Legal Market Overview
With Austria’s economy still going fairly strong in 2019, activity in the M&A market was high. The real estate and construction sectors proved to be the two most attractive industry sectors for inbound M&A transactions in Austria. Austrian companies remain attractive targets for German investors and Germany is still the most attractive target for Austrian investors. However, there is an increased interest of Asian investors in Austria, particularly technology companies. In terms of legislative changes in the corporate area, Austria has implemented the Shareholders Rights Directive II amending the Stock Exchange Act and the Stock Corporation Act. New rules on “say on pay”, minority rights and shareholder transparency led to substantial changes to the corporate legal landscapes.
The construction boom that started two years ago continues. The industrial, office and residential sectors experience a never-ending demand. A further development is the increase in the resort to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, specifically arbitration, mediation and adjudication. The reason being that the courts have difficulty grappling with the complex issues that arise in construction disputes. A third trend is the digitalisation in the construction sector, for example through the enhanced use of building information modeling (BIM) to generate and manage digital representations of physical and functional characteristics of places, in order to anticipate problems at an early stage.
In employment law, the initial controversies surrounding the 12-hour workday introduced in last year’s Working Time Act have waned somewhat, yet clients are still in need of advice. Other interesting questions include administrative penalties in the context of infringements, which attract quite high fines and is something the current government is expected to tackle soon. Also of note are issues relating to the status of workers, in other words, whether an employee is self-employed or not.
Data privacy and data protection has been included for the first time in this year’s guide. Much of the work in this area in the past years focused around GDPR implementation, and even though the main implementation wave is now over, there are still some companies that require advice regarding implementation. It is now evident that the Austrian Data Protection Authority has taken a much more active role in monitoring compliance, either by initiating proceedings itself or through complaints. As a result, it is expected there will be a rise in contentious proceedings.
One of the most significant changes in the legal market was the departure of Wendelin Ettmayer and Dieter Bucherberger, who left Baker McKenzie • Diwok Hermann Petsche Rechtsanwälte LLP & Co KG in July 2019 together with four other lawyers to set up their own law firm in cooperation with Buchberger Ettmayer Rechtsanwälte GmbH (KPMG Law). Ettmayer focuses on corporate law and M&A, while Buchberger’s expertise centres on banking and finance. Another noteworthy change is the arrival of Michael Horak at Binder Grösswang as counsel from IP boutique specialist firm Salomonowitz Rechtsanwälte.