Legal Business

Aviation: Further consolidation predicted as Aegean acquisition of Olympic approved

Aviation: Further consolidation predicted as Aegean acquisition of Olympic approved

Aviation lawyers expect further consolidation within the airline industry as Aegean Airlines was on Wednesday (9 October) given the all clear to buy troubled Olympic Air, led by White & Case and Baker & McKenzie.

The European Commission (EC) took the first-time step of reversing its earlier decision to block an acquisition attempt in 2011, approving the buyout from investment group Marfin.

Aegean was represented by White & Case led by Brussels-based competition partners Mark Powell and Assimakis Komninos. Baker’s competition partner Gavin Bushell, also based in Brussels, assisted Aegean on the transaction.

Komninos said: ‘The decision is very welcome news for the Greek airline sector and for Greek passengers as it will permit badly needed consolidation that will allow Aegean to compete more aggressively on the European stage.’

One aviation partner at a top City firm added: ‘The Olympic Air saga was a Greek tragedy. The EC had ruled [in 2002] that the airline had received illegal state aid that must be paid back. With Greece on its knees Olympic collapsed into insolvency.’

The EC’s decision to reverse its 2011 ruling was largely based on the fact that if Aegean was not permitted to acquire Olympic, it would cease trading. As reported by Reuters, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said: ‘It is clear that, due to the ongoing Greek crisis and given Olympic’s own very difficult financial situation, Olympic would be forced to leave the market soon in any event,’ adding that the merger would have no additional negative effect on competition.

The move comes as aviation lawyers predict further consolidation at the smaller end of the market, with one aviation partner commenting: ‘People are still making money in aviation, although it is a difficult period for the industry. I fully expect some airlines to go bust this winter.’

This situation is in stark contrast with the proposed $11bn merger between dominant American Airlines and US Airways, which was blocked by the US Justice Department this summer. The deal, which would have created the world’s biggest airline, saw a clutch of leading US firms secure roles including Latham & Watkins, Weil Gotshal & Manges, Paul Hastings, Debevoise & Plimpton and K&L Gates.

Legal Business

White & Case continues capital markets drive as Milan boasts full DCM suite

White & Case continues capital markets drive as Milan boasts full DCM suite

White & Case has made no secret of its strategic objective to boost its global capital markets capability and last week saw a debt capital markets (DCM) team join in Milan from Magic Circle rival Allen & Overy (A&O).

A&O’s DCM and regulatory partner Paola Leocani (pictured) joins the Milan office alongside counsel Elena Radicella Chiaramonte, two senior associates, an associate and two trainees.

Rated by Legal 500 as third-tier for ECM and DCM in Italy, White & Case claims that it is now one of the only firms in the region with a full spectrum of capital markets and regulatory services across products, at a time when Italy has seen a decrease in bank lending and a corresponding growth in DCM.

Milan executive partner Michael Immordino told Legal Business: ‘The Milan office is unique in offering the whole range of capital markets instruments, including US registered bonds, Yankee bonds, US private placements, high-yield bonds and Eurobonds. In addition to providing top tier regulatory advice, Paola enhances our European and Italian domestic debt capital market expertise.

‘At a time when companies are resorting more to the capital markets instead of the traditional bank credit market, Paola’s excellent reputation and legal skills will be particularly beneficial to White & Case clients.’ White & Case recently advised Italian engineering and construction group Maire Tecnimont on its rights issue announced on 28 June.

The firm is keen not to be labeled as a one trick pony, and Immordino adds: ‘We are not just a securities firm, we are doing bank finance work and M&A work as well.’

However, so far capital markets is very much the flavor of the year; the move comes less than five months since White & Case hired a four-partner team from Linklaters in Paris and launched in Madrid in March, with the hire of Latham & Watkins M&A and capital markets partner Juan Manuel De Remedios.

The firm last week announced it will launch in Dubai, after obtaining a licence to practise in the emirate. However, the staffing details and focus of the office is unknown yet, and it is understood that a team of lawyers may be relocated to run the new office as an extension of its operations in Abu Dhabi.

