Elias Neocleous & Co LLC > Limassol, Cyprus > Firm Profile
Elias Neocleous & Co LLC Offices
NEOCLEOUS HOUSE, 195 MAKARIOS III AVENUE, 1-5TH
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Elias Neocleous & Co LLC > The Legal 500 Rankings
Cyprus > Banking and finance Tier 1The ‘creative, innovative and very client-orientated’ team at Elias Neocleous & Co LLC has Demetris Roti at the helm. The ‘very professional’ practice remains a firm of choice for numerous international law firms, leading Cypriot banks and financial institutions, as well as international banks, private equity funds and various asset managers. Other major clients include hedge funds, government bodies and high-net-worth individuals who operate in Cyprus. The team has considerable expertise across the entire spectrum of national and international banking and finance transactions, and is also adept at advising large corporates on the restructuring and refinancing of their investments. Managing partner Elias Neocleous has a vast array of experience on a whole host of complex deals, while Andrea Kallis Parparinou heads up the Nicosia office. Kyriaki Stinga has a wealth of experience in cross-border matters. Dimitris Papoutsis is also well-regarded.
‘Among the team’s many key strengths the one that stands out is the partners’ and associates’ personal and professional integrity as well as their accessibility and availability. In terms of billing I find it fair’.
‘Mr. Elias Neocleous is an outstanding individual, I consider him professional with ethos, positive energy, efficient and it is a real pleasure to know him and cooperate with him and his team’.
‘Very knowledgeable lawyers providing useful and concise advice, straight to the point’.
‘Kyriaki Stinga has great experience in her field and has been a trusted advisor to implement the transaction’.
‘We got to know and collaborated with the banking & finance team in the context of a migration of a number of Luxembourg entities to Cyprus. The team’s approach and advice was pragmatic and efficient, and our collaboration seamless’.
‘It is a full-service law firm, spanning all major transactional and market disciplines. The firm has expert in-depth knowledge on topics such as funds, competition and regulatory, corporate, banking and finance and litigation, as well as a very diligent and highly-responsive fiduciary services team‘.
’‘Knowledgeable and exceptionally responsive individuals, with a strong sense of ownership, client service and timely delivery’.
‘Exceptional relationships have been forged. Elias Neocleous is the ‘go to’ person for us. He is the best of the best in this area, very hands on, client oriented and professional. Demetris Roti is exceptional. Demetris is reliable, responsive and always a safe pair of hands’.
Avanti Communications Group PLC
Altamira Asset Management Limited
APS Holding a.s
Atterbury Europe B.V
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Alpha Bank S.A
International Finance Corporation
Eurobank Greece and Eurobank Cyprus
Bank of Cyprus
Bank of Scotland
JC Flowers & Co LLC
Hellenic Public Bank Company Limited
SAZKA Delta Variable Capital Investment Company Limited
Deutsche Bank AG
CPI Property Group
Sabadell Venture Capital S.L.U
Raiffeisen Bank International AG
Jordan Kuwait Bank
Mediterranean Hospitality Ventures Limited
Prodea Investments Limited
- Advised Deutche Bank on the Cyprus law aspects of the acquisition financing for a telecommunications company.
- Provided Cyprus law advice and assistance to a consortium of international banks in connection with a $450m offering of Rule 144A/Reg S high yield senior secured notes issuance by Energean PLC.
- Advised SAZKA Group a.s. in relation to all Cyprus law aspects of its issue of a €600m high-yield secured bond.
Elias Neocleous; Andrea Kallis Parparinou
‘Given the size of our group and complexity of its structure, the ability to handle complex and sophisticated matters is a must for our legal advisors. Elias Neocleous & Co LLC has a great business acumen and understands very well wider framework and implications of transactions’.
‘The team of Elias Neocleous & Co LLC possesses not only excellent and up-to-date legal knowledge, but also understands the business of the client and strives to support their clients´ business needs. The team has also a very professional attitude when communicating with the counterparties, the regulators and authorities’.
‘Mr. Elias Neocleous and Mr. Michael Pelosi are outstanding individuals, I consider them professionals with ethos, positive energy, efficient and it is a real pleasure to know them and cooperate with them and their teams’.
‘It is a full-service law firm, spanning all major transactional and market disciplines. The firm has expert in-depth knowledge on topics such as funds, competition and regulatory, corporate, banking and finance and litigation, as well as a very diligent and highly-responsive fiduciary services team’.
‘Knowledgeable and exceptionally responsive individuals, with strong sense of ownership, client service and timely delivery. Exceptional relationships and service have been forged with the following partners in particular: Elias Neocleous, Demetris Roti and Costas Stamatiou’.
‘Large company with wide focus, well settled. Michael Pelosi’.
‘The Commercial, corporate and M&A practice of Elias Neocleous & Co. LLC is formed by notable practitioners and stands out for their experience in Commercial, corporate and M&A matters including drafting, advising on day to day corporate issues and more complicated commercial and corporate transactions’.
‘Costas Stamatiou and the whole of the team have been excellent advising on each of our transactions and corporate and commercial matters. They are very knowledgeable, experienced, professional and easy to work with’.
Acer Europe S.A
Allea Group Holdings
Aphrodite Hills Resort
Avanti Communications Group
Bank of Cyprus
Blackstone Group International LLP
CPT Cyprus Public Transports Ltd
J.C Flowers & Co
CYREIT Variable Capital Investment Company PLC
International Finance Corporation
LongWing Energy S.C.A
Visa Europe Limited
SAZKA Delta AIF Variable Capital Investment Company Limited
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Futures Industry Association
Mediterranean Hotel Ventures Limited
Landmark Hotel Nicosia
Mall of Cyprus
Deutsche Bank AG
Prodea Investment Company Limited
Pepperstone Group Limited
SOLEK HOLDING SE
BW Shipping (formerly Bergesen Worldwide)
- Advised Singapore sovereign wealth fund on an investment into a geothermal district heating company.
- Advised J. C. Flowers & Co LLC on the Cyprus Law requirements and assisted with obtaining the regulatory approvals required for their eur300m investment into LMAX Group.
- Advised, a global and publicly listed online gaming company on Cyprus law requirements in relation to the issue of Warrants to Purchase Crypto Tokens.
Cyprus > Dispute resolution Tier 1The ‘experienced professionals’ at Elias Neocleous & Co LLC are ‘quick to grasp the key drivers of efficient dispute resolution and are experienced in cross-border disputes’. The department handles a wide range of complex cases across various sectors and has considerable strength in banking and finance, in addition to insolvency and competition matters. The group receives a regular flow of instructions from major international law firms with key names including Chrysanthos Christoforou, Antonis Glykis and Anna Demetriou . Christos Melides , Costas Stamatiou, Nicolas Tsardellis and Nikos Korogiannakis are all well-regarded also. At senior associate level, George Tsardellis is recommended.
Chrysanthos Christoforou; Antonis Glykis; Anna Demetriou; Christos Melides; Costas Stamatiou; Nicolas Tsardellis; Nikos Korogiannakis
Other key lawyers:
George Tsardellis; Andreas Christofides; Vassilis Psyrras; Christiana Pyrkotou
‘We regularly work with this Law firm and are very satisfied with quality of work, in depth partners involvement and rapid responses; we feel that any matter is important to them; extremely capable in cross border litigation’.
‘We like working with Chrysanthos Christoforou who is an exceptional and dynamic litigator, very capable and with excellent leadership skills, enjoy working with him on complex cross border matters’.
‘Simply the best firm in Cyprus with quality partners and staff’.
‘Chrysanthos Christoforou and Costas Stamiotis all excellent. Excellent understanding of the law, system and how things work in Cyprus’.
‘I recommend Elias Neocleous & Co LLC for their unique knowledge, experience, professionalism, flexibility and extreme sensitivity in providing services. They are able to propose an out of the box solution to even the most problematic issues. We always receive advice and service of top quality’.
‘I work with Costas Stamatiou, Vassilis Psyrras and Andreas Christofides. They are very efficient, responsive and always solve problems creatively, with consideration to current commercial needs. I would highly recommend them and Elias Neocleous & Co LLC for any future legal issues’.
‘Mr Christoforou is an amazing commercial litigator. He is the most efficient and practical lawyer we have ever worked with in Cyprus. We have been working with him the last 2 years and we are incredibly satisfied with his performance and skills’.
‘We have worked with Chrysanthos Christoforou and Christiana Pyrkotou. They are both brilliant colleagues, with excellent instinct and a pragmatic approach to advocacy in cross-border disputes.’
Aphrodite Hills Resort
Bank of Cyprus
Altamira Asset Management Limited
APS Holding a.s
Intel Capital Corp
Notesco Financial Services Limited
CYREIT Property Fund
Hellenic Bank Public Company Limited
DV01 Asset Management
Jordan Kuwait Bank
Prodea Investments Limited
Iron FX Global Limited
Gordian Holdings Limited
ACE European Group
- Acting for a leading Forex company against persons falsely representing themselves as employees of the company in order to defraud investors out of millions of Euros.
- Acting for the majority shareholders of a major international energy conglomerate, against various interests who are alleged to have unlawfully interfered in the clients business affairs causing the collapse of a major international merger transaction with damages to the client in the hundreds of millions of Euros.
- Acting for an asset management company and administrator of a Greek Bank in proceedings before the Cyprus Courts seeking, inter alia, to annul and reverse a series of fraudulent transactions aimed at depriving the client from recovering a judgment debt.
Cyprus > Employment Tier 1Nicosia-based Andrea Kallis Parparinou heads the employment team at Elias Neocleous & Co LLC. The group is reputed for its work with large multi-national organisations and also has a specialist employment immigration team. Lawyers concentrate primarily on advising employers on compliance matters and also work with employers, in conjunction with the tax department, to design remuneration, benefits and incentive packages. Another core area of focus is advising both employees and employers on employment disputes, in addition to due diligence exercises on potential target companies. The practice also frequently called upon to resolve industrial disputes or help with collective agreements.
Andrea Kallis Parparinou
Other key lawyers:
George Tsardellis; Demetris Gregoriou
‘Excellent communication, Available on time even though all the matters we discuss on employment are usually urgent. Deliver on time and with high quality of work. High knowledge of the local legislation’.
‘I worked mainly with Andrea Kallis Parparinou and our cooperation was exceptional. I mainly appreciate her high knowledge and the interaction we had until concluding our work’.
‘Andrea is able to provide solutions over the phone and over call meetings’.
‘Highly recommended team with zealous to offer the best service to our cooperation. Always available with innovative ideas and support for any legal matter we faced. All work was done in a timely manner and with great results’.
‘Hardworking and professional, especially George Tsardellis has provided our group of companies with outstanding services. He is extremely thorough and outshines the other side’.
‘This is an excellent firm. I have had nothing but outstanding results in my experience with them. They go the extra mile to represent our interests and are very detailed – and accurate – in their responses to our questions’.
‘Andrea Kallis Parparinoe and Demetris Gregoriou have been responsive to my questions, even anticipating issues I have not identified. They are well-connected and have trusting relationships with government officials to obtain detailed answers to complicated financial- and visa-related issues. They are both professional and easy to work with’.
‘In general, all individuals at Neocleous are dedicated on giving to the client high quality and valued service. Andrea Parparinou and George Tsardellis were always by our side, not only providing us legal assistance, but also making sure keeping our morale on a high level’.
The British High Commission in Cyprus
Mediterranean Hospitality Ventures (MHV)
Fedex Express Europe
Amazon (Amazon web services)
CPT Cyprus Public Transport Services and Operations Ltd
Parklane Hotels Limited
Cyprus Tourist Development Company Limited
Avanti Communications Group
Jordan Kuwait Bank
Lloyd’s of London
Pepperstone Group Limited
Greenmont VCIC Limited
- Advised Parklane Luxury Hotel and Spa, one of the largest hotel employers on the island, on all employment and staff related matters including the recruitment and employment of specialist staff from foreign jurisdictions to work in key functions of the hotel
- Advised a major multinational investment firm on the restructuring of their staff arrangements on a group level, establishing a Services Company into which staff throughout Europe were relocated, and arranging all legal formalities including transfer of employment contracts and employee rights and benefits.
