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”

Sponsored briefing: The effect of recent English Supreme Court judgments on GCC-based arbitration

Sponsored briefing: The effect of recent English Supreme Court judgments on GCC-based arbitration

Robert Sliwinski, of counsel at Alsuwaidi & Company, explains how common law principles are transforming international arbitration proceedings in the GCC region

Over the past six months there have been two important judgments in the Supreme Court of England and Wales which are likely to influence GCC-based arbitrations where they are based on common law procedures and rules. They may also impact arbitrations seated in the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC), the Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM) and the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) which are pockets of common law jurisdiction within the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar Civil Law Structures.
Continue reading “Sponsored briefing: The effect of recent English Supreme Court judgments on GCC-based arbitration”

Ukraine – green shoots and uncertainty

Ukraine – green shoots and uncertainty

Ukraine has broadly seen an improvement in its economic outlook since the 2019 election of comedian and actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy to the presidency. After years of turmoil, culminating in the 2014 defenestration of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych and the Russian invasion of the Crimea, Ukraine has deepened its ties with the EU, adopting reforms that closely map those of European legislation. This has encouraged foreign investors, while legislative reform continues apace, with a new capital markets law coming into effect in 2020 that implemented the provisions of key EU law, including MiFID II, MiFIR, and CRD IV. There are also ‘grandiose governmental plans for the privatisation of state property and large-scale infrastructure projects’, in the words of Armen Khachaturyan, senior partner at major domestic firm Asters, while the legalisation of the gambling industry in July 2021 is also driving client activity.

Ukraine frequently competes with Moldova as the poorest country in Europe, despite its huge agricultural exports, though this is partly due to a lack of transparency in the economy, in which much economic activity goes unreported. Since 2014, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) has closed a huge percentage of the country’s commercial banks, partly to clamp down on corruption and money laundering, but state control of banks is part of the reason why inflation and interest rates remain high. Continue reading “Ukraine – green shoots and uncertainty”

Sponsored briefing: Q&A with Matouk Bassiouny in association with AIH Law Firm

Sponsored briefing: Q&A with Matouk Bassiouny in association with AIH Law Firm

Can you give our Legal Business readers an overview of Matouk Bassiouny’s practice in Sudan?

Matouk Bassiouny in association with AIH Law Firm (MBAIH) was established in 2016, the first regional firm to open in Sudan, as a result of a co-operation of more than ten years on Sudanese matters in between Matouk Bassiouny and AIH Law firm. MBAIH aims to service clients and law firms seeking advice on Sudanese matters in areas including corporate and M&A, finance and projects and dispute resolution.

What do you see as the main points that rank Matouk Bassiouny as a leading firm in the Sudanese legal business market?

MBAIH aims to serve its clients with all legal needs relating to their business activities. We always adopt a practical, commercial approach that ensures compliance with laws, while navigating the complex administrative aspects. Our ultimate mission, and metric of success, is creating value for our clients.

Given the problems created by the Covid-19 pandemic, how is this affecting your firm and the legal business market generally in the Sudan?

When Covid-19 hit Sudan, Sudan was already in a complex process of rebuilding its political system, following the Sudanese Revolution. Because of the political events, judicial and administrative functions were irregular, which made simple legal tasks (eg, obtaining a permit for a client), challenging. Covid-19 compounded that reality even more. However, we have witnessed an effort for flexibility from Sudanese judicial and administrative officials, which has helped mitigate the issue. The firm has had to considerably upgrade and optimise its IT infrastructure to ensure minimal work disruptions.

Can you talk about any trends or changes in the landscape you are seeing emerge in the Sudanese legal business market?

The Sudanese legal market is rapidly changing, in pace with the changing business environment. Now that US sanctions are lifted, we are seeing an influx of foreign investments, and local entrepreneurial initiatives that are driving the legal market to be more responsive, and commercially minded.

How is your firm positioned for an anticipated resurgence in activity in the Sudanese legal business market?

We constantly ensure that our fee-earners have the sufficient knowledge and training to understand and efficiently answer our clients’ needs. We are able to draw on our regional experience (in Egypt, Algeria and the UAE) to provide the clients with tailored advice.

Which sectors are/will be of most interest to foreign investors, and why?

Agriculture and mining will continue to be important sectors. We also expect a strong uptick in the interest for transport and logistics project, fintech, and general banking sectors.

Are there any main changes which you have personally made within the firm that will benefit clients?

I launched our firm’s regional initiative to establish sector groups that ensure sector knowledge always goes hand in hand with legal knowledge.

What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capacity?

I would say my team. I always aim to hire and work with people that complement my gaps in knowledge and approach.

For more information, please contact:

Mahmoud S. Bassiouny, regional managing partner, regional head of finance and projects

E: mahmoud.bassiouny@matoukbassiouny.com
www.matoukbassiouny.com

Greece – the long road back

Greece – the long road back

Despite a Covid-induced 8.2% contraction in GDP last year, compounding over a decade of economic decline, Greece serves as an unexpected source of optimism within the southern and eastern Europe region. Despite losing its title as the largest regional economy to Romania in recent years, it is set for a semi-swift bounce back, with the EU recently forecasting growth of 4.3% for 2021.

