Switzerland – Between a rock and a hard place

Switzerland – Between a rock and a hard place

As the eurozone economy slows down after six years of uninterrupted growth, Switzerland is an anxious spectator. Amid increased concerns among the EU27 over the potential impact of a disorderly Brexit and the halt to quantitative easing from the European Central Bank’s asset-purchasing programme, Europe’s big three are bracing themselves while Switzerland sits in the middle, watching intently.

To the west, France endures its gilets jaunes; to the south, Italy faces a looming debt crisis with its banks. In the north, Germany has just avoided a technical recession and, like many of the other 18 eurozone countries, forecasters suggest that it will be fortunate to see 1% GDP growth this year. ‘What I see in Italy and France is scary, in particular the rise of populism,’ says Manuel Bianchi della Porta, managing partner of BianchiSchwald in Geneva. ‘A lot is going on in the eurozone: most Swiss trade depends upon Germany, France and Italy. But it seems that we are living on a small island unaffected by all the turmoil that is happening around us. It is like the political stability of our country is protecting us and the business community we are serving.’ Continue reading “Switzerland – Between a rock and a hard place”

Sponsored briefing: The end of Libor in Switzerland

Sponsored briefing: The end of Libor in Switzerland

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced on 27 July 2017 it would no longer require that banks that are members of the Libor panel be obliged to communicate a daily rate after 2021.

2021 is perhaps not tomorrow, but it is definitely very soon after tomorrow. Financial institutions should now review their Libor-based contracts and products to quantify their exposure to the discontinuation of such a rate. While the effort is obviously larger for financial institutions, other enterprises, and even retail investors and borrowers, should assess their risk and determine what measures to take. We provide below an overview of the contracts that may be affected and possible remedies. Continue reading “Sponsored briefing: The end of Libor in Switzerland”

Switzerland – The rough and the smooth

Switzerland – The rough and the smooth

Switzerland has not been in a foreign conflict since 1815 when its neutrality was first established by the Treaty of Paris. But, two centuries on, the peace-loving nation could be set to experience a discreet civil war – this time between its law firms.

Despite a cluster of top domestic players vying for the best work, Swiss lawyers have never experienced the level of international competition felt by France and Germany. The market has perhaps been too cosy, the work too plentiful and the outlook too certain. Yet there is something in the Alpine air that suggests this might change – and when it does, the battle for business will intensify. To be fought entirely by stealth rather than with steel, it may nevertheless reshape the domestic legal landscape. Continue reading “Switzerland – The rough and the smooth”

Market report: Switzerland – Feeling lucky

Market report: Switzerland – Feeling lucky

2017 is shaping up to be another strong year for the leading Swiss firms, particularly on the back of a frothy M&A market

‘Compared to other European jurisdictions, Switzerland has been doing well,’ says Benjamin Borsodi, managing partner of Schellenberg Wittmer. ‘2016 was a very good year for many Swiss firms, especially the major ones. It was our best year ever and it looks positive for 2017 as well.’ His sentiment is echoed by Daniel Daeniker, managing partner of Homburger: ‘I was expecting the end of the M&A cycle: it’s simply not happened. Our first quarter numbers in 2017 are well above last year.’

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Making ripples – Turbulent times ahead for the Swiss legal market

Making ripples – Turbulent times ahead for the Swiss legal market

Switzerland is changing. Among the country’s traditionally-minded law firms, conservatism is in decline, fuelled by a greater appetite for domestic mergers, increased lawyer mobility between firms and a belated focus on alternative legal service provision. Accordingly, Swiss lawyers are much like the swans on Lake Geneva: smooth and serene on the surface, all the while paddling furiously underneath. An energetic response to the fresh demands of an evolving legal services landscape is paying dividends for some.

The wider economy presents a mixed picture, as Urs Klöti, managing partner of Pestalozzi, outlines: ‘Challenging times remain. The Swiss franc is still very strong, which means that export services are extremely expensive compared with previously. That’s an issue for bigger law firms, because many of our invoice payers are non-Swiss counterparts: in relative terms, we’re certainly more expensive than two or three years ago. We often hear it when we talk about fees.’ Continue reading “Making ripples – Turbulent times ahead for the Swiss legal market”

Euro elite: focus Switzerland – Like clockwork

Euro elite: focus Switzerland – Like clockwork

All the cultural stereotypes are ingrained in Swiss law firms – well-organised, independent and highly-impressive.

Six Swiss firms make the Euro Elite – impressive for a country of just 8.4 million people. But then the Swiss have a longstanding reputation for being well organised, well educated and well resourced, while the economy – lightly regulated and low taxed – consistently ranks as the world’s most competitive, enjoying the highest per-capita income of any major country, except Norway.

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Compliance obligations: genetic resources

Compliance obligations: genetic resources

Homburger’s Andri Hess details the Nagoya Ordinance.

Switzerland is a member of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and signed the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization on 11 May 2011. The Nagoya Protocol pursues the implementation of the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of genetic resources, which is the third of the three core objectives of the CBD. On 1 February 2016, the main parts of the Swiss implementing ordinance (Nagoya Ordinance) entered into force.

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Red dragon, white cross – Can Chinese money kickstart Swiss markets

Red dragon, white cross – Can Chinese money kickstart Swiss markets

‘In our worldwide business, the volume of mergers is at a record high. However, in Switzerland we can talk about a stagnation of deals,’ says Guy Vermeil, managing partner of Lenz & Staehelin. His downbeat assessment of the domestic M&A market is supported by last year’s numbers. As the broader Swiss economy stalled with GDP growth of only 0.8%, KPMG’s annual transactional review labelled 2015 as ‘troubled for the M&A market in Switzerland’. Transaction volume declined 17% compared to 2014, from 420 to 350 deals, while the aggregate value of completed M&A with a Swiss component fell 55% to $84.9bn.

Benedict Christ, co-head of M&A at Vischer, identifies removal of the currency peg as a particular problem: ‘There was certainly no growth in M&A, that’s probably mostly due to the appreciation of the Swiss franc in early January [2015], which made it considerably more expensive for foreign investors. The hit we took from the appreciation was probably not as bad as it could have been, but this will certainly continue to have an effect on the markets.’

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Beneficial ownership in Swiss PE acquisitions

Beneficial ownership in Swiss PE acquisitions

Bär & Karrer’s Christoph Neeracher and Luca Jagmetti advise on the new rules.

As part of a new Swiss legislation aimed at preventing money laundering and tax evasion, any entity acquiring 25% or more of a non-listed Swiss company must inform the latter regarding the acquiring entity’s beneficial owner and update such information in case of changes.

In standard private equity structures, the administrative burden of the new legislation can be minimised by implementing a practicable solution compliant with the rules. As typically the general partner (GP) takes the relevant decisions regarding the fund and its portfolio companies, the individuals controlling the GP (respectively controlling the ultimate shareholder of the GP) should be disclosed as beneficial owners. If such individuals cannot be determined, the top executive officer (chair or chief executive) of the GP, or respectively of its ultimate shareholder, may be disclosed.

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