Legal market overview
- Karanovic & Nikolic in cooperation with local lawyers
Odvetnik Jurij Dolžan (Odvetniki Jurij Dolžan, Mitja Vidmar and Igor Zemljaric)
- Ulcar & Partnerji
Widely perceived as the most politically and economically stable country of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia performed better than most European economies during the first half of 2015, driven by strong private consumption and exports (including medicines, automobiles and refined petroleum), an improved labour market and low energy prices. However, the outlook for 2016 is moderate, as delays in the country’s ambitious privatisation programme take hold: state companies still account for approximately half of the economy. The privatisation of Telekom Slovenije, which has dominated headlines and provided work for a raft of domestic and international law firms, collapsed midway through 2015.
There remains much alternative legal work in the market, particularly within the banking and finance sector, where restructuring and the sale of non-performing loans (NPL) is booming. The largest corporate transaction of 2015 was the €114m sale of Slovenia’s leading brewery, Pivovarna Laško, to Heineken International. Another headline deal was the €33m sale of a controlling stake in domestic food group Žito to Croatia’s Podravka, the fourth successful privatisation on the government’s list of 15 planned sales.
As witnessed elsewhere in the region, the leading commercial law practices are a mix of sophisticated domestic firms (Jadek & Pensa; Law firm Rojs, Peljhan, Prelesnik & Partners o.p., d.o.o.; and Odvetniki Selih & partnerji) and well-known regional heavyweights (CMS; Schoenherr Slovenia; and Wolf Theiss). These were joined in 2015 by Serbia-headquartered firm Karanovic & Nikolic in cooperation with local lawyers, which opened an office in Ljubljana.
‘Our top pick’, say clients, Jadek & Pensa is instructed on the bulk of headline transactions in the Slovenian market. It represented the consortium of sellers in the privatisation of the country’s largest food producer, Žito, which sold a controlling stake to Croatian food group Podravka for €33m, and acted for purchaser Fraport AG in the privatisation of Slovenia’s primary airport, Aerodrom Ljubljana. The ten-partner firm – large by local standards – includes senior partners Srečo Jadek and Pavle Pensa; former partner Bostjan Spec left the firm in 2015 to establish a sole practice.
‘Fantastic’ Law firm Rojs, Peljhan, Prelesnik & Partners o.p., d.o.o. has ‘achieved a magic balance of local knowledge with global presentation’. It fields one of the largest teams in the market, with 26 qualified lawyers, including nine experienced corporate partners led by Grega Peljhan. The firm has a ‘specialist for almost each field of corporate law, which is quite rare in Slovenia’. It is local counsel of choice for several UK and US law firms working on big-ticket deals, and continues to advise Agrokor alongside Slaughter and May and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP following its acquisition of Mercator in 2014. Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Blackstone are also clients.
Corporate law is a key area of focus at Odvetniki Selih & partnerji, which handles major transactions on behalf of well-known international companies. These included advising Heineken International on its €114m acquisition of Slovenian brewery Pivovarna Laško; Novartis on the Slovenian aspects of two global transactions – the sale of its animal healthcare business to Eli Lilly and sale of its non-influenza vaccine business to GSK; and Croatia’s Podravka on its acquisition of a controlling stake in the privatisation of Slovenian food group Žito. Nina Šelih and Nataša Pipan Nahtigal head the corporate and M&A practices respectively.
CMS has a capable team in Ljubljana, which is led by Aleš Lunder and supported by three partners and over a dozen associates. The firm plays a leading role in some of largest deals in the region and acted for Mid Europa Partners in its bid for domestic brewery Pivovarna Laško, which was eventually bought by Heineken. It is also acting for Honeywell International and BMW as creditors in the insolvency of automotive group CIMOS.
The lawyers at Law firm Kavcic, Rogl & Bracun, o.p., d.o.o. are ‘top in their fields’ and go ‘an extra mile to make the transaction happen’. They include head of M&A and ‘strategic thinker’ Simon Bračun and corporate and competition specialist Matej Kavčič, who is ‘really great to work with’. The firm is handling two ongoing privatisation processes, acting for the sellers, and is advising on a potential high-value bond issue. Clients ‘always know we are in safe hands and trust them completely’.
Law Firm Miro Senica and Attorneys, Ltd. is ‘professional and extremely knowledgeable’, ‘well-connected’ and ‘client orientated’. A busy year of domestic and international transactions included acting for Serbian bakery Don Don on its bid for state owned food group Žito, and for Adria Mobil on its €24m bond issue. Name partner Miro Senica is ‘very strong’, and the overall service is ‘simply outstanding.’
The ‘very good’ ODI Law Firm continues to increase its market share, particularly in the restructuring space, where it acts for creditors and debtors. The firm worked alongside Linklaters LLP in advising a consortium of banks, including Citi, ING Bank and BNP Paribas, on the financing of KKR’s bid for Pivovarna Laško. It also advised Mobile TeleSystems on its bid for Telekom Slovenije. Uroš Ilić heads the corporate practice, where clients appreciate the partner-level attention. Former partner Marko Ketler moved to Karanović & Nikolić in cooperation with local lawyers.
Schoenherr Slovenia continues to play a leading role in the country’s privatisation process and other key deals: it acted for the consortium of sellers in the €114m sale of a controlling stake in Pivovarna Laško to successful bidder Heineken; and represented the government in the €177m sale of Slovenia’s primary airport, Aerodrom Ljubjana to Fraport AG. Marko Prušnik is the firm’s lead corporate lawyer in Slovenia.
‘Clearly one of the top law firms in the Slovenian market’, Wolf Theiss has a successful team that earns key domestic and cross-border instructions. Office head and ‘seasoned negotiator’ Markus Bruckmüller ‘brings a wealth of deal experience from different geographies to any situation; Laura Štruc has ‘profound knowledge and experience’ with ‘distinct client care qualities’. The firm acted for target company Pivovarna Laško, Slovenia’s largest brewery, on its €114m sale to Heineken following an extensive bidding process.
Leading regional firm Karanović & Nikolić in cooperation with local lawyers opened in Slovenia in 2015, serving the cross-border needs of its client base. It is led by experienced local lawyer Marko Ketler, recruited from ODI Law Firm, who is noted for his banking, finance and restructuring expertise. The firm is acting for Slovene Sovereign Holding and Slovenia’s Bank Asset Management Company (BAMC) on the sale of state-owned Adria Airways, and represented 12 banks on the €100m restructuring of DZS.
The vast majority of work undertaken at Odvetnik Jurij Dolžan (Odvetniki Jurij Dolžan, Mitja Vidmar and Igor Zemljaric) relates to banking and finance, including capital markets, where the firm operates at the highest level. Jurij Dolžan is well known in the market and led advice to the State on its €1.25bn sovereign bond issue, and represented state-owned Slovene Export and Development Bank (SID Banka) on a €300m Eurobond issuance.
Ulcar & Partnerji continues to work alongside White & Case (Europe) LLP in representing the State in the privatisation of Telekom Slovenia. Managing partner Matjaž Ulčar is an experienced corporate lawyer.
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