Supporting the buoyancy is the fact that, throughout its many years of economic torment, Greece has reformed its economy into a sustainable one which, in the words of Bernitsas Law managing partner Panayotis Bernitsas, is a ‘safe and welcome option for international investment’. Bernitsas adds that his firm has been heavily involved in a number of ‘legislative changes aimed at cutting back the red tape’ and ‘creating a more business-friendly environment’. Continue reading “Greece – the long road back”

Sponsored firm focus: Focus on Matouk Bassiouny in association with AIH Law Firm

Sponsored firm focus: Focus on Matouk Bassiouny in association with AIH Law Firm

Khartoum South, Plot No. 3, Block No. 1/KH, Khartoum, Sudan

T: +(249) 183 483344 | E: info@matoukbassiouny.com | W: www.matoukbassiouny.com

Practice areas: Corporate and M&A, capital markets, dispute resolution, and finance and projects

Firm profile

Matouk Bassiouny is a leading, full-service MENA law firm with offices in Algiers, Algeria (Matouk Bassiouny in association with SH-Avocats), Cairo, Egypt (Matouk Bassiouny & Hennawy), Abu Dhabi and Dubai, UAE (Matouk Bassiouny) and Khartoum, Sudan (Matouk Bassiouny in association with AIH Law Firm), as well as a country desk covering our Libya practice. Our four offices are strategically located to better serve our clients’ business interests across the entire MENA region.

Our team of over 200 lawyers specialises in advising multinationals, corporations, financial institutions and governmental entities on all legal aspects of investing and doing business in the MENA region.

Trained both locally and internationally in civil and common law systems, our lawyers are deeply ingrained with international best practices and are fully conversant in English, Arabic and French.

Our firm collectively has access to a vast amount of knowledge and experience. We harness this knowledge via our 16 sector-focused groups that support our practice groups. We are therefore able to deliver legal services catered to the industry-specific needs of our clients. Our mission is to find the most innovative and cost-effective solutions for our clients, as we understand that our clients need to drive maximum value from their legal spending. We do this by maintaining a proactive commercial approach to all our legal services.

Team profile

Matouk Bassiouny and AIH Law firm joined forces in 2017 to create Matouk Bassiouny in association with AIH Law Firm, a full-service Sudanese business law firm in Khartoum. We are the first regional firm to open in Sudan. We offer a wide variety of services in the fields of corporate and M&A, finance and projects and dispute resolution. Our ultimate mission, and metric of success, is creating value for our clients.

Mahmoud S. Bassiouny, regional managing partner, regional head of finance and projects, Matouk Bassiouny in association with AIH Law Firm

At a glance: Matouk Bassiouny in association with AIH Law Firm

Headcount: 200+ lawyers, 24 partners, 100+ support staff

Offices: Algiers, Algeria; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Cairo, Egypt; Dubai, UAE; Khartoum, Sudan

Key clients: CDC Group, Uber, Etisalat Misr, Pfizer, LafargeHolcim, Lekela Power, First Abu Dhabi Bank, Development Partners International, Hassan Allam, Hilton

Sponsored briefing: Recovery and Resilience Plan and labour market reform; Greece’s pathway to sustainable growth and investment attraction

Sponsored briefing: Recovery and Resilience Plan and labour market reform; Greece’s pathway to sustainable growth and investment attraction

Karatzas & Partners’ Angeliki Tsatsi and Christos Paraskevopoulos on the recovery measures in Greece in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic

After almost a decade of deep recession and while being at the verge of sustainable recovery Greece faced the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly adverse for an economy where tourism contributes to a very large part of its GDP. Following the global paradigm of using expansionary monetary and fiscal policy as the primary tool to tackle the Covid-19 economic shock the European Union (EU)adopted, among others, the NextGenerationEU recovery plan. Greece was among the first EU member states to seize the opportunity and to submit its national Recovery and Resilience Plan, the so-called Greece 2.0, for the European Commission’s assessment, as part of the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility, the heart of NextGenerationEU. Greece’s plan was approved in June 2021 and consists of €17.8bn in grants and €12.7bn in loans, a total financing of €30.5bn towards a green transition, digitalisation and improvement of the business environment. Continue reading “Sponsored briefing: Recovery and Resilience Plan and labour market reform; Greece’s pathway to sustainable growth and investment attraction”

Sponsored briefing: Q&A with Matouk Bassiouny UAE

Sponsored briefing: Q&A with Matouk Bassiouny UAE

Can you give our Legal Business readers an overview of Matouk Bassiouny’s practice in the UAE?