- Throughout the past year, the team advised many large multinational corporations on the legal and regulatory requirements of their proposed remote working programs, and their obligations when staff work remotely, including when staff work cross border from Cyprus to other jurisdictions, or to Cyprus from other jurisdictions.
Cyprus > EU and competition Tier 1The outstanding team at Elias Neocleous & Co LLC excels in advising on all aspects of EU and competition law and regularly assists on key M&A assignments. The practice is led by partner Nikos Korogiannakis in Brussels and in Cyprus by senior associate Ramona Livera. The group has considerable sector expertise in areas such as shipping and more recently betting, and frequently advises on cybersecurity, data privacy and GDPR compliance. It is well-placed to deal with the local law aspects of pan-European projects and often advises clients on European grant and funding opportunities, state aid issues and procurement. The team often undertakes EU and competition litigation in the Cyprus venues, in addition to various EU courts and tribunals. Elias Neocleous is also recommended, as is senior associate Elena Christodoulou.
Nikos Korogiannakis; Ramona Livera
‘What makes this team very strong is the importance it gives to each client separately’.
‘What makes them stand out is the immediate response to all the questions I ask them about my subject. Especially Mrs. Maria Kozakou is very helpful’.
‘In my experience Elias Neocleous & Co LLC comprises of competent, hardworking, young professionals that inspire a feeling of trust to the client. In addition, they are always by your side throughout the tedious cases whenever you need them’.
‘Maria Kozakou convinced us that we stood a fighting chance if we submitted our case in front of the European Committee, a feat that many other attorneys before them did not pursue. This resulted in our case (gender discrimination lawsuit), finally being taken seriously by the employer and the Cypriot judicial system’.
Avanti Communications Group
British High Commission, Nicosia
Cyprus Tourism Development Corporation Ltd
Cyprus Public Transport Limited
European Investment Fund
Invel Real Estate Partners
Jordan Kuwait Bank (Cyprus Branch)
KPS Capital Partners
SOLEK Holding SE
Mall of Cyprus
- Advised Volkswagen Group Services GmbH on Cyprus law merger control and competition law obligations concerning a proposed acquisition of EVAG Emder Verkehrs und Automotive GmbH.
- Provided competition law advice to Akzo Nobel, and undertook the merger control filings for their proposed acquisition of the Slovenian companies DP JUB d.d. and JUB d.o.o.
- Acted for Tencent in its acquisition of an interest in 1C Group of companies which included a number of companies in Cyprus, including providing all competition law advice on the transaction and attending to merger control filings.
Andrea Kallis Parparinou; Ramona Livera; Christos Melides
Bolton Technologies Limited
Moderna Switzerland GmbH
Seattle Genetics Inc
Invel Real Estate Management Limited
British High Commission, Nicosia
Cyprus Mail Company Limited
Cyprus Tourism Development Corporation Ltd
European University Cyprus
Prodea Real Estate Investment Company S.A
Embryon Fertility Centre
- Assisted its client with the registration of its trademarks and responding to oppositions filed against registration.
- Advised its client on the registrability and/or use of a proposed new trademark.
- As part of its proposed expansion into Cyprus it advised a major international retail group on the franchising of brands, trademark protection and licencing, product compliance and personal data compliance.
Other key lawyers:
Andreas Christofides; Vassilis Psyrras
‘I recommend Elias Neocleous & Co LLC for their unique knowledge, experience, professionalism, flexibility and extreme sensitivity in providing services. They are able to propose an out of the box solution to even the most problematic issues. We always receive advice and service of top quality’.
‘I work with Costas Stamatiou, Vassilis Psyrras and Andreas Christofides. They are very efficient, responsive and always solve problems creatively, with consideration to current commercial needs. I would highly recommend them and Elias Neocleous & Co LLC for any future legal issues’.
‘Highly experienced and hands-on professionals with a great team spirit manner; this creates trust since it ensures examination of all aspects (technical and practical) of a project. The team is able to handle special complex cases and provides integrated services at all levels’.
‘Neocelous members are innovative in their approaches, with a positive thinking, honest, friendly in all matters arising. They are always open to hear the clients’ needs, examine long-term effects of any move and advise in the most efficient way.’.
‘The shipping and admiralty practice of Elias Neocleous & Co. LLC is formed by notable practitioners and stands out for its experience in maritime matters including shipping and transport related dispute’.
‘Costas Stamatiou and the whole of the team, including Andreas Christofides and Vassilis Psyrras are excellent in analysing the facts & options and advancing our cases. They are very knowledgeable, experienced, professional and easy to work with’.
‘I have found Elias Neocleous to be thoughtful, strategic and yet practical in their advice and guidance. Very satisfied with the representation’.
‘The team has been very strategic and at the same time practical in helping me evaluate how to proceed and what to expect in Cyprus courts’.
Aphentrica Marine Insurance
Franman (Cyprus) Limited
Jarillo Shipping Company Ltd
BW Shipping (formerly Bergesen Worldwide)
Argo Coral Maritime Limited
Lloyds of London
- Advised the Cyprus subsidiary of a German international shipping transport company on the refinancing of a number of its Cyprus registered and flagged cargo vessels.
- Advised and represented an international shipping and transport logistics company in admiralty court proceedings against the carrier, the charterer and the manager of the vessel claiming damages as a result of its client’s cargo being damaged whilst in transit.
- Advised a number of international ship management companies on registering and re-flagging vessels in Cyprus and on the applicability and operation of the Cypriot tonnage tax regime.
Other key lawyers:
Katerina Krassa; Christiana Georgiou; Michael Pelosi
‘One expects efficient professional and complete service from one’s lawyers but what makes the team from Neocleous special is the care they give to their clients and the clear impression that one is their most important client. As head of the team, Christos CV. Vezouvios, clearly sets the mark and he is outstanding’.
‘Christos has the superb ability to be utterly professional but exudes a gentle charm which is clearly not forced but genuine such that working with him is a sheer joy’.
‘Best firm in Cyprus. Knows the law, can get things done. Very professional and easy to deal with’.
‘Christos Vezuvios a great lawyer’.
‘The people we deal with are all extremely professional in their approach and knowledgeable. We have certainly always received excellent support from the partner, Christos Vezouvios, and associate Katerina Krass’.
‘The firm is particularly pro-active in reaching out to notify of legislative or market changes that may impact their clients’ business’.
‘Christos Vezouvios has an approachable and easy temperament making him a pleasure to work with on real estate matters coupled with strong technical and industry knowledge’.
‘Michael Pelosi has substantial industry experience on construction matters and gives very practical and commercial advice which is essential in the relevant industry’.
Bank of Cyprus
Prodea Real Estate Investment Company
CYREIT Variable Capital Investment Company PLC
Landmark Hotel, Nicosia (ex-Hilton Hotel)
Invel Real Estate Partners
British High Commission/ UK Foreign Office
KIP Consulting Group
Mediterranean Hospitality Ventures Limited
Remu Estate Ltd
Galaxia Properties Limited
Solek Holding SE
- Advised several large property developers on the drafting and negotiation of their required suites of construction contracts for the development and construction of a number of high-rise residential and commercial tower projects.
- Assisted a large international multimedia group to relocate their operations, including some 100 staff to Cyprus.
- Advising and assisting a Cyprus holding company of a large multinational group in a significant cross border property dispute involving fraudulent transfers of real estate property in various jurisdictions.
Cyprus > Tax Tier 1Elias Neocleous and Kyriacos Xenophontos co-head the department at Elias Neocleous & Co LLC which receives plaudits for providing ‘practical implementable opinions and guidance’. It fields a large and specialist tax planning team which provides standalone advice to clients, as well as supporting the firm on various matters by devising and implementing tax-efficient structures for international transactions. It also has particular strength in tax litigation and is particularly recommended for its work on cross-border investments. Other areas of expertise include advising on the tax aspects of employment matters, such as incentive and pension schemes. Additionally, it carries out a substantial amount of work for very wealthy individuals, as well as providing support on compliance matters. At associate level, Elena Christodoulou and Kyriaki Stinga play a central role in the department.
Elias Neocleous; Kyriacos Xenophontos
‘Our main point of contact is Elias Neocleous. He is very responsive and knowledgeable’.
‘The team handles complex tax issues for individuals and companies in a highly efficient manner and is able to provide clear advice that is easy to understand, where also non-tax issues are taken into account in the advice. My experience is that the team members work seamlessly together as a true team’.
‘I would in particular highlight the team´s excellent knowledge with respect to handling all relevant tax and non-tax issues for persons that want to move their tax residency to Cyprus. Based on my experience from working with lawyers in multiple jurisdictions for more than 15 years, I am confident that Elias Neocleous team is number 1 in Cyprus within that area. They have truly been excellent in all respects’.
‘The individuals I have worked with are highly skilled within their respective areas, and generally offer a very high service level with a pleasant personal touch’.
‘Lead partner Elias Neocleous is exceptional in this respect and my number 1 legal advisor in Cyprus when it comes to complex cross border tax issues concerning Cyprus. I wish there were more lead partners like him!’
‘I also want to highlight team members Fabian Cabeza and Elena Christodoulou. They have impressed me with their proactive approach and consistently high quality deliveries, and always propose a clear practical solution, despite tight deadlines. They stand out in an international context’.
‘We have certainly always received excellent support from the Managing Partner, Elias Neocleous and senior associates Elena Christodoulou and Kyriaki Stinga. The more junior staff we have dealt with including Fabian Cabeza and Alexis Christodoulou appear to replicate this approach.’
‘Responsive, clear, concise, client oriented and approachable. Kyriaki Stinga: very responsive, clear in explanation, can break a complex issue down to its essentials and very appreciated by clients’.
Mintra Holding AS (Norway)
Invel Real Estate Partners
Avanti Communication Group Plc
City Capital Group
Harvard Management Company
CPI Property Group
- Advised Devco Group of companies and its beneficial owners, including one Cyprus tax resident and five South African tax residents, on all real estate tax, company structuring, corporate and personal tax issues to include cross-border taxation and international tax principles.
- Advised Made.com Group PLC under Cyprus law in relation to a proposal to grant share awards to employees based in Cyprus under the company’s share option plan and to provide legal advice in relation to any applicable securities and tax laws.
- Advised eToro regarding employee incentive arrangements for employees based in Cyprus and in particular on the potential tax implications for a proposed IPO.
Elias Neocleous & Co LLC > Firm Profile
The firm: Elias Neocleous & Co LLC is among the largest firms in southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, with more than 150 lawyers and other professionals. All are English-speaking and members of staff speak most European languages, as well as major Asian languages. The firm is generally regarded as a regional leader, with a particular forte in cross-border work. It advises international clients on all aspects of Cyprus and European law and handles the largest and most demanding cross-border assignments.
Having pioneered the development of business ties between Cyprus and states of the former USSR, the firm has widened its market focus to include China, Israel, the middle east, India, Asia, USA and South America. It acts for leading companies from these regions as they enter the European market. The firm is committed to continuous investment in its human resources and its infrastructure in order to provide clients with service of the highest quality.
Areas of practice
Admiralty and shipping: Deals with the registration of vessels and aircraft under the Cyprus and other flags and all aspects of ship finance. It also advises on ship sale agreements, charterparties and other types of contract. It also handles disputes and execution of judgments against assets of shipping and aviation companies worldwide including ship arrests.
Banking and finance: Advises on the Cyprus aspects of major cross-border
finance transactions, including all types of syndicated lending, asset finance and leveraged and acquisition finance. It has strong links with commercial and investment banks, trust companies and underwriters. Clients are appreciative of our ‘assistance and responsiveness.’
