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Legal market overview
Venezuela continues to experience grave economic difficulties and these have only been exacerbated by the global drop in oil prices, adding to the fiscal pressure on the Maduro administration, which, holding to the socialist agenda of the Chavez period, has reacted with ever more state-interventionist policies. These, in turn, have led many foreign investors to avoid Venezuela or withdraw their investments. Foreign exchange controls make cross-border transactions difficult, and price controls affect almost every economic activity. The resulting shortages in food and other basic necessities have led to political protests and increasing black market activity, leading to even more pressure on the government.
The crisis is also affecting the legal market. Many law firms are following the example of commercial companies by downsizing. Finance and M&A practices in particular are suffering from a drop in transactional activity, and there is widespread pressure on fee rates. On the other hand, the crisis has also led to increased demand for legal services in areas such as public law, tax, labour, and dispute resolution, as clients seek advice on how to cope with increasingly demanding regulation and tax laws, as well as assistance with downsizing and layoffs and help with disputes, where cost-effective arbitration and mediation are particularly sought after.
The four leading full-service law firms remain Baker & McKenzie SC, D’Empaire Reyna Abogados, Hoet Pelaez Castillo & Duque and Norton Rose Fulbright; which achieve high rankings in almost every practice area. There has been relatively little movement in the market in terms of law firm mergers, spin-offs, and lateral partner hires. Notable exceptions are the merger of WDA legal, S.C. with tax boutique Fraga & Viloria, S.C.; the move of public law expert Alejandro Gallotti from Torres, Plaz & Araujo to Hoet Pelaez Castillo & Duque; and the move of arbitration expert Marcos Carrillo from Lloan & Asociados to Araquereyna. In light of such challenging economic conditions, it is unsurprising that few law firms are investing; to some degree the legal market is in a suspended mode and awaits better times.
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Following completion of the acquisition of the Lake Region Medical groupe by Greatbatch, Inc. and the renaming of Lake Region Medical into INTEGER, Greatbatch contributed in multiple capital increases own shares to Swiss-based P Medical Holding AG/INTEGER (Switzerland) GmbH, which were swapped against shares in the Irish-based Lake Region Medical Holdings Limited. The transaction was completed by a down-stream merger of P Medical Holding AG into its subsidiary INTEGER (Switzerland) GmbH.
SyCipLaw acted as Philippine counsel for the dealers, Citigroup Global Markets Limited and Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in a back-to-back tender offer of perpetual securities and issuance of new perpetual securities.
The Ministry of Finance, General Administration of Customs and State Administration of Taxation of China jointly issued a circular (“Joint Circular ”) relating to the taxation policy on the cross-border e-commerce retailing imports, with effect as from April 8, 2016.
On February 12, 2016, the recently constituted Philippine Competition Commission (“PCC”), which was created under the Philippine Competition Act (Republic Act 10667 or the “PCA”), issued Memorandum Circular No. 16-001, Series of 2016 (the “Transitory Rules”), which provides for the transitory rules and guidelines relating to mergers and acquisitions that were, or are to be, executed or otherwise implemented after the effectivity of the PCA on August 8, 2015 but before the effectivity of its implementing rules and regulations (the “PCA IRR”). Given the special nature of transactions effected through the Philippine Stock Exchange, the Transitory Rules will not cover such transactions and will be covered by a separate issuance by the PCC.
SyCipLaw acted as Philippine counsel to a syndicate of Philippine banks (composed of BDO Unibank, Inc., Bank of the Philippine Islands, Development Bank of the Philippines, Land Bank of the Philippines, Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company and Philippine National Bank) and Asian Development Bank for the financing of the rehabilitation and development of the Mactan Cebu International Airport that was awarded by the DOTC and the MCIAA under the private-public partnership program of the government to the consortium between Megawide Construction Corporation and GMR Infrastructure. The financing is composed of (1) Php20 Billion (approx. US$446,773,200) commitment of the Philippines syndicate banks and (2) US$75 Million commitment of ADB.
On February 16, 2016, the recently constituted Philippine Competition Commission (“PCC”), which was created under the Philippine Competition Act (Republic Act 10667 or the “PCA”), issued Memorandum Circular No. 16-002, Series of 2016 (the “PSE Transitory Rules”), which provides for the transitory rules and guidelines relating to mergers and acquisitions that were, or are to be, executed or otherwise implemented through the Philippine Stock Exchange (“PSE”) and after the effectivity of the PCA on August 8, 2015 but before the effectivity of its implementing rules and regulations (the “PCA IRR”).
SyCipLaw contributed the Philippine Chapter of the 2016: Insurance Regulation in Asia Pacific – Ten things to know about 20 countries published by Norton Rose. The 2016 edition of the summary guide provides an overview and practical checklist of ten common regulatory issues for insurance companies. The Philippine chapter was contributed by SyCipLaw partner Hiyasmin H. Lapitan.
In the recent case of Pyrrho Investments Limited and another v MWB Property Limited and others  EWHC 256 (Ch), the High Court of England and Wales approved the use of predictive coding software in electronic discovery.
SyCipLaw Partners Rose Marie M. King-Dominguez and Franco Aristotle G. Larcina, with support from Senior Associate Ruben P. Acebedo II, participated in the World Bank Group’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture 2016: Comparing regulatory good practices. The report examines regulations that impact private enterprise in the agriculture and agribusiness sectors. The report aims to promote smart regulations that ensure safety and quality control, as well as efficient regulatory processes, that support thriving agribusinesses.
Hospitality and food service industry company Mövenpick invests in Chinese wine wholesaler Cheers by acquiring a strategic stake. Cheers has 30 branch offices in the greater Beijing area and currently generates annual revenues of roughly three million Swiss francs. Mövenpick is a Swiss group of companies with global presence. Its core competency lies in the hospitality business, with a focus on gastronomy, hotels, wine and premium branded products.
Pitmans has advised Premier Marinas Limited on its acquisition of Noss Marina, which is just outside Dartmouth, from the Administrators Duff & Phelps.
Following last year’s autumn statement, HMRC has now published draft legislation which introduces the proposed new apprenticeship levy. The levy will have effect from 6 April 2017.
The Department of Justice has issued a practice direction in connection with the new insolvency express trials pilot.
Many businesses will be liable for increased business rates following last year’s Supreme Court ruling in Woolway (Valuation Officer) v Mazars LLP.
Pitmans LLP has acted on behalf of its longstanding client, Westcoast (Holdings) Limited on its acquisition of Art Systems Holdings Limited.
The management team were backed by Maven Capital Partners with PNC providing debt facilities.
Pitmans today announced that Oliver Kelly (corporate) and Matt Heyworth (private client) will become partners as of 1 May 2016.
SOUTHAMPTON -- LV=, represented by Pitmans LLP, have won a case involving a fraudulent household insurance claim worth almost £50,000.
VEGAS LEX Manager of Life sciences projects Maria Borzova has discussed recent legislative initiatives relating to the compulsory licensing of medicines in her presentation at the first meeting of Pharm Salon.
In cases involving M&A transactions, a detailed evaluation of the economic risks and opportunities as well as the associated legal issues is indispensable.