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High expectations have weighed heavily on Argentina since the 2015 election of centre-right President Mauricio Macri and the market remains charged with a cautious optimism that is yet to translate into solid results. Despite Macri’s robust performance during the mid-term elections, 2017 represented another year of mixed messages for Latin America’s third-largest economy, which continues to be dogged by high inflation. In 2018, following a 23% slump in the Argentine peso during the first half of the year, the administration finally went cap in hand to the IMF to secure a deal to calm investors. It is an unfortunate development for a country that many were deeming ‘the comeback kid’ – particularly as the economy had rebounded from its 2.2% contraction in 2016 to record 2.9% GDP growth in 2017.

In line with the market volatility law firms have had an uneven year, which has been eased for some by involvement in a handful of large deals and a series of positive regulatory developments. Most notably, the government’s focus on developing its renewable power capacity came to fruition with the launch of the second round of its renewable energy programme, RenovAr 2. The auction drew offers of around 9,403MW, which represented a total eight times larger than achieved during the first bidding round. The energy ministry estimates the scheme will attract $11bn worth of investment in Argentina’s renewable energy sector.

Investors are also lining up to participate in the country’s infrastructure programme. At the beginning of 2017, Argentina implemented its new Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Contracts Law to stimulate private investment in infrastructure. The government expects to raise around $26.5bn in investment through its ambitious PPP package and, as part of the first wave, it recently held auctions to award over 2500 kilometres of road projects.

Finally, in another boon to investors, May 2018 saw Argentina’s congress pass a capital markets reform bill that seeks to modernise and liberalise the country’s outdated capital markets’ framework.

The legal market seems to have taken its lead from the turbulent economic backdrop and there have been several significant firm fractures over the past year. Most notably, in 2018 legacy firm Pérez Alati, Grondona, Benites, Arntsen & Martínez De Hoz, Jr became Pérez Alati, Grondona, Benites & Arntsen, after former name partner José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz Jr split off with seven other partners to establish Martínez de Hoz & Rueda. In 2017, mining-focused boutique HOLT Abogados shut its doors following the departure of Florencia Heredia to Allende & Brea and Laura Lede Pizzurno and senior counsel María Paula Terrel to Mitrani Caballero & Ruiz Moreno Abogados. In another high-profile partnership exit, Mitrani Caballero & Ruiz Moreno Abogados saw the departure of Juan Carlos Ojam, who left with a significant proportion of the IP team to join Berton Moreno + Ojam. In two smaller breakaways, Álvaro Carlos Luna Requena left tax boutique Luna Requena & Fernández Borzese Abogados to create Luna Requena Abogados Tributaristas, while Mariano de Estrada and Fernanda Canale left Bulló Abogados to form Estrada & Canale Abogados.

Argentina’s highly competitive legal market is dominated by several full-service heavyweights namely Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal, Bruchou, Fernández Madero & Lombardi, Pérez Alati, Grondona, Benites & Arntsen, Allende & Brea and Beccar Varela. The chasing pack includes sophisticated medium size firms such as the newly established Martínez de Hoz & Rueda as well as Mitrani Caballero & Ruiz Moreno Abogados, M & M Bomchil and Estudio O'Farrell.

As in all mature markets, Argentina also boasts a number of specialist firms that excel in certain niche areas. For banking and finance work, Salaverri, Burgio & Wetzler Malbran and Tavarone, Rovelli, Salim & Miani continue to impress. On the IP side, an area where boutiques often shine, Ferrer Reyes, Tellechea & Bouche, G. Breuer and Richelet & Richelet are among the stand-out performers. In the energy and natural resources field, Zaballa - Carchio Abogados (on the mining side), and Alliani & Bruzzon (in oil and gas) are leading names. Furthermore, Funes De Rioja & Asociados shines in labour and employment, while Rosso Alba, Francia & Asociados and Teijeiro & Ballone, Abogados both command respect in the tax area.

Few global firms have a base on the ground in Argentina. Baker McKenzie has a long-standing presence in the country and acts on both local and cross-border work. In addition, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Curtis - Fernandez Quiroga, Ayarragaray & Ocampo (connected to Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP) also maintain local offices.

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