Legal Business

City lawyers say court strike will cause minimal disruption but should be given due attention

City lawyers say court strike will cause minimal disruption but should be given due attention

As court staff go on strike this afternoon (17 June) in protest at the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ’s) plans to cut £220m off the annual criminal legal aid budget, it is with the support of many City lawyers.

The unusual move comes as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) last week claimed the MoJ’s plans could breach human rights laws and as lawyers warn that cuts made to civil legal aid earlier this year are already leading to a significant increase in pro bono requests and in areas outside of their expertise.

The strikes are not expected to cause disruption to existing cases – a HM Courts & Tribunals spokesperson said the courts are ‘aiming for business as usual’, while Hogan Lovells confirmed to Legal Business that one of its trials scheduled for today will continue regardless.

The court has put in place ‘robust contingency plans’ which prioritise delivery of its most essential services including custody cases and urgent family cases.

However, lawyers point out that with no history of striking, any kind of industrial action by court staff should be taken seriously.

John Reynolds, head of litigation at White and Case, said: ‘The people who work in the justice system are not known for being militant. When any part of the public sector not known for that goes on strike, it makes a big impact as it shows that normally mild mannered people have been pushed beyond the limit that they’re used to. It should make an impact.’

The strikes come after several hundred lawyers blocked the road outside the MoJ in central London earlier this month in protest against the cuts.

In a further blow to the MoJ’s plans, the EHRC last week (13 June) warned the Government that the proposed cuts could breach equality and human rights laws by excluding vulnerable people from access to justice, and proposed that it should run pilots for some proposals, a sentiment echoed by Legal Business guest blogger, fiscal realist and former government lawyer Carl Gardner.

Mark Hammond, chief executive of the EHRC, said: ‘The Commission recognises that the need to curb public spending applies to all public services, and agrees with the government that the taxpayer is entitled to the best possible value for money. But any budget cuts that are made to the administration of justice must preserve the basic rights of fair and equal access to the courts including for those who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer.’

Lawyers say they have already seen a significant increase in requests for pro bono work since cuts to civil legal aid came into force this year under the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

Hogan Lovells City partner and commercial litigator Crispin Rapinet said: ‘From the pro bono point of view here in London, we’re already seeing the effects quite dramatically and since April have experienced a rise in the number of requests from members of the public for free legal service providers.’

The firm has seen a particular increase in requests for advice on family work in relation to access to children and complex divorce case, as well as immigration, according to the firm’s international pro bono manager Yasmin Waljee, who said: ‘It’s difficult for us because that’s not our area of expertise. All of those [requests] would have normally gone to legal aid firms but now people are getting increasingly desperate and looking elsewhere for help.’

Reynolds added: ‘However unfair it is, one can only take on so many cases.’

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has accused lawyers of making ‘over the top’ claims about legal aid cuts as he warned that spending on criminal cases must fall to protect NHS budgets.

Legal Business

White & Case launches in Madrid with Latham hire

White & Case has launched its first office in Spain, recruiting Latham & Watkins’ Spanish corporate head Juan Manuel de Remedios to joint lead its new Madrid office as an executive partner.

The Spanish launch comes as the firm concentrates on strengthening its global footprint to take advantage of Spain’s strong links to Latin America.

White & Case Spanish practice head Michael Doran, who is based in London, said the Madrid launch ‘provides our clients with local knowledge coupled with access to our global network’.

Legal Business

Without a paddle

Without a paddle

The continued exodus of high-profile partners from White & Case’s City operation suggests the Global London leader still has serious management issues. It’s time someone took charge

In last year’s Global London issue, White & Case’s newly appointed London executive partner Oliver Brettle reacted defiantly to LB’s suggestion that the office had morale issues. It wasn’t correct that ‘one or two vocal former members of the team should give rise to a more general impression that there is a problem with morale in the office’, he insisted.