Financial services and regulation: Deals with the EU and Cyprus applicable framework on (i) banking and payment services, including those under the banking recovery and resolution regime and the deposit guarantee scheme, (ii) investment services and activities under the Markets in Financial Instruments Directives (MiFID II and MiFIR) as implemented in Cyprus, including under directives and circulars issued by European Securities Markets Association (ESMA) and the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC); (iii) the EU and Cyprus framework on listed equity and debt securities under the Prospectus Regulation and respective local laws, the Public Offer and Takeover Bids laws and regulations, the Market Abuse Regulatory and regulatory requirements regarding market disclosures and transparency towards regulators as well as capital markets transactions; (iv) the structuring, authorization, supervision and transactions of collective investments, such as alternative investment funds and their managers and UCITS and (v) the regulation of insurance and reinsurance undertakings and intermediaries, under the applicable Cyprus regime.
Corporate and commercial/mergers and acquisitions: Advises on formation, corporate management and governance of companies; formation and use of trusts; mergers and acquisitions of companies in Cyprus and abroad including private and public mergers, takeovers, demergers and disposals; joint venture agreements; corporate reconstruction and reorganisation, inward and outward domiciliation of entities, capital raising transactions and offerings, private equity, stock options and purchase and sale of securities work.
It has particular expertise in investment via Cyprus to and from Central and Eastern Europe, Asia and South America.
The department also advises local, multinational and international companies on matters of licensing, procurements, e-commerce, labelling, agency and distribution, consultancy services, consumer protection, concession and operating agreements, and the department specialises in regulatory matters relating to electronic communication, information technology, pharmaceuticals and data protection (GDPR and NIS Directives).
European Union and competition law: Advises multinational enterprises investing in Cyprus on anti-trust and merger control law issues under domestic and EU competition law and also on distribution agreements and cartel investigations. Our firm has experience with the government and the Competition Authority and a deep understanding of local competition regulation. We offer our clients a tailored service. We also act as counsel to several administrative and quasi-governmental bodies, thus strengthening our relationships with the country’s key stakeholders in competition law.
Employment law: Elias Neocleous & Co LLC is skilled at advising senior employees as well as major national and multinational companies. It also advises the British High Commission on employment matters and it is the exclusive representative in Cyprus of the Employment Law Alliance Network, the largest and most prestigious network of labor and employment lawyers, with more than 3,000 attorneys in over 100 countries. The team has particular expertise in drafting employment contracts and related documentation as well as in advising on a very wide range of employment law matters, including termination of employment, employee rights and obligations, statutory benefits, employee incentive schemes, transfer of undertakings and protection of employees (TUPE), health and safety at work, collective bargaining, etc.
Energy : Our staff have more than 20 years’ experience in advising potential investors in a wide range of energy projects ranging from onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration operations to renewable energy projects. We have up-to-date knowledge and experience of the relevant national, EU and international legal and regulatory environment applying to all types of energy projects. Our specialists in public procurement have extensive experience in assisting clients in preparing and submitting tenders to the relevant government authorities and in subsequent negotiations and finalisation of contracts. Our aim is to help clients identify profitable opportunities and exploit them as effectively as possible. We have assisted several leading participants in the energy market with projects such as applications for exploration licences, public procurement procedures and the negotiation and drafting of all types of energy agreements, including public contracts with joint operation agreements and energy suppliers or drilling contractors. Our unmatched tax expertise allows us to advise clients on the most tax-effective structuring arrangements, taking account of the international nature of the industry and the various tax regimes involved. In addition, we have long experience in dealing with the regulatory bodies involved in the monitoring of compliance with the requirements of Cyprus and EU environment, energy and oil and gas legislation.
Intellectual property: Advises on the acquisition, registration and protection of all types of intellectual property. The firm specializes, inter alia, in advising international clients on the protection and exploitation of intellectual property using Cyprus-based structures in order to benefit from Cyprus’ advantageous IP taxation regime. Existing clients include clients with household brands in business sectors which include software, electronic service payments, pharmaceutical products, sports and personal care products.
Technology, privacy and cybersecurity: The Elias Neocleous & Co LLC team consists of professionals from a range of disciplines marrying strong technical and legal skills with heightened business acumen and extensive ‘hands on’ experience. Staff are qualified in Cyber security, ethical hacking, digital forensics, GDPR compliance and Cypriot, EU and international law. They approach cyber as a corporate governance risk and advise on the full spectrum of cyber issues. This includes directly helping clients understand and mitigate cyber risks, both in their ‘business as usual’ operations, and when engaging in activities which raise specific cyber concerns. They also regularly work alongside other practice departments to provide comprehensive solutions for the numerous issues that may arise during business transactions.
Litigation and dispute resolution: Elias Neocleous & Co LLC is home to the strongest litigation and dispute resolution department, in terms of size and experience, in Cyprus. In 2019 it was awarded Benchmark Litigation’s (Europe) ‘Law Firm of the Year – Cyprus’ and, additionally in the same publication, Chrysanthos Christoforou, Partner and ‘Head of Department’ was named ‘Lawyer of the Year-Cyprus’.
We are the law firm of choice for prestigious clients seeking assistance with international and domestic litigation and have been involved in many recent high-profile cases. We are also highly experienced in all forms of alternative dispute resolution. Our client base includes leading international law firms (and their clients), leading financial institutions, investment firms, national and international business corporations and private individuals.
Uniquely in Cyprus our team is divided into four specialist sectors under the guidance of partners Antonis Glykis, Anna Demetriou, Chrysanthos Christoforou and Christos Melides. This separation allows for the development of specific expertise in each sector and plays an important role in ensuring that we achieve the best possible outcomes for our clients.
Infrastructure and project finance: the firm assists clients on landmark developments, global PFI and PPP projects. Advice is specifically tailored to dovetail with the corresponding commercial, banking and finance and tax aspects.
Tax planning and advanced business structuring: Elias Neocleous & Co LLC has the largest and most experienced law firm tax department in Cyprus. We have an excellent reputation for delivering high quality ‘up to the minute’ advice and planning. Our tax and tax planning resource includes specialists with legal, accounting and financial backgrounds. This combination together with close cooperation with other teams across the firm enables us to provide our clients with robust, commercial solutions to their tax problems.
Our clients include international law firms, large domestic and international corporations, financial institutions, high-net-worth individuals and government organisations. We have a marked expertise in cross-border transactions and associated tax planning issues and have been involved in numerous projects across Europe, Asia and the Americas. We are well versed in contentious issues and corporate tax policy issues. The expertise shown in our international work is mirrored in our domestic tax work where we also have significant capacity and experience. Our clients say, ‘my sincere appreciation for your remarkable attitude, which is very rare.’
Real estate: Our real estate specialists deal with all matters relating to freehold and leasehold property, including transactions and disputes involving commercial and residential property. The department advises both individual and corporate clients. Activities included dealing with all issues related to real estate, including acquisition and sale of immovable property, legal due diligence for property acquisitions, estate planning and, particularly for HNWIs, succession issues.
Immigration: Our immigration team has a long record of successfully dealing with all matters relating to immigration law, applications for immigration permits, permanent residence permits, employment permits and visas. The department advises both individual and corporate clients. It provides an integrated service, optimising tax and other benefits in conjunction with the client’s advisers in his or her country of origin and anywhere else they may have financial interests. Areas of work include Citizenship applications,Employment permits,Permanent residence permits, Immigration permits and Visas.
Private client: Elias Neocleous & Co LLC has an established record in providing high quality services to private clients and high-net-worth individuals. Both our department and our department head, Elias Neocleous, are ranked as tier 1 performers by a host of independent rating agencies including the 2020 Chambers HNW Guide. Clients derive significant benefit from the fact that our dedicated team forms part of the largest international law firm in Cyprus. This allows the team to draw specialist expertise from several departments and offices, in Cyprus and across Europe, to provide a ‘one-stop’ service which is specifically tailored to the clients’ needs. Whatever our clients’ objectives are, be they tax minimization, estate planning, philanthropy, or any other goal, our team has the skill set and the experience to allow them to achieve it in a tax efficient and legally compliant manner.
|Managing Partner, Companies, corporate management, trustee and fiduciary services, Tax/international tax planning, private client||Elias Neocleousfirstname.lastname@example.org||+357 25110110|
|Partner, Litigation and Dispute Resolution||Christos Melidesemail@example.com||+357 25110113|
|Partner, Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Matrimonial, Family law and Mediator||Anna Demetrioufirstname.lastname@example.org||+357 25110206|
|Partner, Commercial and general litigation||Antonis Glykisemail@example.com||+357 25110169|
|Partner, Tax/international tax planning, trustee and fiduciary services||Kyriacos Xenofontosfirstname.lastname@example.org||+357 25110156|
|Partner, Commercial and general litigation, Arbitration (local and international)||Chrysanthos Christoforouemail@example.com||+357 25110136|
|Partner, Litigation and Dispute Resolution||Nicolas Tsardellisfirstname.lastname@example.org||+357 22110305|
|Partner, Admiralty and shipping, Shipping companies, ship registration, ship finance and aviation, Banking law, finance, insolvency||Costas Stamatiouemail@example.com||+357 25110141|
|Partner, Banking and Finance, Corporate and Commercial, Employment Law||Andrea Kallis Parparinoufirstname.lastname@example.org||+357 22110311|
|Partner, Real estate, immigration and residence, wills and administration of estates||Christos Vezouviosemail@example.com||+357 25110221|
|Partner, Corporate finance, capital markets, securities||Demetris Rotifirstname.lastname@example.org||+357 25110161|
|Senior Legal Counsel, Banking and Finance, Corporate and Commercial, Energy, Financial Services and Regulation||Michael Pelosiemail@example.com||+357 25 110166|
|Senior Associate, Intellectual property and trade marks||Ramona Liverafirstname.lastname@example.org||+357 22110327|
|Senior Associate, Corporate and commercial||Kyriaki Stingaemail@example.com||+357 25110206|
|Senior Associate, Litigation and Dispute Resolution||Marina Joudfirstname.lastname@example.org||+357 25110137|
|Senior Associate, Employment Law, Litigation and Dispute Resolution||George Tsardellisemail@example.com||+357 22110335|
|Senior Associate, Admiralty and Shipping||Vassilis Psyrrasfirstname.lastname@example.org||+357 25110238|
|Senior Associate, Litigation and Dispute Resolution||Christiana Pyrkotouemail@example.com||+357 25 110198|
|Senior Associate, Corporate and Commercial, European Union, Tax Law – Tax Planning and Advanced Business Structuring and Competition Law,||Elena Christodouloufirstname.lastname@example.org||+357 25 110212|
|Senior Associate, Litigation and Dispute Resolution||Louiza Petrouemail@example.com||+357 25 110197|
|Senior Associate, Corporate and Commercial||Xenia Kalogiroufirstname.lastname@example.org||+357 22 110302|
Meet The Team(s)
J.C Flowers USD 300 million acquisition of 30% stake in LMAX group
Provided Cyprus law advice and assistance to J.C Flowers, a leading private investment firm on their intended acquisition. LMAX Group, through LMAX Digital, is the 2nd largest bitcoin exchange globally. The deal completed 31 December 2021.
Sazka Group financial restructuring
Advised SAZKA Group, a leading multinational lottery operator in relation to its high-yield bond offering of €600 million (the “Offering”) in combined aggregate principal an amount of notes comprising €200 million of additional (tap) 3.875% senior secured notes due 2027 issued by SAZKA Group a.s. and €400 million in aggregate principal amount of senior secured floating rate notes due 2028 issued by Allwyn Entertainment Financing (UK) plc. The deal completed February 2022.
Energean PLC $450 Million High Yield Bond Offering
Elias Neocleous & Co LLC in collaboration with Latham & Watkins represented an international bank consortium in connection with a US$450 million offering of Rule 144A/Reg S high yield senior secured notes issuance by Energean PLC, an international independent gas-focused oil & gas company focused on the exploration, development and production of gas and oil assets in the Mediterranean and listed on the London Stock Exchange as well as the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Proceeds will be used to repay and cancel commitments under Egyptian and Greek reserve-based lending facilities, including Greek subordinated debt, and for general corporate purposes. Our role completed in November 2021.
