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Legal market overview

In 2014, Germany’s M&A market achieved the highest transactional values since Lehman Brothers folded and the momentum continued into 2015 with high-end deals occasionally reaching double-digit billions of euros. The mid-market segment also thrived and was marked by M&A in regulated industries, particularly in the energy sector. Foreign investors have recognised opportunities in Germany and this has been reflected in the rising number of inbound deals, with the weak euro attracting US investors in particular, facilitated by an attractive climate for financing and adequate market liquidity.

The banking and finance sector yet again saw dynamic developments: the implementation of the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD) generated substantial work for fund practices and prompted questions surrounding the Capital Investment Code (Kapitalanlagegesetzbuch, KAGB). A move towards more flexible alternative investments has fostered a better climate for lending, including through sources such as crowd funding, loan originating funds and capital markets instruments. US-style financing is playing an increasing role in European transactions and, for example, there has been a growing demand for covenant-lite loans as an alternative to high-yield bonds for borrowers and investors and unitranche lending is becoming a more prominent alternative to more traditional bank finance. Generally, law firms report a continued demand for refinancings, active acquisition finance practices and a growing complexity of transactions brought on by the diversification of streams of finance. Alternative types of financing and a larger variety of investor groups, particularly including an enhanced role for institutional investors, are also shaping the project finance area. Regulatory advice is an increasing and integral part of firms’ banking practices as a result of the European Central Bank’s new responsibility to supervise euro area banks.

In capital markets, the window for IPOs reopened with prominent IPOs, including some of the largest in Germany over the past decade. Firms note a stronger link between debt and equity and increased debt-equity swaps, as well as a particular interest in hybrid bonds and an upswing in equity-linked transactions. With German companies seeking opportunities in the US, advice on so-called Yankee bonds has been common.

Other notable changes included transformation of the energy sector caused by changes in the regulatory framework and turnaround in energy policy. Claims for damages due to the closure of nuclear plants and disputes arising from the expansion of the offshore wind farm sector and grid connections have been prominent.

The transformation of analogue business models, creation of innovative digital products and technical developments in almost all industries is increasingly moving IT practices into the spotlight; digitalisation is another key theme for media lawyers. Data protection in turn permeates a range of practices.

A noteworthy mention also goes to Germany’s thriving start-up scene and, in this context, Berlin’s venture capital scene. High potential in the sector has led to firms actively seeking to build market share. Founders are receiving series A funding that was inconceivable a few years ago.

Legislative amendments combined with stricter and faster prosecution by tax authorities has prompted a large rise in the number of voluntary declarations and law firms have been particularly involved advising clients on questions of compliance and criminal tax matters.

The legal market is populated by a mix of high-quality German law firms and many international firms, particularly US or UK originated entities. The following text is a condensed translation and update of research from the German-language edition, The Legal 500 Deutschland (full German version available online at

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Legal Developments in Germany

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  • GSK Update: AIFM Marketing in Germany - The clock is ticking for U.S. and other non-EU fund managers

    Our GSK Update informs about the impact of recent German investment fund legislation (UCITS V Implementation Act) for AIF managers, who are not domiciled in the EU (“non-EU-AIFM”) and who seek to market AIF shares in Germany in accordance with applicable German investment fund law under the EU-AIFM Directive (2011/61/EU).
  • GSK expands Luxembourg presence with a new tax partner

    Opened at the beginning of March 2016, GSK Stockmann + Kollegen continues to expand its Luxembourg office. Mathilde Ostertag recently joined the Luxembourg team of Equity Partners Dr. Marcus Peter, Andreas Heinzmann and Dr. Philipp Mößner as Local Tax Partner.
  • EIA - Strengthening the role of the public

    Among other things, the recent amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act has broadened the rights of (what is termed) the "affected public". The affected public consists primarily of various citizens' initiatives pursuing environmental or public-health purposes. It may for instance file an appeal against a negative decision at the screening stage (i.e., a decision according to which the given project does not require the issuance of an EIA report), and seek its annulment in court. The affected public has been granted a stronger voice also in subsequent procedures in which the fate of a building project is being decided: zoning proceedings and the proceedings on the issuance of a building permit. Taken together, these legislative changes may make it more difficult to implement projects which require an EIA report; in particular, the length of permission proceedings may be substantially extended.
  • New Top Level Domains – Noerr expert warns against trademark infringements

    On June 13, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) published the names of those who have applied for a new top level domain the ending of which may be geographic, such as "munich", industry identification such as "insurance" and even all trademark names and company descriptions such as "canon" and "adidas".
    - Noerr
  • No obligation to set up filtering systems in order to prevent copyright violations

    ECJ, decision of February 16th, 2012, ref. C-360/10 – SABAM
  • Further ECJ Ruling concerning NGO’s right of action under German environmental law

    For the second time within a short period of time, the non-governmental organisations right to challenge administrative decisions under German law is going to be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In January 2012, the German Supreme Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) referred a case to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling concerning the NGO’s right of action.
  • Lessons in Cross-Border M & A Transactions

    The fundamental advice for international business transactions is obvious and easy to understand: different countries have different laws, business habits and cultures. These differences may range from minor nuances, such as lengthy French business lunches or unusual Spanish office hours, to significant legal roadblocks, such as strict European employment laws.
  • Priority rental rights in insolvency

    Parties to rental contracts for commercial premises often agree priority rental rights. In practice, this concept is used to cover a whole series of legal structures. These range from fixed options for the tenant to a promise made by the landlord as a business policy that if any additional premises become available, they will be offered to the tenant. In 2010 the Berlin Court of Appeal issued a ruling on such priority rental rights in insolvency; the decision has recently been published.
  • Rome I Regulation: choice of law for contractual obligations

    The EU Rome I Regulation (593/2008) of the European Parliament and of the Council came into force on 17 December 2009 (Convention). The Convention sets rules to determine the (national) law applicable to contractual obligations in civil and commercial matters. This Regulation replaces the 1980 Rome Convention and is especially relevant to cross-border businesses. The intention of the Convention is to provide legal certainty in cases where the parties have not expressly chosen the applicable law governing their contract.
  • Restriction of the shareholder’s right to information

    According to a judgment of the German Federal Supreme Court from February 2010, the general assembly (Hauptversammlung) of a stock corporation (“Corporation”) may resolve to include a provision in its articles of association which comprehensively empowers the chairman to reasonably restrict the time available to shareholders to debate during the shareholder’s meeting.

Press Releases in Germany

The latest news direct from law firms. If you would like to submit press releases for your firm, send an email request to