Switzerland focus: Bouncing back

Switzerland focus: Bouncing back

When the world went into lockdown in March/ April 2020, everyone expected the worst for the economy: market crashes, sky-rocketing unemployment numbers and a wave of insolvencies. While it is safe to say that some countries struggled more than others, Switzerland weathered the crisis well, even exceeding pre-Covid-19 activity in some areas.

One of the wealthiest countries in the world, Switzerland’s GDP has been on a steady increase and almost tripled in the last 20 years. Projections also show tangible growth from 2020 to 2021, underlining the fact that the pandemic had little to no impact on the Swiss economy. This was also witnessed by Thierry Calame, who in January 2022 becomes the new managing partner of one of the leading Swiss powerhouses, Lenz & Staehelin: ‘The pandemic continued to be the largest challenge. However, thanks to the robust Swiss economy there has not been any economic downturn in 2021, but rather a significant recovery.’

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Germany focus: Age of independence

Germany focus: Age of independence

At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, German law firms found themselves wary of what the future might hold and prepared for the worst. However, 18 months later, most say their fears were unwarranted and several have reported 2021 to be their financially strongest to date. The success of the leading German independents amid a global crisis raises the question of how they have adapted to a pandemic-driven environment, and whether hierarchies in the market have shifted at all as a consequence.

Germany’s economy is currently on the road to recovery. According to the government, the GDP is expected to grow by 2.6% in 2021 after it took a 5% dip the previous year. While private consumption is mostly responsible for this rebound, manufacturers are struggling in light of global supply shortages, with producers unable to adapt to increased demands after 2020 saw a halt in consumer spending. However, this has not yet stopped the upwards trajectory of economic growth.

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Iberia focus: Banking on Success

Iberia focus: Banking on Success

Announced more than a year ago, the largest merger in the Spanish banking sector for some time became a reality in early 2021. The Spanish competition authority cleared CaixaBank’s acquisition of state-owned financial entity Bankia – which was bailed out during the country’s banking crisis in 2012 – at Phase I, subject to conditions. This transaction is a merger between the third and the fourth largest banks in Spain, with €623.8bn in assets.

The new entity is expected to dominate the Spanish market, especially in retail banking. As executive chair José Ignacio Goirigolzarri said when the deal was confirmed: ‘The merger between CaixaBank and Bankia marks a milestone in the history of the Spanish financial system. We face this challenge from a position of strength that allows us to be an active part of the solution to the current crisis, as well as to become an important stakeholder for the socio-economic recovery of our country’. Continue reading “Iberia focus: Banking on Success”

Ireland focus: Riding it out

Ireland focus: Riding it out

The hatches have been firmly battened down. Last year’s Legal Business report found Ireland had been resilient in weathering the storm of 2020, with the impact wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy far below the average for the eurozone. There were, however, still clouds on the horizon: a looming second wave of the pandemic and a no-deal Brexit, both potentially disastrous for the Irish economy.

Since then, resilient seems like an understatement when describing the Irish market. Reports from the Central Statistics Office show that the economy grew by 3.4% in 2020 – the only EU member state to do so – despite a series of lockdowns that were among the most stringent in the world, introduced in March, October and December 2020. Continue reading “Ireland focus: Riding it out”

Sponsored briefing: Recent patent highlights in Turkey

Sponsored briefing: Recent patent highlights in Turkey

Geographically positioned between Europe and Asia, Turkey is a strategically placed country, with a population of 82 million and a larger youth population than any EU member state. Taking its place on the list of G20 countries, Turkey aims to position itself in the global value chain and strengthen its export platform by focusing on high-tech patents, including electronic machinery and equipment, automotive spare parts, railway and maritime transport, energy generation and efficiency projects. In addition, as a natural transport hub, Turkey is a transitional trade platform between Europe and Asia, which significantly increases the relevance of appropriate IP rights protection.

Turkey has substantially harmonised its intellectual property laws with the EU legislation and the international agreements such as the Paris Convention and TRIPs, to provide effective legal means for enhanced patent enforcement capabilities. Continue reading “Sponsored briefing: Recent patent highlights in Turkey”

Middle East Focus: Light on the horizon

Middle East Focus: Light on the horizon

Far from immune to the global crisis – but making concerted strides towards immunity in some instances – the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) has fared similarly to the rest of the world over the last year. That is to say that the universal impact of the pandemic has been felt across MENA, although the paths that the various countries have taken have been disparate.