Euro 1.57 bn cash takeover of Globalworth
Acted on behalf of Hogal Lovells LLP and CPI Property Group on its €1.57bn joint all cash takeover with Aroundtown SA of Globalworth Real Estate Investments Limited (“Globalworth”), a Guernsey incorporated company whose shares are traded on the AIM Market of the London Stock Exchange. The Offer was made via the Cyprus entity Zakiono Enterprises Ltd and the Cyprus JVCo Tevat Limited. We reviewed and advised on inter alia the structuring documents and also provided tax advice. We also provided Cyprus law input on the offering memorandum, the shareholders’ agreement, the subscription agreement and issued a Cyprus law reliance opinion in favour of the joint financial advisers.
Peoplecert Wisdom Ltd financial restructuring
Acted on behalf of LATHAM & WATKINS LLP (London) and Morgan Stanley & Co. International plc and National Bank of Greece S.A. in relation to the €300,000,000 5¾% Senior Secured Notes due 2026 issued by PeopleCert Wisdom Issuer plc a company incorporated under the laws of England and Wales as part of a complex restructuring completed August 2021.
Banking and finance in Cyprus
Cyprus’ Banking and Finance sector has been transformed in the years following the 2009-2013 economic crisis and subsequent EU bail out. The economic crisis was largely precipitated by over exposure to the Greek economy and sovereign debt and, a severely overleveraged property sector; all factors which resulted in Cyprus banks portfolios containing an unacceptably high proportion of non- performing loans (NPL) some in excess of 50%. In March 2013, the Cyprus Government, in return for EU bail out assistance signed ‘The Economic Adjustment Programme Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
A key part of the MoU process included the assessment of the needs and weaknesses of the banking system. Following this, key targets were set, and actions implemented to achieve them. This included the recapitalization and restructuring of credit institutions as well as the strengthening of the regulatory and supervisory framework of the banking and finance systems. Whilst the path to achieving these ends was often brutal the effect was to produce local banks and finance institutions which were rationalized, stable, better capitalized and most importantly invested in corporate governance.
Running alongside these changes was a recognition that there was a lack of diversity within the finance sector. For many years bank lending and tax focused corporate structuring had dominated the landscape. Following the EU bail out a conscious effort has been made to add sectors such as Investment funds, fintech, cryptoassets and crowdfunding into the mix. The investment fund sector, in particular, showed rapid growth following an overhaul of the regulatory framework. Assets under management increased from €2.7 billion in 2012 to €11.6 billion in 2022. Cyprus in 2022 is home to a unique blend of banking and finance organisations.
Covid and Ukrainian war
The Cyprus economy entered the Covid pandemic in a strong position relative to the majority of other EU members. This was also true of its revitalized banking sector which entered the crisis well capitalized and with ample liquidity. Prior to the Covid crisis the NPL rate, although still high, was reducing and despite the crisis, banks continued to sell off elements of their NPL portfolios. The pandemic did, however, impact upon the rate of momentum achieved although by the end of 2021 the NPL rate stood at 9.8% of all loans as opposed to 17.5% in 2020 and 27.9% the previous year. The Cyprus economy as a whole rebounded strongly in 2021 recording a 5.5% growth in GDP largely thanks to a recovery in consumer expenditure whilst the general government deficit narrowed to 1.8% of GDP against a target of 4.9%. One positive impact of the pandemic has been the acceleration of digital strategies across the country due to widescale lock downs imposed on most of the population. This has been accompanied by a significant shift to the use of online, card and crypto transactions and away from cash. Overall, the Banking and Finance sector has exhibited resilience and flexibility throughout the crisis.
The principal impact of the Russia – Ukraine war is likely to fall on Cyprus’ tourist sector. Russian tourists generally account for 20% of all tourists and the Cyprus government is now seeking to compensate for this by targeting other markets. There are also significant financial linkages with Russia in terms of Special Purpose Entities which have limited impact on the domestic economy although they will affect demand for legal and financial professional services. The exposure of Cyprus banks to Russia is negligible. However, the geopolitical tensions and uncertainty related to the war have been the catalyst for a significant change in the Cyprus banking sector relating to RCB Bank Ltd. Prior to the start of the war RCB Bank Ltd had, with Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank, been one of the three key domestic banks and subject to oversight by the European Central Bank (ECB).
On March 24, 2022, RCB Bank Ltd (RCB) announced that it had taken a decision to transform itself into a regulated asset management company. In agreement with the ECB Banking Supervision, it ceased entering into new business with clients with respect to both deposits and/or loans from that date. This followed an earlier announcement that it had entered into an agreement with Hellenic Bank Public Company Ltd for the sale of a performing loan portfolio of up to c. €556 million, related funds on the accounts of the corresponding borrowers and related off-balance sheet obligations. Much of RCB’s business had depended on the Russian market and there were significant outflows of cash from the bank in anticipation of sanctions, at the start of the war. The escalation of the war and broadening of sanctions increased the uncertainty about its future. The closure was decided on by the European Central Bank’s (ECB) Single Supervisory Mechanism. It was managed smoothly by the authorities and with full co-operation from RCB Bank Ltd, preventing shocks to the Cyprus banking sector and ensuring RCB’s depositors would not lose any money. The move further consolidates the Cyprus Banking market.
Regulation and Supervision
Cyprus is keen to prove itself to be a business-friendly destination which is fully compliant with EU and international laws and standards. Compliance frameworks are installed across the banking and finance sector and competent authorities, in the form of the European Central Bank, the Central Bank of Cyprus and the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, ensure their smooth operation.
Cyprus has been a member of the EU Single Supervisory Mechanism since late 2014. It has enacted all necessary legislation to harmonize banking and finance domestic law with applicable EU directives and regulations. This includes the 5th Anti Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD).
Ultimate responsibility for the authorization and supervision of significant EU credit institutions to be incorporated in Cyprus rests with the European Central Bank (ECB). However, the Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC) is designated as the national ‘Competent Authority’ and therefore all applications are submitted via the CBC. The CBC vets all applications based on their compliance with the criteria contained in the ‘Business of Credit Institutions Laws of 1997 (as amended). Following this it makes recommendations to the ECB. The CBC has sole responsibility for the regulation and supervision of credit and other financial institutions established or registered in Cyprus, for branches or representative offices abroad of those institutions and, of branches in Cyprus of credit and financial institutions established abroad carrying on banking activities and investment and ancillary services and activities. The supervision of branches of credit institutions from third countries which are active in Cyprus remains the exclusive competence of the CBC. Under Cyprus’ AML legislation the CBC is also the supervisory body for banks and persons licensed to provide money transmission services. Moneyval reports have commended the CBC for its AML procedures and supervision.
The CBC exercises the Supervisory Review and Evaluation Process in respect of all Cyprus incorporated credit institutions licensed by the CBC which are subject to capital requirements. It has authority to enter and inspect. If the CBC ascertains in its examination and supervision of a credit institution that it is not in compliance with the laws, directives and regulations of the CBC, it has powers to impose significant administrative fines and may amend, vary or revoke any license of a credit institution. The infringement by a credit institution of any of the laws and regulations of the CBC may constitute an offence punishable by imprisonment not exceeding five years or a fine of up to 1,000,000 euros.
The CBC maintains a public register of all credit institutions licensed to operate in Cyprus.
The Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) is responsible for the supervision of operations and ensuring the compliance with all relevant legislation, including the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD)of the following entities:
- Cyprus Investment Firms (CIFs)
- Cyprus branches of Investment Firms (IFs) of other EU member-states
- Tied Agents of CIFs
- Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS)
- UCITS Management Companies
- UCITS Agents
- Cyprus branches of UCITS Management Companies of other EU member-states
- Administrative Services Companies – Trustee and Fiduciary Service Providers
- Variable Capital Investment Companies
- Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs)
- Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFMs)
- Regulated Markets
- Central Securities Depositories (CSDs)
- Central Counterparty Clearing House (CCPs) of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives
- Trade depositories of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives
In the context of the implementation of pan-EU requirements, including crypto-asset service providers (CASPs) under the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD), Cyprus recently updated its definition of obliged entities under the Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Law 2007 (AML/CFT Law), as amended, to bring crypto asset service providers (CASPs) into its scope. Moreover, Cyprus authorities have also decided that Cyprus CASPs should become approved and registered with the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC).
In January 2020, CySEC published the “Directive DI87 – 10 on the provisions of crowdfunding services in respect of transferable securities” (“Crowdfunding Directive”). CySEC’s Crowdfunding Directive relates solely to investment-based crowdfunding through transferable securities and excludes loan-based, reward-based and donation-based crowdfunding. The Crowdfunding Directive comprises a set of secondary rules for investment-based crowdfunding under the Law. It is complementary to MiFID II’s obligations. The Crowdfunding Directive also imposes additional provisions aimed at ensuring investor protection on Cyprus Investment Firms (‘CIFs’) acting as Crowdfunding Service providers. The EU Regulation 2020/1503 expands on CySEC’s Directive and will be fully implemented by November 2022.
Banking and finance activities
Banking and finance activity in Cyprus extends significantly beyond purely domestic regulatory and transactional issues. Located in the Eastern Mediterranean at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa and, with strong historical ties to the UK, Cyprus is very well-placed as an international business and financial centre. Since joining the EU, it has established itself as the natural portal for inward and outward investment between the EU and the rest of the world, particularly the rapidly growing economies of Central and Eastern Europe, India and China. Its excellent business infrastructure, with a benign tax regime and an extensive network of double-taxation treaties, make it an ideal base for non-EU companies seeking to enter the EU market, and for EU and third-country companies seeking to broaden their horizons, especially with regard to expansion into Central and Eastern Europe.
In view of the above banking and finance transactions frequently involve complex consortia of companies obtaining finance not only from local banks but through major EU, American and Middle Eastern Banks. Transactions are frequently syndicated and are generally led by major UK and EU law firms. Cyprus law firms tend to be involved with these deals as local counsel advising on the Cyprus aspects of the transaction and cross-border regulatory issues. Of particular concern in most cases is the need to ensure the perfection of Cyprus security for these transactions and the registration of charges. It is common to take security in the form of a pledge over the shares of the Cyprus company as, in general this is easy and cost effective to enforce. A pledge over a Cyprus company’s shares allows out of court enforcement, without the need to apply for a court order. However, if the Cyprus company does hold assets of value in Cyprus then other forms of security including fixed and floating charges may also be put into place. Typical services required from local law firms will include:
- Preparation of loan documentation for single-lender and syndicated loans.
- Preparation of security documentation including charges over assets and undertakings of companies, debentures, pledges of share certificates and security assignments of rights.
- Restructuring of existing loans and collateral.
- Refinancing of existing debts.
- Project finance and asset finance.
- Financing of international trade, including letters of credit, negotiable instruments and related matters.
- Construction and project financing; finance leasing.
- Preparation of indemnities and guarantees.
- Preparation of documentation for aviation finance and leasing.
- Compliance with perfection requirements and registration of charges.
- Legal opinions and legal due diligence on proposed transactions.
New entrants to Cyprus, and in particular those from non-EU member states, will also often require advice and support to achieve compliance with the legislation applicable to banks and other financial institutions, including:
- The Cyprus Banking Law, the Payment Services Law, the E-money Institutions Law, the Transfer of Banking Loans Law and the Financial Leasing Law.
- The directives, regulations and guidelines issued by the Central Bank of Cyprus.
- The EU legislative framework on regulatory capital.
- The Banking Recovery and Resolution Directive, as implemented in Cyprus.
Cyprus’ economy has, to date, proved remarkably resilient. Despite the huge negative impact on foreign tourism arising as a result of the Covid pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war key credit agencies such as Fitch, Moody’s and S&P have not downgraded their long-term outlook for the country (BBB-) and state they regard it as stable. This is due to institutional strength, above average GDP per head when compared with others in the BBB grouping, and government policy credibility backed by eurozone membership. A continued improvement in the NPL position would see the rating improve. The pandemic has also boosted the digitalisation of the economy significantly with corresponding impacts on the potential of fintech.
