A difficult year for Perú, with the country’s key mining and oil-and-gas sectors hard hit by rock bottom prices, was compounded by the advent of the country’s elections; infamously difficult to predict, the process lived up to its billing, returning the narrowest of majorities -after a recount- for centre-right technocrat and ‘safe pair of hands’, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, in what many lawyers regarded as the best news of the year to date. Certainly the first six months had seen corporate -and consequently legal- activity relatively depressed. Much of the transactional activity was driven by disinvestments, not least Brazilian holdings in Peru –notably construction and infrastructure concession contracts and oil-and-gas participations– as both the economy and the corruption scandal that have engulfed Peru’s Amazonian neighbour claimed more victims. The mining sector too, has been impacted hard by the downturn in primarily Asian demand and the consequent collapse of prices – many of the juniors previously active in the country have been among the companies that have caused renewed activity in the bankruptcy and insolvency sector. However, one bright spot has been continued infrastructure development.
The Peruvian market is beginning to become somewhat accustomed to a significant annual event disrupting the local legal topography. In 2014 it was Baker & McKenzie’s association with Echecopar; in 2015 it was the arrival of Garrigues; and in 2016 it has been the aterrizaje –the landing– of the former PPU, now Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uria. The means of this market entry, enabled by the forging of a suitable ‘candidate’ via the merger of well-known local players Ferrero Abogados and Delmar Ugarte, should give those elsewhere in the region –notably México– pause for thought: the lack of a suitable target firm is, it suggests, no longer the ‘barrier to market entry’ it once was. And while the proof will be in Ferrero DU’s market performance over the next few years, on paper at least, the synergies of the merger look strong.
As yet though, the key market players remain unchanged: Miranda & Amado and Rodrigo, Elías & Medrano, Abogados are the undoubted full-service powerhouses, while Estudio Echecopar member firm of Baker & McKenzie International is increasingly regaining market position after its transition into being part of the regional behemoth. But quality abounds in the Peruvian market and local firms Payet, Rey, Cauvi, Pérez Abogados and Rebaza, Alcázar & De Las Casas Abogados Financieros, particularly in the corporate/finance sectors, Muñiz, Ramírez, Pérez-Taiman & Olaya Abogados as a full service player, and Hernández & Cía. Abogados are all more than willing to seize market share from the leading players. Foreign players also wait in the wings: Garrigues continues to build the capability of its local office and the notion of the arrival of a DLA Piper LLP (US) or a Dentons (which both already have offices in Colombia and México), let alone other candidates (Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira and CMS are two freqently mentioned names), is not to be overlooked. Were there any doubt as to the attractiveness of the Peruvian market –ever more so following PPK’s whisker-thin electoral victory and the macro-economic direction it secures– one need only look to the opening of insurance specialists Kennedys Peru with former Osterling Abogados’ lawyer, Marco Rivera Noya, as managing partner: it is not just full-service players that have Peru in their sights. Other interesting, although less immediately visible developments include the emergence of a dispute resolution network that sees local boutique Reggiardo & Grau enter a loose network with Chile’s Ovalle Ossa Gazzana & Bulnes Abogados, Colombia’s Suescún Abogados and México’s Malpica, Iturbe, Buj y Paredes, S.C..
Nor is high quality service limited to larger firms; on the contrary the market is increasingly populated by both mid-sized and smaller firms gaining position in a market that continues to grow both in size and sophistication.