punches it had to take, and continue growing.

That said, at the end of 2020 the economic activity was only 2% below its pre-crisis level – a strong bounceback, especially compared to other European countries. While Switzerland remains locked down for the first quarter of 2021, the prognosis for the year ahead looks promising. Continue reading “Switzerland focus: Still standing”

The Euro Elite overview: Enduring endurance

The Euro Elite overview: Enduring endurance

Much of the narrative of Legal Business for the past 300 issues has involved the internationalisation – and the failed internationalisation – of the UK-based global firms. When I started out in legal journalism in the late ‘90s, the activity of the major Anglo-Saxon firms in mainland Europe was at its peak. Many, like White & Case and Weil, Gotshal & Manges and CMS, had cut a swathe through Central and Eastern Europe, positioning themselves to take advantage of the wave of privatisations in new independent nations such as the Czech Republic and Romania following the collapse of the Berlin Wall. But the really bloody battles (in a law firm context) were taking place in some of the key markets of France, Germany, Benelux and Italy, where the Magic Circle firms were regularly putting noses out of joint at an alarming rate by either trying to take over leading firms or just hire as many of their key corporate partners as they could.

I witnessed first hand some shockingly arrogant behaviour from senior individuals towards what are now Euro Elite firms. Once, at the launch of a new initiative combining a number of key European firms, I saw one UK management figure sniggering as his German counterpart gave a speech in English. In an interview in Madrid with the fabulously charismatic founding partner of Uría & Menéndez, Rodrigo Uría González, he recalled having to get armed guards to eject from his office a particularly truculent London-based partner trying far too hard to get Uría on board in another hare-brained European alliance. Continue reading “The Euro Elite overview: Enduring endurance”

Euro Elite: Baltics – Small yet spirited

Euro Elite: Baltics – Small yet spirited

Often overlooked, the Baltics is fast becoming one of the most exciting tech startup hubs in Europe. Home to only roughly six million people, the countries of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have the largest number of startups per capita in Central and Eastern Europe and the venture capital firm Index Ventures has rated these countries as the most ‘startup-friendly’ in Europe, largely owing to policies on stock options, tax, employment and a low cost of living.

One remarkable statistic is that since Brexit, Lithuania is now the largest fintech hub in the EU and in some cases is actually moving investment from the UK to Lithuania. Continue reading “Euro Elite: Baltics – Small yet spirited”

Euro Elite: Benelux – Reasons to be cheerful

Euro Elite: Benelux – Reasons to be cheerful

Notwithstanding the macro-level impact of Covid-19 globally, independent firms in the Benelux region have adapted to evolving conditions with remarkable fortitude. At Stibbe, for example, there have been tangible reasons for cheer. According to its managing partner, Wouter Ghijsels: ‘The firm is growing, and the lateral hires and promotions of the past year across the Benelux are a testament to that. Overall, we have had an increasingly successful year across all practices,’ he says.

Equally, Loyens & Loeff has been another success story. Says its Netherlands managing partner, Bram Linnartz: ‘Our firm succeeded in adapting to the ever-changing circumstances and continued to grow at a tremendous pace’. This was helped by the firm establishing a dedicated incident and crisis management team to safeguard the workforce and handle the challenges of the coronavirus crisis. Continue reading “Euro Elite: Benelux – Reasons to be cheerful”

Euro Elite: CEE – Finding the middle ground

Euro Elite: CEE – Finding the middle ground

The general picture is one of uncertainty across the diverse CEE region; while there was an initial slowdown last year across the board, transactions did pick up towards the end of 2020 in certain sectors. Lawyers report having been busy throughout the year, with Q2 necessitating more of a focus on restructurings and Q4 seeing a return to more usual flows of activity.

Overall, the year can be said to have been defined by volatility. Observing the pace of change, Dragan Karanović, the Serbian-based managing partner of Karanovic & Partners, reflects: ‘It used to be year-on-year, then quarter-on-quarter, and now it’s almost week-by-week.’ Continue reading “Euro Elite: CEE – Finding the middle ground”

Euro Elite: France – Shining lights

Euro Elite: France – Shining lights

In France, as elsewhere, the Covid-19 crisis put firms under high pressure to quickly adapt to new regulations and remote working requirements, both for the firms’ own set-up and for clients undergoing the same challenge. The French market proved to be very resilient to the challenges caused by the outbreak of the pandemic in Europe, with the country’s large independent firms – as full-service outfits – able to help their clients with every Covid-related consequence.

‘There is almost a double movement in the market,’ observes August Debouzy’s managing partner Mahasti Razavi, ‘with transactional activity proving to be quite robust after a noticeable dip in spring, but a clear uptick in restructuring work.’ Continue reading “Euro Elite: France – Shining lights”

Euro Elite: Germany – Flight to quality

Euro Elite: Germany – Flight to quality

Past experience, such as the financial crisis in 2008/09, has shown that the German legal market is robust. Today, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, independent law firms are therefore largely confident that the market will remain stable and reasonably active.

This is not to say that the pandemic has not had an impact. Indeed, it is viewed by some as marking the end of the economic boom of the past decade. While the German government is keeping companies liquid by injecting cheap money into the economy, future consequences are still difficult to assess. Germany’s GDP fell by 5% in 2020, a shade less than analysts’ predictions and during the worst contraction of -5.7% in 2009. The economy has also fared relatively well compared with some other European nations. Continue reading “Euro Elite: Germany – Flight to quality”