At the end of 2021 the government announced a new investment strategy focusing on high value added and sustainable businesses. In particular it singled out the shipping, pharmaceuticals, biogenics, and high technology sectors along with innovative businesses. Legislative changes and incentives are already in hand to help to boost the sector with associated opportunities for banking and finance professionals. The government has also brought forward several significant infrastructure projects to stimulate economic growth such as the Larnaca Port and Marina redevelopment. The government is also committed to the EU Green deal and Blue deal and hence investment funds and banks are starting to include ESG factors with some funds and loan portfolios actively targeting or exclusively dedicated to sustainable projects or businesses facilitating sustainability such as solar panel manufacturers.
Other investment opportunities also exist such as distressed loan portfolios, mergers and acquisitions, venture capital funds and projects, high end tourism development and oil and gas projects.
Despite the adversaries encountered in recent times prospects for growth of the banking and finance sector remain – particularly if traditional funders and fintech providers engage in cooperative efforts.
Corporate and Commercial in Cyprus
The economic landscape of Cyprus has undergone a remarkable transition since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. The British left behind an island lacking in natural resources and dominated by agriculture and package tourism. The Cyprus of 2022 is a member of the European Union (since 2004) and Eurozone (since 2008), a modern and fully transparent international centre for business and finance, and home to one of the largest merchant shipping fleets in the world.
This development has not been accidental. Successive governments have strived to diversify and grow the country’s economy by being innovative and generating plans focusing on the attributes that Cyprus does have, namely:
- A geographic location which is at the intersection of three continents;
- A young, well-educated population with many people fluent in English as well as Greek;
- A legal system based on common law, and since the late 1970s,
- A stable political system.
Recognising these strengths, Cyprus governments, irrespective of party politics, have for many decades sought to promote and enhance them in order to encourage foreign direct investment into the country. This has resulted in the crafting over time, of a business, taxation and regulatory environment that, whilst being fully compliant with EU, OECD and international regulations and laws, is welcoming rather than forbidding. Running in tandem with this has been the parallel growth of a professional service sector which now contributes approximately 9 % of annual Gross Value Added.
Building a modern economy
The first stage in this process was to try to diversify the economy by taking advantage of its geographical location and promoting Cyprus as a shipping and trading centre. Thereafter there are three key events that have been instrumental in building the modern Cyprus economy.
- The dissolution of the USSR in the late 1990s. Citizens of Cyprus and the USSR shared many cultural ties including religion. This resulted in Cyprus becoming a natural conduit for investment funds from the developed west flooding into the former USSR and Eastern Europe. Similarly, money from the former communist states also flowed into Cyprus. This significantly expanded the demand for professional law and accounting firms and the range of services that they were expected to provide.
- Becoming a member state of the European Union (EU) in 2004 and of the Eurozone in 2008. In preparation for joining the EU Cyprus was required to make significant structural and economic reforms which helped to modernize the economy and shifted its image from one of being a ‘tax haven’ to one of a legitimate low tax economy compliant with EU laws. Fiscal and regulatory regimes are now fully aligned with EU norms. The result of this has been that Cyprus has become a portal for cross-border investment from eastern European, Middle-Eastern, Asian and African nations all seeking a gateway into the EU and vice versa. This high level of cross-border activity necessitated a corresponding boom in professional services dealing with start-ups, holding company, investment, contract, and merger and acquisition activity.
- Economic bail out by the EU in 2013. The economic crisis of 2009-13 exposed the weakness of many financial institutions which were vastly overexposed to the Greek market and the property sector. Assistance from the EU was conditional on Cyprus instituting significant regulatory and structural reform. This included rationalization of the banking sector via insolvency, merger and acquisition and, a privatization requirement for many key industry sectors including telecommunication and marine ports. Privatization was a new concept for Cyprus and opened new avenues of work for the corporate and commercial professionals in structuring bid vehicles and, the bids themselves.
Moving in tandem with all of the above, and a key factor in Cyprus’ growth as an international business centre has been the conscious growth of a simple, modern, transparent tax system. Cyprus has supplemented its natural advantages by developing itself as a low tax jurisdiction offering predictability in planning for domestic and foreign firms and individuals, utilising a comfort blanket of more than 60 double taxation treaties.
In the years following the ‘bail-out’ Cyprus worked hard to restore its reputation as a country with an advanced and stable economy. The banking and financial sector underwent radical structural reform emerging better capitalized and more harmonized in its regulation. The economy itself proved to be remarkably resilient with GDP growth bouncing back to outperform both the targets set for it and the EU averages. The strength of this recovery can be gauged by the fact that Cyprus actually exited the ‘bail out’ in 2016 having accessed only €7.5bn of the €10bn facility allocated to it.
Prior to the onset of the Covid pandemic there was a noticeable upsurge in mergers, acquisitions and joint venture activity. Some of this is directly attributable to conditions imposed by the EU in return for support finance but the majority was an indirect product of the various reforms and legislative amendments introduced in recent years creating a coherent statutory framework which embraces EU and international standards. The intervention of the EU in the banking sector significantly increased the level of domestic M & A activity. However, the market for domestic transactions involving a Cyprus entity remained much larger in both value and volume. In most deals the role of Cypriot law firm is to advise on the Cyprus law aspects of the deal as part of a consortia of firms operating under the direction of a main advisor to the client. In 2019 most deal activity took place in the banking, energy, technology and tourism sectors and the provision of professional services was estimated to have contributed 8.2% to Cyprus’ Gross Value Added. During the period 2010-2019 foreign direct investment averaged €24 billion per annum.
As the country’s financial, institutional and regulatory structures have matured, so too has the investment policy of Cyprus governments. Having sought to quickly attract investment into the country following the economic crisis the government efforts initially focused on offering incentives for investment, including a fast track to citizenship. However, alongside this a longer term and sustainable vision for the economy was evolving which focused on exploiting offshore gas, investment in tourism, and a focus on financial services, all of which sat well with the country’s key assets of convenient geographical location, a young, educated population and stable legal and political systems.
Alongside traditional M & A activity, in recent years the corporate and commercial sector has benefitted from the Cyprus government strategy of promoting the financial and professional services sector by positioning Cyprus as an ideal location for regional and international headquarters. It has also tried to promote the island as a high tech and innovation hub. These efforts have resulted in the introduction over time of several incentives including an IP Box regime, favourable tax rates and allowances at individual and corporate level, various investment reliefs and a ‘fast track’ business mechanism for companies of foreign interest. These have met with a degree of success with a number of well-known international corporations choosing to headquarter in Cyprus. Additionally in 2021 the EU recognised Cyprus as one of the five most innovating countries within the block. The country also ranks first in terms of funding per capita awarded from Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme and has become the home of the annual REFLECT Festival which is the largest ‘future casting’ conference in the region.
In October 2021 the government, in announcing its new investment strategy, publicly recognised that it sees the future growth of the economy as dependent on sustainable high skilled and high value businesses. The plan focuses on the introduction of new incentives targeted at the areas of high-technology, innovation, pharmaceuticals, shipping and foreign interest owned companies. Many of these incentives were put in place at the start of 2022, the remainder are expected to follow in short order. The ‘incentives’ comply with EU best practice and centre around:
- The IP Box scheme is further enhanced, and significant tax-free allowances are made available for high earning individuals.
- Amendments are made to better facilitate the entry of wealthy and high earning third country nationals and their families and support staff.
- A business facilitation unit has been established. The unit will be responsible for the various services necessary to establish a business in Cyprus.
The Covid 19 pandemic clearly impacted the M & A and general corporate and commercial marketplace in Cyprus as it did everywhere else in the world. However, the Cyprus economy as a whole rebounded strongly in 2021 recording a 5.5% growth in GDP largely thanks to a recovery in consumer expenditure whilst the general government deficit narrowed to 1.8% of GDP against a target of 4.9%. It also appeared that some deals had merely been deferred rather than completely dropped. Significant activity was observed in the luxury hotel and tourism sector, the renewable energy sector and the fintech sector.
Notable publicised activity in 2021 included
- Mediterranean Hospitality Venture Limited (MHV) acquired 100% of Park Lane Hotels Limited.
- CPI Property Group SA and Aroundtown SA utilized a Cyprus entity to make a public bid for all of the share capital of Globalworth Real Estate Limited (a Guernsey incorporated real estate company listed on AIM).
- Mintra Holding AS completed a cross-border acquisition of German based maritime digital learning and crew competence management specialists Safebridge GmbH and its Cyprus subsidiary Safebridge Limited.
- Greenmont AIFLNP completed a €15,600,000 acquisition of Watium Emelia SL.
- Brightbridge Real Estate Limited made a R1.75 billion offer to acquire certain assets of RMB Holdings.
The impact of the war in Ukraine on the Cyprus economy and levels of deal activity is as yet uncertain. The principal impact is likely to fall on Cyprus’ tourist sector. Russian tourists generally account for 20% of all tourists and the Cyprus government is now seeking to compensate for this by targeting other markets. There are also significant financial linkages with Russia in terms of Special Purpose Entities which have limited impact on the domestic economy although they will affect demand for legal and financial professional services. The exposure of Cyprus banks to Russia is negligible. However, the geopolitical tensions and uncertainty related to the war have been the catalyst for a significant change in the Cyprus banking sector. One of the three main domestic banks RCB Bank Limited announced it is to transform itself into a regulated asset management company and withdraw from banking activities. It has entered into an agreement with Hellenic Bank Public Company Ltd for the sale of a performing loan portfolio of up to c. €556 million, related funds on the accounts of the corresponding borrowers and related off-balance sheet obligations and is conducting a controlled wind down of its customer accounts.
Despite the above key rating agencies Fitch, Moody and S&P have not downgraded their long-term ratings for Cyprus citing institutional strength, credible government policy, and Eurozone membership as stabilizing factors.
It would be extremely optimistic to assume that a second successive year of ‘lost’ tourism will not impact the economy. Across the lower end of the tourist offering, in particular, there is likely to be an upturn in the number of insolvency related merger and acquisitions, and financial restructuring transactions.
On a more positive note, the government appears strongly committed to its new investment strategy and numerous possibilities exist for deal activity in the targeted sectors. In addition to incentives mentioned earlier it has also embarked on several significant supportive actions. These include a comprehensive broadband strategy and digitalisation plan to enable a massive increase in digital connectivity by 2025, an update of the Companies Regulatory framework, the creation of an online platform for innovative, and hi-tech companies, the completion of judicial reform, and a bill for the facilitation of strategic investments. In addition to this, widespread lockdowns during the pandemic have led to a widespread adoption of online and cashless transactions. Those businesses which have fared best during the pandemic, have tended to be those already immersed in digital transformation or those which were able to quickly transform their operations to take advantage of digitalisation. Both are indications that significant opportunities for activity may exist in the Fintech sector which exhibited strong growth in 2020 and 2021. Crytocurrency and RegTech clusters have also shown strong progress.
The acceleration and promotion of large-scale construction projects such as the recently commenced redevelopment of Larnaca Port and Marina is also likely to be linked to an increase in establishment of joint venture vehicles. The government’s desire to promote Cyprus as a regional energy hub has had a similar impact. Total, Shell, ExxonMobil have already set up Joint Venture operations to explore local prospects.
Numerous opportunities for business ventures also exist in relation to the introduction of the EU Green Deal and the attainment of its sustainability objectives. Under the plan, greenhouse gas emissions are set to be reduced with key policies including promotion of natural gas and renewable energy sources, increase in carbon sink, improvements of energy efficiency in buildings, industry and infrastructure, and reduction of emissions in the transport, agricultural and waste sector. Some major international renewable energy companies are already active and seeking acquisitions on the island. There is also likely to be a growth in managed funds specifically targeting sustainability and renewable energy related projects and businesses.
The shipping sector is performing well, and its favourable tax tonnage scheme has been extended until at least 2029. Further Cyprus has committed to the ‘greening’ of the industry, and this too is pushing boundaries in developing new technologies within the ambit of the EU Green deal and sustainability initiatives.
All of these initiatives and developments are filled with potential for market growth and activity, and therefore even in these challenging times, the outlook for legal and other services to support M & A transaction opportunities in Cyprus is promising.
