Legal market overview
Moravcevic Vojnovic and Partners in cooperation with Schoenherr
Prelevic Law Firm
Ana Dukanovic Attorney at Law
- BDK Advokati/Attorneys at Law
- Miroslav Stojanovic, in cooperation with Wolf Theiss, Law Office Belgrade
Montenegro is a developing market for lawyers and inward investors, with a population of just over 600,000 and virtually no domestic industry, but potential that is only beginning to be tapped. Its stunning Adriatic coastline, political stability and good prospects of EU accession have boosted tourism and there are ambitious property and infrastructure projects underway. These include luxury hotels, shopping malls, new roads and green energy power plants, with MENA countries in particular investing heavily in such developments. The banking sector, too, is buoyant due to a solid regulatory regime, low income tax rate, liberal forex regime and the country’s geographic location.
The current legal market is small and dominated by Serbian law firms that have branch offices locally. Home-grown talent and competition is supplied by just a few corporate law firms, of which Prelevic Law Firm stands out for capability and experience.
Harrisons Solicitors has been prominent since opening in 1999, established by UK solicitor Mark Harrison. It has since doubled in size and is staffed by locally trained lawyers, led by the ‘very knowledgeable’ Vladimir Radonjic. The firm is instructed in the majority of high-profile projects and transactions in the country, particularly within the tourism development sector. It is acting for China Road and Bridge Corporation on the construction of Montenegro’s largest new road project, and is advising the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on proposed investment in the €32m expansion of the Port of Bar, which is of key significance to the country’s economy. Other clients include Goldman Sachs, Vivienne Westwood, Abu Dhabi’s Royal Group and Porto Montenegro (Adriatic Marinas).
Moravcevic Vojnovic and Partners in cooperation with Schoenherr has ‘unique knowledge and expertise of Montenegro that exceeds expectations’. Although key partners are based in Belgrade, it is the firm of choice of the Montenegrin government for major projects, including large-scale property investment and privatisation, and is also retained by a number of international investors. The firm is advising the government on the new shareholding structure and management agreement for electricity utility A2A, which was privatised in 2009, and is representing German investment bank KfW IPEX-Bank as lender in the €60m financing of two wastewater treatment plants in the tourist region of Budva. Standout individuals include ‘real team leader’ Slaven Moravčević and Nikola Babić, who has ‘deep knowledge of Montenegro’s legal framework and practice’.
Domestic firm Prelevic Law Firm has a strong track record of market-leading transactions, privatisations and projects, including major property and infrastructure developments. Corporate clients include Porto Montenegro, the EBRD, Unilever, Deutsche Telekom and Danone. Of note is the firm’s dispute resolution practice, which, as well as advising the country’s largest domestic and international companies on business disputes, has a significant pro bono caseload that includes high-profile human rights cases. Name partners Dragan Prelevic and Radomir Prelevic are well known in the market and supported by Aleksandar Vojinovic and Wolfram Zeihe.
CMS has ‘a very professional approach, with advice tailored to the needs of the client’. It has five lawyers in Podgorica working closely with the Belgrade team to staff cross-border matters; the firm advised a consortium of global investment firms, including KKR, on its contemplated buyout of Danube Foods Group, and later advised the successful acquirer, Mid Europa Partners, on a €575m deal. It continues to assist Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank with its loan portfolio restructuring and sale, and acted for European entertainment group HIT Group with the €20m divestment of its Montenegrin operations. The key partners are practice head Radivoje Petrikić in Belgrade and local partner Milica Popović.
Regional firm Local lawyers in cooperation with Karanović & Nikolić is ‘responsive and knowledgeable, both as to regional economic issues and specific legal issues relevant to the case’. It has a team of associates in Montenegro led by senior associate Milena Rončević, providing full transactional support to Belgrade. The firm advises on some of the largest deals in Southeastern Europe, such as advising potential buyer VIA Group on the sale of Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank. Local work included acting for Canada’s Blue Horizon, management company of Four Seasons, on the development of a hotel and residential project near Tivat. Belgrade-based senior partner Dejan Nikolić oversees the Podgorica office and has ‘sound knowledge of the geo-political and macro issues’.
Clients of Vujacic Law Office report ‘excellent’ response times. The firm has ‘a very good understanding of the difficult business of direct sales’. The firm is instructed on some of the largest transactions in the country: it is advising the EBRD and Germany’s KfW IPEX-Bank on the €98m financing of a wind farm project in Krnovo; and represented Abu Dhabi’s Capital Investment on the €150m construction of Montenegro’s largest shopping mall. Widely experienced name partner Sasha Vujacic is recommended along with attorney Dragan Corac, who gives ‘sharp and concise’ advice.
Ana Dukanovic Attorney at Law is an established domestic firm led by former Supreme Court judge, Ana Đukanović. Key members of the team include Marko Hajduković and Miroslav Adžić. The firm typically acts for international clients in a range of matters locally, including privatisations, M&A, property deals or construction, as well as dispute resolution.
BDK Advokati/Attorneys at Law is ‘excellent and value for money’. Its practice area specialists work across the firm’s Serbian and Montenegrin offices, representing large local and international companies that are ‘very impressed with the professionalism and efficient work regime’ of the firm. The ‘commercial’ Luka Popović, who is managing senior associate in Podgorica, recently led advice to Turkey’s Ziraat Bank on establishing operations in Montenegro. Other work included acting for French power producer Akuto Energy on the acquisition of a leaseholder company to obtain land for a new 74MW wind farm. Other clients include Deutsche Telekom and CGES, the Montenegrin electricity transmission operator.
Law Office Miroslav Stojanovic, in cooperation with Wolf Theiss is praised for its ‘swift and accurate answers and in-depth knowledge’. Although it lacks an office on-the-ground in Montenegro, the firm is prevalent in large deals in the country through its Belgrade office. It advised private equity fund Advent International on its €200m acquisition of Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank’s SEE network, and acted for QD Hotel and Property Investment Montenegro on the Tivat luxury hotel and residential complex development. Miroslav Stojanović heads the team, which includes Nataša Lalović-Marić, who has ‘a high level of understanding of the essence of corporate matters’.
Serbia-originated NKO Partners has an active Montenegrin office, which provides ‘an excellent level of service’ and has ‘a business-oriented approach’. It is overseen by Belgrade-based partner Djuro Otasevic, who has ‘great understanding of local law and specific circumstances in Montenegro’. A high-quality client base includes BDO Belgrade, which the firm advised on the acquisition of minority shares in BDO Podgorica; Japanese Tobacco International (JTI), which it is advising on day-to-day Montenegrin operations including newly enacted tobacco regulations; and Actavis Pharmaceutical, for which the team is acting in relation to competition and debt recovery matters.