Doing business in Italy
Contributed by Osborne Clarke
I. The Business Environment
As with the majority of European countries, Italy has been heavily hit by the financial crisis that affected the western economy in recent years. Banks and financial institutions have found themselves involved in a liquidity shortage (due to regulatory restraints or bad investments) that, notwithstanding interest rates that are at their lowest ever, have led them to adopt extremely cautious attitudes in lending money for investments, with the resulting bottleneck situation for clients seeking funds to maintain businesses, invest in new key assets such as equipment, premises and R&D, or meet their own liquidity problems.
This hazardous and uncertain environment has had a serious impact on the Italian economy and on entrepreneurial behaviour as a whole, leading, at the same time, to very conservative behaviour on the part of many existing businesses in their attitude to new investments and, in the end, even on the legal market, which in acknowledging the situation, positioned itself to concentrate on anti-cyclic activities such as labour and financial restructuring, insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings.
Legal market overview
Since the appointment of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in 2014, Italy has experienced political calm, with economic and labour reforms welcomed by Italian business and the publication of a new law in August 2015 aimed at further facilitating the debt restructuring of Italian companies.
Furthermore, the recent devaluation of the euro resulted in an increase in investments by companies and private equity firms into the Eurozone’s third largest economy; Italy also experienced the return of cross-border M&A, as well as a significant increase in the financing of domestic LBOs and high-value corporate financings.
In the legal market, Studio Legale Associato in affiliation with Simmons & Simmons LLP decided to close its Rome office and move all its Italian operations to Milan, while the biggest launch of the year was Dentons’ opening in Milan, with 21 lawyers initially hired, including partners Aldo Calza and Iacopo Aliverti Piuri from hELP – the Employment Law Plant, and corporate expert Pier Francesco Faggiano, energy specialist Matteo Falcione plus real estate lawyers Maria Sole Insinga and Federico Vanetti from DLA Piper, who were joined by Stefano Speroni, hired into the corporate department from Grimaldi Studio Legale; the practice is headed by managing partner Federico Sutti, the former DLA Piper managing director for Europe and Africa.
Other key developments included d’Urso Gatti e Bianchi welcoming Carlo Pavesi and Stefano Verzoni, former name partners at Pavesi Gitti e Verzoni, to the renamed Gatti Pavesi Bianchi Studio Legale Associato; and Gregorio Gitti, also formerly a name partner at Pavesi Gitti e Verzoni, moving to join Raynaud and partners, which is now known as Gitti Raynaud and Partners Studio Legale.
DLA Piper also made key hires, expanding its capital markets debt practice through the recruitment of five professionals, including Milan-based partner Luciano Morello from Hogan Lovells Studio Legale and strengthening its restructuring and litigation groups with a team of three partners and six other lawyers from Ashurst LLP, among them Francesco De Gennaro and Alessandro Lanzi in Rome, and Milan-based Luca Magrini. Biscozzi Nobili, traditionally known for tax law, launched a new M&A department with Alessandro Dubini and Enrico Valerio, who joined from Pedersoli e Associati Studio Legale. The recently rebranded BonelliErede started 2016 with the recruitment of Allen & Overy – Studio Legale Associato’s former Italy managing partner Massimiliano Danusso and public law expert Luca Perfetti, who joined from Villata, Degli Esposti e Associati.
The year also saw the passing of two lauded statesmen, Franco Bonelli of BonelliErede and Carlo D’Urso of d’Urso Gatti Pavesi Bianchi Studio Legale Associato (now renamed Gatti Pavesi Bianchi Studio Legale Associato), who both played a significant part in shaping the history of Italy’s legal market.
Firms in the spotlight
Valente Associati GEB Partners
Valente Associati GEB Partners is a leading firm providing legal, tax and strategic management consulting services. VAGP advises public companies as well as large and medium-sized enterprises and multinational conglomerates, supporting them in every step of their growth and assisting them before tax authorities and courts of all levels.
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