Taxation for a sustainable future
2022 opened with the government of Cyprus announcing that it was to proceed with the first major tax reform of the Cyprus system in 20 years. This followed on from several speeches made by the former Finance Minister, Constantinos Petrides, during the latter part of 2021 and against the background of the proposed global introduction of a minimum corporate tax rate of 15 % . Petrides suggested that the objectives of reform in Cyprus, besides simplification, greater equality and transparency, was the development of a sustainable economy and linked to that a sustainable environment. This dovetailed with the announcement of a new government action plan intended to attract ‘sustainable industries’ and specifically those in the areas of high-technology, innovation, pharmaceuticals and shipping. Foreign interest owned companies were also to be targetted. Tax incentives formed an important part of the plan and were also viewed as a means of offsetting any possible negative impacts of a rise in corporate tax rates from 12.5 to 15% which would mainly affect multinational entities. The majority of these were tax incentives which, along with upgrades to immigration law and the opening of a Business Facillitation Unit, were introduced during 2022.
Defining a sustainable economy
The Cyprus government has an established record of seeking to encourage foreign direct investment into the country in order to diversify its economy. The tax system has played an important role in these efforts and consequently the Cyprus tax regime has evolved into being one of the most attractive in Europe for individuals, investors and businesses. It currently offers one of the lowest corporate tax rates (12.5%) and the country can boast of a network of more than 60 double taxation agreements. In certain instances in the past, the country has promoted tax incentives and other schemes which, whilst they performed a ’quick fix’ of the economy by bringing in foreign funds, did little to to build a solid base from which stable and sustainable economic growth could be achieved. However, in the past two decades a general concensus has emerged that the future of the island lies in the construction of an internationally tax compliant, diversified, highly skilled, high-technology and high value economy. Success in achieving this would equate to building a sustainable economy offering good living standards for citizens. The progress to date is outlined below.
Cyprus recognises that if it wishes to attract high quality professionals, investors and businesses to its shores it must establish itself as an internationally tax compliant and fully transparent jurisdiction.
A member of the EU since 2004, Cyprus bases its tax policy on offering an internationally competitive tax environment that is fully compliant with international best practice and the highest standards of transparency and fairness. Cyprus tax legislation is fully compliant with the EU Acquis Communautaire and EU Directives, and with the code of Conduct for Business Taxation and against harmful tax competition. Cyprus has always been an early complier with OECD and other international initiatives and features on the OECD ‘White List’ of tax jurisdictions.The EU Anti-Tax Avoidance Directives ATAD I and ATAD II entered into force in June 2020 and were applied retroactively as from 1 January 2020 (except for the reverse hybrids provisions which came into effect from 1 January 2022). The proposed ATAD 3 ‘Unshell’ Directive will, once adopted by the European Council also be implemented in line with the timetable laid down for Member States.
Cyprus was also one of the initial 68 signatories to the Multilateral Convention on Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (‘BEPS’). New and updated double tax agreements are aligned with the latest OECD standards and, on 21 February 2021, in line with the 4th and 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directives, the process of collecting beneficial ownership information for the different UBO registers began. These registers are now operational although public access was put on hold following a judgment deliverd by the European Court of Justice last November 2022 ruling accessibility of the UBO registers to any member of the general public as invalid.
In 1960 the economy of a newly independent Cyprus was highly vulnerable and dependent on agriculture and package holiday tourism. Successive governments have strived to diversify and grow the country’s economy by being innovative and generating plans focusing on the attributes that Cyprus does have, namely: A geographic location which is at the intersection of three continents; A young, well-educated population with many people fluent in English as well as Greek; A legal system based on common law, and, a stable tax and political system.
The first stage in this process was the promotion of Cyprus as a shipping and trading centre. Following this, the dissolution of the USSR in the late 1990s resulted in Cyprus becoming a portal for investment funds flowing into and our of the former USSR and Eastern Europe. Becoming a member state of the European Union (EU) in 2004 and of the Eurozone in 2008 highlighted Cyprus as a law abiding low tax economy compliant with EU laws. This led to Cyprus expanding as a portal for cross-border investment from eastern European, Middle-Eastern, Asian and African nations all seeking a gateway into the EU and vice versa promoting a corresponding boom in professional services. Finally, the economic crisis of 2009-13 exposed the weakness of many financial institutions which were vastly overexposed to the Greek market and the property sector. Assistance from the EU was conditional on Cyprus instituting significant regulatory and structural reform. This included rationalization of the banking sector via insolvency, merger and acquisition and, a privatization requirement for many key industry sectors including telecommunication and marine ports. Privatization was a new concept for Cyprus and spawned new avenues of work and new businesses through new allies.
Within the past decade foreign direct investment policy has matured and the Cyprus government has successfully sought to target more specific types of business and investments for entry into the country. This has resulted in tax policies that favour high quality, businesses and business sectors such as multi-nationals, shipping, pharmaceutical, fintech, gaming and digital marketing corporations.
Cyprus provides an ideal environment for group holding and finance companies, offering tax neutral flow of dividends from Cyprus to non-tax resident individuals andentities that are not within the list of EU non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes while there is a full participation exemption and no tax on capital gains apart from gains derived from the direct and indirect sale of real estate in Cyprus. The network of double taxation agreements provides excellent safeguards vis-à-vis double, or no taxation and unilateral relief is available for taxes paid overseas if no double taxation agreement applies. The EC Merger Directive has been fully adopted and therefore mergers and approved restructurings can be carried out with full exemption from any form of taxation in Cyprus.
Tax incentives for tax compliant, diverse, high quality businesses.
For several years Cyprus has been introducing tax incentives designed to attract high quality, innovative and niche businesses and professionals to its shores. Incentives and amendments introduced as part of the new foreign investment strategy build from these. The key incentives currently in place are summarised below.
A. IP Box Regime – the Cyprus IP Box regime supplements a robust IP legal protection framework by offering tax benefits relating to expenditure arising from research and development (R&D) of a Cyprus company including where that R&D is outsourced to another Cyprus company. It has been approved as being fully compliant with EU standards. Its principal highlights are:
- 80% of the qualifying profit earned from the use of qualifying intangible assets may be deducted from overall taxable profits. Applying the current Cyprus corporate tax rate of 12.5% to the remaining 20% produces an effective tax rate of just 2.5%.
- As of 1 January 2020, taxpayers disposing of their IP assets have no obligation to prepare a balancing statement. Therefore a (capital nature) disposal of an IP asset, should not trigger any Cyprus tax implications.
- All intangible assets (excluding goodwill), irrespective of whether they are qualifying assets or not, are eligible for tax amortisation (capital allowances) over their useful economic life subject to a maximum limit of 20 years. The taxpayer also has the option not to claim capital allowances in a given year. Where this is the case, capital allowances that have not been claimed in a year are claimed over the remaining useful life of the asset.
B. Personal Tax incentives. These focus on two main objectives. Firstly they are designed, along with lifestyle factors and various government measures, to attract the necessary high earning and highly skilled executives and personnel to exercise employment in Cyprus. Secondly they seek to encourage investment in sustainable industries and innovation. The salient incentives are:
- From 1 January 2022 a 50% deduction from taxable income of remuneration for first employment exercised in Cyprus. This applies to those individuals with an annualised employment remuneration exceeding EUR55,000 who were not residents of Cyprus for a period of 10 consecutive tax years immediately prior to the year of commencement of the employment in Cyprus. This is a once in a lifetime exemption which lasts for a period of 17 years.
- From 26 July 2022 a 20% deduction from remuneration for first employment exercised in Cyprus to an annual maximum of EUR 8550. This applies to individuals who immediately prior to the commencement of their employment in Cyprus were not a resident of Cyprus for a period of at least 3 consecutive tax years and were employed outside of Cyprus by a nonresident employer. The exemption applies for a period of 7 years, starting from the tax year following the tax year of commencement of employment. Individuals who have been granted the above 50% exemption are not eligible for this exemption.
(Individuals that were eligible to claim the 20% or 50% exemptions that applied prior to 1 January 2022 may continue to claim the said exemption for any remaining period if they are not eligible to claim the exemption for employments commencing as from 1 January 2022. The 20% and 50% exemptions that applied previously were available for a total period of 5 or 10 years respectively for each individual).
- Subject to conditions all expenditure of revenue nature for scientific research and for R&D, is treated as an allowable deduction from taxable income. For expenditure incurred in years 2022, 2023 and 2024, the deduction is set at 120% of the total qualifying expenditure.
- Subject to conditions any amortisation of expenditure of capital nature for scientific research and for R&D, is allowed in full allocated over the lifetime of the asset (maximum 20 years). For expenditure incurred in years 2022, 2023 and 2024, an additional 20% uplift is permitted.
- From 1 January 2017 and applicable up to 31 December 2023 a deduction from taxable income is available for the amount invested each tax year in approved innovative small and medium sized enterprises (either directly or indirectly and subject to conditions). The benefit is restricted to 50% of the taxable income as calculated prior to the deduction (subject to a maximum of €150.000 per year)
C. Corporate Tax. These focus on promoting Cyprus as a tax friendly but fully transparent tax jurisdiction with specific advantages for those engaged in R&D and innovative products. Since the economic crash they have also sought to encourage companies to build a strong capital base with strong economic substance foundations. It should be noted that from 31 December 2022 any company incorporated in Cyprus will be regarded as ‘tax resident’ in Cyprus unless it can demonstrate that it is tax resident in another jurisdiction. Companies which are managed and controlled in Cyprus are automatically tax resident in Cyprus.
- Cyprus currently applies a 12.5% flat rate of corporation tax which is one of the lowest in the EU. This is likely to rise to 15% in the future but combined with other measures planned the net effect of this rise on the corporate tax burden is expected to be neutral. The increase to 15% is expected to have an impact on multinationals exceeding a year turnover of EUR750 mio.
- From 1 January 2015 (subject to anti-avoidance provisions) new equity introduced into a company in the form of paid-up share capital or share premium may be eligible for an annual notional interest deduction (NID). The annual NID deduction is calculated as the new equity multiplied by the NID interest rate. The relevant interest rate is the yield on 10 year government bonds (as at December 31 of the prior tax year) of the country where the funds are employed in the business of the company plus a 5% premium. The NID deduction cannot exceed 80% of the taxable profit derived from the assets financed by the new equity.
- Benefits derived from IP Box regime.
- Applicable up to 31 December 2023, and subject to conditions, a deduction from taxable income of 50% of the amount invested, either directly or indirectly, each tax year (maximum EUR 150,000 per year) as from 14 February 2022 in approved innovative small and medium sized enterprises.
D. Business Sector Specific.
- Cyprus has for many years successfully strived to be recognised as a major shipping centre. A key factor in this success has been the existence of a tonnage system of taxation. The application of the tonnage tax system is compulsory for owners of Cyprus flag ships and optional for owners of non Cyprus flag ships, charterers and shipmanagers. Those who choose to enter the Tonnage Tax regime must remain in the system for at least 10 years unless they have a valid reason to exit such as disposal of their vessels and cessation their of activities. In essence the system offers full exemption to ship owners, charterers and ship managers from all profit taxes and instead imposes tonnage tax on the net tonnage of the vessels. A major boost was provided to the sector when the EU gave its approval, valid until 31 December 2029, to an updated scheme.
- Audio visual. For small companies and individuals a 20% deduction from taxable profits for eligible infrastructure and technological equipment expenditure in the audiovisual industry(10% for medium companies).
The past decade has seen Cyprus growing a solid reputation as a both a technology and headquartering hub. International giants such as Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, and IBM have had their headquarters in Cyprus for many years, supporting the technological development of the country. Other international names such as NCR, Kardex, Wargaming, 3CX, TSYS, Amdocs, Exness, Bolt, Melsoft Games, Kyndryl, and Nexters have also migrated to the island. Cyprus is now viewed as a ‘crypto friendly’ market offering a regulated environment for investors seeking to securely and efficiently trade cryptocurrencies through exchanges overseen by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission. The anticipated implementation of DAC7 will bolster this perception. The shipping sector has also scored some notable ‘wins’ including international cruise specialist Royal Carribean.