Matouk Bassiouny in the UAE was established in 2018, incorporated on the ADGM initially, expanded afterwards in Dubai via a branch office. Matouk Bassiouny in the UAE is a full fledge law firm offering a wide variety of legal services to a wide spectrum of its clientele. In 2021, Jirayr Habibian joined the firm as its managing partner, with an aim to further strengthen the presence of the firm in the UAE, leveraging on the 20 years of experience Jirayr has in the UAE and the wider GCC.

What do you see as the main points that rank Matouk Bassiouny as a leading firm in the UAE legal business market?

Matouk Bassiouny’s competitive edge in the UAE is the ability to leverage on its large and talented regional, as well as its flexibility in allocating resources for any project, no matter how complex or big the project. This allows the firm in the UAE to be more flexible in its structure as well as more responsive to clients.

Furthermore, the quality and turnaround time that Matouk Bassiouny’s team commits towards its client base is an important component of the overall success of the firm.

Given the problems created by the Covid-19 pandemic, how is this affecting your firm and the legal business market generally in the UAE?

In its initial phases, Covid-19 did have an impact on the transactional market, however the contentious market continued to function, especially with the adaptation the courts in the UAE had to implement, as well as the phenomenal speed in the transformation towards a digital judicial system in the UAE. Law firms had to adjust to this transformation and adopt measures to follow which, in our opinion, speeded up the process of digitalising the overall judicial system as well as the law firms.

Further down the line as the markets and businesses resumed from full lockdown, and the very well managed pandemic crisis management adopted by the different local and federal authorities in the UAE, the legal business market naturally picked up and we are seeing more and more return to certain pre-pandemic levels.

Can you talk about any trends or changes in the landscape you are seeing emerge in the UAE legal business market?

The UAE legal market is evolving with the evolution of the legal system in the UAE. In the past several months we have witnessed many changes and amendments to laws that are making the UAE more and more attractive to conducting business. With competition in the GCC region starting to pick up (eg, the changes and opening of the Saudi markets) the UAE had to take further steps to increase and strengthen foreign investments. We have witnessed a liberalisation in the ownership of onshore companies (that has always been a highly protected sector where UAE nationality was mandatory to establish onshore) in a wide spectrum of activities. We are seeing Abu Dhabi, for example, opening up its energy sector (to an extent) to foreign ownership, in addition to a wide range of industrial activities. Furthermore, the UAE is also keeping pace with the ‘digital’ revolution and encouraging many start-ups in many domains. We see fintech being encouraged, alternative agriculture being developed (vertical hydroponics), and crowd funding being regulated more and more.

In a nutshell, the legal system and legal business market in the UAE is growing and keeping pace with what we see in other countries and in some cases even leading the way.

How is your firm positioned for an anticipated resurgence in activity in the UAE legal business market?

Our firm, as mentioned earlier, is very well positioned to take advantage of the resurgence in activity in the UAE legal market, since we have a very active team on the ground, with experience and network in the UAE, backed up by a robust regional structure, which makes Matouk Bassiouny in the UAE very well positioned to react to the market’s needs.

Which sectors are/will be of most interest to foreign investors, and why?

The real estate sector remains a very wanted commodity in the UAE market, however, we see now, with the liberalisation of the foreign ownership, an increasing interest in the healthcare sector (Covid-19 being one of the drivers, in addition to the oncological sector). Namely after the signing of the Abraham Accord, we are seeing an increased interest in the healthcare sector, industrial sector, sustainable energy etc. In parallel, Dubai and the UAE, given its location, remains a very competitive location for trade business, not to forget the increasing importance the UAE has in the fintech and digitalisation areas.

Are there any main changes which you have personally made within the firm that will benefit clients?

Given my very brief history with the firm (I joined on 1 April 2021) I am not in a position to have made any changes yet, although the system laid down by the founders, Omar Bassiouny and John Matouk has so far proven quite efficient with clients in the UAE, a system in which I am planing to leverage and, of course, ultimately introduce certain additions that could and will go along with the intuitu-personae I can contribute to the firm.

What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capacity?

Again, my time with the firm is yet at its beginning hence I cannot really talk about my greatest achievement within the firm quite yet. I hope that come 2022, should this interview be repeated, I will be able to share some success stories.

For more information, please contact:

Jirayr Habibian, managing partner, Matououk Bassiouny

T: +(971) 4289 2159
E: jirayr.habibian@matoukbassiouny.com

matoukbassiouny.com

Cyprus – work in progress

Cyprus – work in progress

Cyprus, a divided island nation, faces an uncertain future on the geopolitical front. The northern region of the country remains occupied by neighbouring Turkey and recent efforts for reunification between the separated Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities have reached a bitter standstill.

Among all the uncertainty, which has arguably become the status quo after 47 years, the country has undergone steady economic growth and enjoys one of the highest GDP per capita rates in the southern and eastern Europe region. A 5.1% contraction in GDP was experienced during 2020 though an almost instant recovery is forecast for 2021 with The European Commission predicting growth of 4.2%. Continue reading “Cyprus – work in progress”