Middle East

Early lockdowns in several countries helped to contain the number of coronavirus cases, and a number of success stories emerged from the region with Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – numbers one and two, respectively – frontrunners in rolling out their vaccine programmes. While distinct, both countries have adopted an agile approach to sourcing and distributing the vaccine. Continue reading “Middle East Focus: Light on the horizon”

Nordics: Northern Lights

Nordics: Northern Lights

Much like the rest of the world, the Nordic market couldn’t escape the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the virus seemingly kept the Nordics in its periphery, while the rest of Europe felt the brunt of the impact. Average GDP across Norway, Sweden and Denmark in 2020 fell by roughly 3% (the wider EU GDP fell by 6.1%) with the biggest impact, unsurprisingly, on the tourism industry (Iceland, a nation heavily reliant on its tourism, saw a GDP drop of 6.6%). However, the predictions for 2021 show GDP growth across all three of the main Nordic countries, with 3.7%, 3.4% and 3% growth predicted respectively.

‘The Nordics have suffered less than many other European countries in the course of the pandemic,’ states Roschier’s managing partner Mikko Manner in Finland. ‘It has been forecast that during the second quarter of 2021, most restrictions will be eased due to vaccinations, and the Nordic economies will be able to start a swift recovery, with economic activity reaching pre-crisis levels later this year.’ Continue reading “Nordics: Northern Lights”

Southern and Eastern Europe: A long recovery

Southern and Eastern Europe: A long recovery

As with many global sub-regions, southern and eastern Europe (SEE) is slowly emerging from a period of stark economic slowdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with regional economies affected in a variety of ways. This ranged from tourism-reliant nations such as Croatia and Greece that faced an unprecedented plunge during 2020, relying on EU relief and revived capital spending intervening to restore growth, to Romania, whose resource-rich economy suffered from a decline in industrial production, only to recover during Q3 2020 after foreign trade and investment – particularly from Germany – resumed in earnest.

Although granular policy details have differed, governments have intervened to prevent the spread of Covid-19, while also seeking to protect key economic sectors and also balancing consumer demands and differing political situations. A number of SEE countries faced elections during the pandemic, a situation that has broadly favoured incumbents. Both the Romanian and Bulgarian governments returned, albeit facing a significant loss of support and ongoing questions over their futures, while control of the Cypriot House of Representatives shifted to the conservative opposition. Continue reading “Southern and Eastern Europe: A long recovery”

Croatia – ups and downs

Croatia – ups and downs

Having enjoyed steady economic growth following its accession to the European Union (EU) in 2013, Croatia saw an abrupt halt to its development in 2020. With a projected 10% drop in GDP, the depth of the economic trough appears similar to that of the 2008 financial crisis, though optimism remains that this downturn will be shorter as mitigatory factors, particularly Covid vaccines, begin to make themselves felt.

Aside from the global economic impact faced by most countries as a result of the pandemic, Croatia was perhaps most affected by the affect on the tourism sector, which naturally suffered considerably. However, continued progress on vaccinations and the creation of the EU’s Green Pass have bolstered expectations the sector will soon recover (although a similar pre-vaccine reopening of the tourist economy last summer led to a dramatic surge in infections). Continue reading “Croatia – ups and downs”

Romania – bounceback

Romania – bounceback

Romania has seen buoyant growth in recent years, with its economy upgraded to ‘emerging market’ by FTSE Russell in 2019. Gabriel Zbârcea, managing partner at Ţuca Zbârcea & Asociaţii, explains: ‘Until the coronavirus outbreak, business was flourishing in Romania: 26% more deals in 2019 as compared to 2018 with a value of €5bn; also real estate investments went past the €1bn line in 2019, standing 7% higher than in 2018.’

‘2020 has been an interesting year financially,’ says Răzvan Stoicescu, deputy managing partner of Muşat & Asociaţii. ‘We did see a slowdown during Q2 of 2020, but things picked up during the second half of the year and have been on a positive trend. However, since neither us nor our clients have gone through a situation of such a magnitude before, the process was not without challenges. For example, switching abruptly from what was essentially a direct contact way of working for our profession, to virtual meetings, unpredictable schedules and remote work was taxing even if ultimately manageable.’ Continue reading “Romania – bounceback”