More remains to be done, however, to complete the comprehensive overhaul promised by the Ministry of Finance. These delays largely relate to the introduction of ‘green’ taxes targetting fossil fuels and carbon emissions. Plans to introduce such taxes have been understandably derailed by events in Ukraine which have caused significant cost of living rises for all citizens. The Ministry has suggested that introduction of the taxes is delayed in the national interest rather than dropped. It should also be noted that other government schemes and tax incentives have resulted in strong growth in the renewable energy sector.
Moving forward the Tax Authority is working towards further simplification of administration of the tax system by introducing a single tax platform for all users to replace the current Taxisnet and Tax Portal sites. Phase 1 of this project, which concerns VAT registered companies and individuals, has already gone live.
The response to the governments new foreign investment strategy from the targeted sectors has been positive to date. Despite the difficulties created by the Covid 19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine the long term signs for the Cyprus economy and its tax system appear to be promising.
Building a justice system fit for the future!
Since gaining independence from the UK in 1960 Cyprus has transformed itself into a successful, modern international business centre. A Member State of the European Union (‘EU’) since 2004, it provides a gateway for investment into and from Europe and, due to its geographic location, it enjoys strong commercial ties with Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. A consequence of this is that commercial disputes frequently involve international parties at corporate and individual level. Additionally, where main court or arbitration proceedings take place in another EU Member State or in a third country with which Cyprus has a bi-lateral agreement, it is common where a link exists, for the parties to look for provisional measures in Cyprus in support of the foreign court proceedings. The commercial disputes arising are varied and may be linked to issues such as negligence, fraud, contractual disputes, corporate disputes etc. The dominant means of settling large commercial disputes in Cyprus is via litigation. There is often negotiation before and during court proceedings but no legal obligation on or expectation that the parties will engage in such discussions unless they have specifically agreed to do so. Alternative dispute resolution methods (“ADR”) are a relatively new concept, other than in the construction and co-operative institutions sectors, but they do exist.
Cyprus is primarily a common law jurisdiction with a justice system which is based on the adversarial model. This is a legacy from its period as a British colony. Much of Cypriot legislation is based on the UK laws in force at the time Cyprus ceased to be a colony. It is updated and amended regularly to ensure alignment with all relevant EU Guidelines and Directives. Where there is no applicable Cypriot legislation, English common law and equity are applicable, and English authorities have persuasive force. The courts are bound by the doctrine of precedent according to which where the common law has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of Cyprus in a particular way, the subordinate courts will be bound by that interpretation. This offers the parties to a commercial action the advantages of consistency, predictability and efficiency.
Despite the apparent attractiveness of the Cypriot legal system to national and international business it has, since the 2003 financial crash, been heavily criticized as an obstacle to the commercial growth of the island. It should be stressed that this criticism does not stem from a real or perceived lack of integrity or independence on the part of the judges. Rather, it is directed at the enormous backlog of cases pending before the courts and the average time it takes to get a final judicial decision in any given case. Whilst the courts are generally efficient in determining applications for interim relief, final adjudication in a case can commonly take between three and six years to obtain. A functional review of the justice system in 2017/18 supported by the EU Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) found that the length of court proceedings was among the longest in the EU, and the level of backlogs in litigious civil and commercial cases among the highest. Such delays run contrary to the democratic nature of the EU which, along with the Cypriot government, citizens, and businesses adopts the view that ‘justice delayed’ is ‘justice denied’. Working with the EU and its representative bodies Cyprus determined that problems in the justice system were primarily caused by:
- A large increase in cases and appeals being brought before the courts as a consequence of events linked to the financial crash.
- A lack of support resource within the system. The use of legal officers to support judges in the research and drafting of judgements was very limited.
- An increase in the complexities of the cases brought before the courts.
- An unrestricted right of appeal.
- Reliance on a paper based system with very minimal use of ICT for internal or external communication resulting in significant inefficiencies and, inter alia, a management information deficit.
The reaction of the Cyprus government to the findings of the SSRS was twofold. Firstly It determined that there was an urgent need to begin addressing the backlog of existing cases. Secondly, it realised that the entire justice system was in need of radical reform.
To help facilitate a reduction in the backlog the first step taken was a decision to increase the overall capacity of the justice system by increasing the number of judges. The House of Representatives passed a 2019 budget which included the creation of 32 new judges. Following on from this a pilot project was introduced in the Paphos District Court. The project involved the assignment of seven experienced judges to a ‘task force’ dedicated to reducing the case backlog. The theory was that the experience level of the judges would allow them to assess the cases with relative speed. The pilot was deemed to be beneficial and was expanded in September 2021 to cover all districts.
In addition, an amendment was made to Civil Procedure Rules which established a ‘small track’ procedure. This allowed for the introduction of a simplified process for claims under €3,000. This increased the case management options available to judges by allowing them to give summary judgments on the lower value cases and thereby accelerating the speed with which they could be dealt with.
Reform of Justice System
It was clear from a series of EU backed reviews that a wholesale redesign of the system was required. This required detailed planning and necessitated the involvement and ‘buy in’ of all stakeholders in the system. Consequently, and with the support of the European Commission for Democracy through Law, a period of comprehensive consultation and review took place with the cooperation of all stakeholders. The result of this exercise was the production, in 2021 of a coherent plan (the Plan) to reform the Cypriot justice system with the object of building a modern, accessible and efficient system.
The key pillars of the plan are:
- New Civil Procedures Rules
- Training for judges
- Reform of the court structure
- Introduction of technology
In its entirety the plan represents a seismic change for the Cypriot justice system. The plan is now in the process of implementation and many parts of it feature in the post covid ‘Recovery and Resilience Programme of Cyprus’ (the ‘RRP’).
New Civil Procedures Rules
The Civil Procedures Rules (the ‘CPR’) currently in use are substantially in the form of the Civil Procedures Rules that operated in England and Wales in 1958! The revision of the CPR is one of the most significant reforms included in the Plan. The project was undertaken by a team of international experts who worked in collaboration with a Rules Committee established by the Supreme Court. A revised set of rules drafted by them was then subject to consultation with the Cyprus Bar Association and the Judge’s Association. Following this, on 19 May 2021 the new CPR were approved by the Supreme Court.
Within the framework of the RRP the Supreme Court has committed to the implementation of the new CPR for new cases submitted to the courts from 1 September 2023 onwards. This is expected to have a material impact on the efficiency of the courts.
Training for Judges
Obviously, the introduction of the new CPR and the adoption of new technologies will only be successful if judges are adequately trained in their use. Consequently, following the enactment of the relevant law 14 August 2020 a training school for judges was established. This formalises training for the new justice system and will also support ongoing training of judges. It is envisaged that, in line with many other professions, judges will be required to engage in continual education for their period of tenure. This move to a higher level of professionalism follows on from a decision taken by the Supreme Court in 2019 to publish the criteria for the recruitment of judges and for the promotion of judges. Said criteria were set following a study undertaken by the DG Reform of the European commission.
Within the framework of the RRP a commitment was made to ensure that at least 110 judges had completed annual training on the new CPR and various other agreed topics and skill by quarter 4 of 2025. According to the Ministry of Justice and Public Order this target had already been surpassed by 31 January 2023.
Reform of Court Structure
Prior to the proposed reforms, the Supreme Court sat at the apex of the court system in Cyprus. The Supreme Court consisted of 13 members, and it exercised both original and appellate civil and criminal jurisdictions. It was vested with authority as:
- Supreme Constitutional Court.
- Supreme Administrative Court.
- Admiralty Court.
- Appellate Court.
- A court with exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine petitions concerning the interpretation and application of the electoral laws.
- A court with exclusive jurisdiction to issue prerogative writs (e.g. habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari).
No special leave to file an appeal was required. The Supreme Court, in its appellate jurisdiction, was not bound by any determination on a question of fact made by the trial court, and it had power to review all the evidence, draw its own inferences, hear or receive further evidence and give any judgment or make any order which the circumstances of the case may have justified, including an order for retrial.
The wide jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the increasingly specialized knowledge required to deal with many of the cases before it created perfect conditions to foster a bottleneck in the justice system. Changes were required to disperse the workload and ensure that the more complex cases were dealt with by judges with the appropriate skills and expertise.
On 7 July 2022, the House of Representatives voted (the 22nd amendment) for:
- The separation of the Supreme Court into two Supreme Courts: one Supreme Constitutional Court with 9 judges and one Supreme Court with up to 7 judges.
- The creation of a new Second Instance Court, i.e. the Court of Appeal (Appellate Court). The Appellate Court will hear appeals from the First Instance Courts (administrative, civil and criminal) and will be comprised of up to 16 judges. The new Supreme Court will act as a third level appellate court hearing cases referred to it by the Appellate Court.
Additionally, on 12 May 2022, the ‘Establishment and Operation of Commercial Court and Admiralty Court Act 2022’ (‘the Act’)was passed. The Act establishes a dedicated Commercial Court which will have jurisdiction to hear and determine at first instance all commercial disputes where the amount or value in dispute is at least €2,000,000. Excluded will be claims or counterclaims in personal injury cases and claims, counterclaims or registration of an arbitral award in relation to banking or financial matters. The Act also establishes an Admiralty Court which, once operational, will have jurisdiction to hear Admiralty cases as defined in the Act. Given the rising importance of Cyprus as an international business and shipping hub, the introduction of these dedicated courts should significantly decrease the pressure on the Supreme Court. Also significant is that, prior to the passing of the Act, the House of Representatives approved an amendment of Article 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus to allow the use of English in both courts when to do so would be in the interests of justice. Greek will remain the official court language but a Judge of either court may, at the request of one of the parties, allow the use of English, including for the submission of documents and evidence. Since English is more widely spoken than Greek this should again increase efficiency by removing the need to always involve translators and certified translations of documentary evidence.
Originally it was intended that the new court structure should become operational 1 January 2023. This deadline has been extended to 1 July 2023 to allow more time for the recruitment and training of additional judges and court staff. Whilst targets set out in the RRP have been exceeded the Supreme Court, the Justice Minister and the Attorney General agreed that fully staffing the new courts on the original deadline would have resulted in understaffing of the lower courts.
Introduction of Technology
Widespread introduction of technology into the justice system is essential if the system is to become and remain efficient and effective. The failure to engage with technology led to a catastrophic situation during the Covid 19 lockdowns where the courts were forced to close because they lacked both equipment and expertise to function remotely.
The Plan therefore incorporated the introduction of an i-justice platform as an interim step towards full engagement in the EU wide e-justice project. The platform was launched on 21 July 2021 as a pilot version with the objective of streamlining legal processes. The pilot was judged to be a success and use of the platform for commercial cases became obligatory from 1 February 2021. The full implementation of the system was preceded by thorough training and a sufficient period to allow users to build familiarity with the system. Additionally, the Cyprus Bar Association (CBA), organized training points in the local bar associations, so that any difficulties of a technical nature could be resolved immediately and effectively. The I-Justice platform aimed to bring together litigants, advocates, law firms, court staff and clerks, judges, the police and relevant governmental authorities so that justice is administered in an effective and practical digital environment. The platform allows lawyers to:
- Submit claims remotely.
- Access electronic case files
- Pay fees and commissions remotely.
- Access up to date information about the progress of ongoing cases.
Supplemental to the above, on 15 September 2021 the Supreme Court issued a court regulation, the so-called ‘e-Justice Procedural Regulation’. This regulates the handling of cases through electronic communication with the Court and allows but does not compel judges to handle cases without any physical presence.
Use of the Ι-justice platform greatly simplified and sped up the operation of the court system in general with specific advantages accruing to those seeking to settle commercial disputes. It has eased the transition to the ‘e-justice’ platform which is expected to be implemented before the end of 2023. Further modernization will involve the introduction of Digital Audio Recording of minutes to the courtroom. This is currently being piloted and should be fully implemented by the first quarter of 2025 and again lead to time savings and greater efficiency.
