Legal Market Overview
Last year’s economic trend is continuing into 2018: in light of Austria’s robust economy, local firms continue to receive a steady flow of transactional mandates, particularly in the real estate and technology sectors, as well as private equity-related instructions; a market segment that is not yet fully established in Austria. In the transactional space, the country benefits from its position in the geographical centre of the continent, allowing local firms with strong CEE and SEE ties to act as a regional coordinator. Favourable lending conditions gave the market a further boost; however, the outlook for the future remains cautious as many market players predict a change in market conditions following an expected rise in interest rates. This would potentially lead to an increased workload for restructuring and insolvency practices, which have had a relatively quiet year with only a few significant cases on the table such as the insolvency of Air Berlin subsidiary Niki and Steinhoff’s sale of the Austrian operating company of furniture retailer Kika-Leiner to Signa to avert insolvency. Alongside a strong M&A market, Austria has also seen its largest ever IPO with Bawag’s listing on the Vienna Stock Exchange in October 2017, which raised approximately €1.9bn. As another consequence of the strong investor market, firms have seen regular instructions on various construction projects and subsequent disputes; firms generally reported an uptick in contentious work, which, due to the expensive nature of litigation and the fact that court fees are not capped in Austria, is increasingly dealt with before arbitral tribunals.
2018 also saw several significant team changes: in arbitration, Stefan Riegler joined Wolf Theiss Rechtsanwalte GmbH & CoKG from Baker McKenzie • Diwok Hermann Petsche Rechtsanwälte LLP & Co KG and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer lost its highly regarded arbitrator Günther Horvarth to an in-house role. In the tax space, Wolf Theiss Rechtsanwalte GmbH & CoKG lost Benjamin Twardosz to CHSH Cerha Hempel Spiegelfeld Hlawati and DLA Piper Weiss-Tessbach‘s former practice head Franz Althuber left the firm to work independently at ALTHUBER SPORNBERGER & PARTNER Rechtsanwälte. However, not only large international firms faced internal changes but also smaller ones were affected including employment boutique Kunz Wallentin Rechtsanwälte GmbH, which lost a large part of its team, including the highly regarded Georg Schima, to Starlinger Mayer Rechtsanwälte GmbH, now renamed Schima Mayer Starlinger Rechtsanwaelte GmbH. Former public procurement law boutique firm Heid Schiefer Rechtsanwälte OG has now split into two entities: Stephan Heid now operates under Heid und Partner Rechtsanwälte GmbH, and Martin Schiefer established Schiefer Rechtsanwälte GmbH.