There can be no doubt that important progress has been made in the march to deliver a new justice system that will be fit for future generations. The President of the Supreme Court and the President of the House of Representatives have both publicly stated that they expect the backlog of cases to be cleared within a 5-year period. Within the RRP framework a commitment has been given by the Supreme Court to meet specific targets in the reduction of cases and appeals which have been pending for more than two years. An ex-President of the Supreme Court has been appointed to co-ordinate and monitor progress. Some protests by members of the Cyprus were recorded at the introduction of the possibility of summary judgements of small claims but these have not been sustained. The passage of the legislation introducing a new court structure was a significant milestone. Whilst some disappointment has been expressed at the delay in the implementation of the new courts, criticism has been muted. The general perception appears to be that it is better to ensure that all necessary resources are in place from the outset than to risk creating new problems to resolve. It is, however, important for the economic future of Cyprus that the delay does not become a lengthy one. The introduction of formal training requirements for judges can only prove to be beneficial for all stakeholders in the system. The same is true for the use of technology which finally allows the courts to move out of the 20th century.
January 2023 saw the delivery of a report following completion of a project related to the establishment of a modern, efficient Court Service to support the management and administration of the courts. It produced recommendations on re-engineering of procedures, organisational and governance structures and staffing requirements. These recommendations are now under consideration by the Supreme Court and the relevant Ministries and effectively form the final part of the ‘jigsaw’.
Overall then, provided momentum can be maintained, the signs are favourable for the creation of a justice system which is fit for Cyprus in the 21st century and which will be capable of adapting to future requirements. Given that the EU has stressed that lack of reform is deterring investment in the country it seems unlikely that the desire for change will dissipate any time soon.
 https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/the-backlog-in-court-cases-will-be-alleviated-in-4-to-5-years https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/the-backlog-in-court-cases-will-be-alleviated-in-4-to-5-years
Banking & Finance in Cyprus
The importance of the banking sector to the wellbeing of the Cyprus economy is high relative to that of its European neighbours. In 2020 it accounted for 6.6% of national Gross Value Added, a figure which contrasted sharply with the Eurozone average of 2.8%. Cyprus’ Banking sector has been transformed in the years following the 2009-2013 economic crisis and subsequent EU bail out. The economic crisis was largely precipitated by over exposure to the Greek economy and sovereign debt and, a severely overleveraged property sector; all factors which resulted in Cyprus banks portfolios containing an unacceptably high proportion of non- performing loans (NPL) some in excess of 50%. Since then enormous strides have been taken to successfully correct the fundamental supervisory and structural weaknesses of the system and to deal effectively with the NPL issue. In January 2023 the level of NPL within the system had reduced to 9.6%, the capital bases of the individual banks were strong and liquidity levels high. This significant turnaround was acknowledged by the President of the ECB’s Supervisory Council early in 2023 when he noted that Cypriot banks enter the cycle of uncertainty created by the war in Ukraine in a strong position and suggested that there was a real possibility of them being allowed to pay shareholder dividends for the first time since the crash. It also helped the sector to retain a sense of calm when problems emerged with some European banks early in 2023. Despite these positive changes, however, many challenges remain which must be overcome if the sector is to thrive and service the Cypriot economy into the future.
- Changing the business model. Historically the banking sector has been one of the biggest employers within the Cypriot economy. It has also been one of the best payers with an average salary level 80% higher than the national average. It is a workforce which was structured to operate large networks of local bank branches. The rise of technology and cultural shifts towards a preference for online transactions and cashless payment have, however, made such networks largely redundant. Compared with their new FinTech rivals the banks have been saddled with a cost base that requires significant reduction if they are to remain viable businesses. This necessarily means bank mergers, branch closures and staff reductions via redundancies, early retirements and general attrition. It also means that banks must embrace digitalisation, mobile banking, personalised banking etc. in order to attract and retain the younger customer whilst at the same time finding a way to satisfy older and possibly less tech savvy customers. This requires significant investment in staff training and retraining as well as in infrastructure. It also means introducing new product lines and revenue streams whilst maintaining sensible risk assessment procedures. The challenge is not unique to Cyprus but relative to its European and UK counterparts the Cyprus banking sector was slow to recognise it and begin implementing the necessary changes. It also exists in a country where its main rivals, Fintech companies, have been actively promoted by the government as a key player of the future.
- Regulatory and Sanctions Compliance. Again this is not a challenge unique to the Cypriot banking sector, but it is a significant cost burden and the complexities involved again underline the need for the banking sector to invest in the technology which will assist it in ensuring that it meets its international obligations. Most recently the country’s historic and modern-day ties with Russia coupled with its geographic position and EU membership have placed it firmly in the headlights of US and UK sanctions agencies. Whilst not legally obliged to impose UK and US sanctions, the reality is that in order to continue to function as a respected financial centre Cyprus has no viable alternative other than to fall in line with both countries as well as the EU. Outside of this, the island’s position as a conduit for investment between the EU, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East means that the sector is involved in a high number of complex cross border transactions relative to its size and consequently the scrutiny level required is also raised.
- Excess liquidity. Currently Cyprus has the highest ratio of bank deposits to loans in Europe. Whilst it has been argued that this represents a return of confidence in the banks following the 2013 ‘haircut’ the reality is that the situation is reflective of a combination of factors. Specifically, the sector has been accused of being overly risk averse when considering loan applications, overly bureaucratic and lacking in vision as regards alternate investment possibilities. Whilst it is currently making profits on the differential between interest received on its large deposits held with the European Central Bank (‘ECB’) and the low levels paid to its depositors this is a temporary aberration and not a sustainable long-term position. The banks need to find new income streams and provide a commercial service suited to the needs of the Cypriot economy.
- Non-performing loans. Much of the historic NPL problem has been resolved by the offloading of problem debt portfolios to asset management companies and a more robust approach to debt enforcement. However, the overall level of non-performing debt within the economy remains high and measures put in place as a ‘temporary relief’ during the Covid pandemic such as bans on foreclosures involving residential properties remain in force. There are concerns that the situation between Ukraine and Russia and the sanctions related to them may, if they persist for the long term, result in a new wave of economic hardship and consequential increases in commercial and domestic loan defaults.
- Cybersecurity risks. Increasing the use of technology within the sector means increasing the risk of security breaches. Cyber breaches, when they occur, tend to be high profile and costly – both in terms of financial and reputational damage. Investment in the latest security driven measures such as Address Verification Services, End to End Encryption and a variety of authentication procedures is essential and continuous. So too is the need to ensure that staff are aware of the risks and appropriately trained to help counter them.
The past few years have witnessed a significant level of consolidation within the Cypriot banking sector coupled with large scale reductions in branch networks and staffing levels. In a three-year period the number of branches has reduced by 30% whilst the number of ‘online’ customers has increased by 70%. The associated one-off costs were high, but they have resulted in a far more cost-effective streamlined structure moving forward. Moody’s estimate that the sectors cost to income ratio will move far closer to that of their European peers from 2024 onwards. The managed closure of Russian Commercial Bank (RCB) removed one of the most significant banks from the market leaving Hellenic Bank (which acquired the RCB performing loan portfolio) and the Bank of Cyprus as the two dominant market players. Further consolidation may still occur since Eurobank is attempting to increase its stake in Hellenic to 30%.
Work on removing NPLs from the balance sheet continues to progress with the reduction to an overall level of 9.6% from 11% at the end of 2021 attributed to a combination of loan repayment, debt restructurings and debt write offs. On 31 March 2023 Hellenic Bank announced the completion of its ‘Starlight Project’ which concerned the sale of a NPL portfolio and of APS Debt Service Provider Ltd to Themis Portfolio Management Ltd. It also announced that it had entered into a long-term contract to manage its remaining NPL and any future ones that may arise. Against these positive moves, however, sanctions against Russia have resulted in record inflation of energy bills due to a heavy dependency on imported energy. This is expected to challenge the ability of private and commercial borrowers to repay their debts as originally scheduled.
Profitability levels in the sector also remain low due to an almost exclusive reliance on interest rate differentials to generate profit. A temporary uplift in ECB rates in 2023 has been beneficial but in order to constantly achieve the ECB viability target of 6-10% a new strategy is required.
In January 2023, in cooperation with the Association of Cyprus Banks, Ernst & Young produced a report on the future of the banking sector in Cyprus. The report underlined the importance of the sector to the Cyprus economy and suggested that in order to gain the ‘buy in’ of all stakeholders, future strategy for the sector should focus on developing banking which conformed to four pillars. The sector should be:
- ‘Purpose Led’ – A comprehensive ESG strategy should be developed and implemented which will help drive the economy forward and ensure that the country meets its EU climate obligations. This should be linked to a culture of integrity and professionalism with a goal of restoring trust in the sector which was lost as a result of the 2013 ‘haircut’.
- ‘Viable’ – Steps should be taken to develop a sector which demonstrates sustainable profitability and provides a ROCE in line with, at a minimum, the EU average. There needs to be a move towards developing new income streams (including possible alliances with fintech rivals and, developing sector specific products), accelerating the digitalisation of operations and further reducing the cost base and most notably staffing costs.
- ‘Safe and Stable’ – There must be no repeat of the events of 2013. The banks must maintain capital adequacy, keep NPL at an acceptable level, employ stringent corporate governance policies, exhibit ESG compliance including with EU Taxonomy, the newly agreed Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, the Sustainable Financial Disclosure Regulation and the upcoming Pillar 3 ESG disclosures and they must prioritise cyber security.
- ‘Progressive’ – The banks must harness technology to ensure that they can continue to compete with their Fintech rivals. This will also mean ensuring that staff are adequately trained, and the right skill sets recruited. However, the banks must also be viewed as accessible by all their customers – this may mean having some form of physical presence in remote areas to assist those who are not at ease with modern technologies and also ensuring that the digital platforms utilised are easy to understand and operate.
The public response by major players, Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank, to the report has been swift and supportive. Early in April, Bank of Cyprus affirmed that assisting the country to transition to a more sustainable basis is one of its strategic priorities and consequently it was establishing a ‘Sustainable Finance Framework’. The Framework is supported by a second party opinion given by Moody’s and will allow Bank of Cyprus to issue Green, Social and Sustainable Bonds. The proceeds from issuing the bonds will be used to finance sustainable projects including those linked to renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, green buildings, access to essential services including healthcare and, employment generation and SME financing. This was followed in May by Hellenic Bank announcing that having set customer as well as staff satisfaction as its top priority, it was investing in upgrading its banking services, focusing on a new service model to transition to the digital age fully and effectively. Hellenic’s aim is to progress on three simultaneous tracks – digital customer service, internal processes, and optimising workplace culture.
The challenge now for the sector is take advantage of its return to profitability as a result of a ‘one off’ interest boost. The major banks must ensure that they follow through on their promises as regards modernisation, sustainable development, and diversification whilst continuing to adhere to strong and prudent corporate governance policies. Failure on any front may well see them fall by the wayside as the Fintech sector continues to rise.
 Interview with Cyprus News Agency 19 January 2023
 The Future of Banking in Cyprus – Report prepared by Ernst & Young with the support of the Association of Cyprus Banks
 Cyrus Mail, 23 May 30, 2023
Elias Neocleous, Elias Neocleous & Co LLC
Managing Partner, Elias Neocleous, reflects on the changing face of the legal profession in Cyprus.
What do you see as the main points that differentiate Elias Neocleous & Co LLC from your competitors?
As I have stated in previous years, we stand apart from our competitors in three ways. Firstly, we are a firm that guarantees in depth quality. This policy extends across everything that we do, and it demands that we invest heavily in our employees and in our systems. This approach has allowed us to develop truly specialised departments in all major branches of the law, which is something that is unusual in such a small jurisdiction. It has also made us both an ‘in demand’ law firm and an employer of choice. The firm has for several years been accredited with ISO 9001:2015 for quality management systems in an organisation and also ISO/IEC 27001 Information Security Management Systems. In 2023 we have added two new accreditations ‘Sound Industrial Relations – SIR 2014’ and ISO 45001 ‘Occupational health and safety management systems’. Our internally developed and award-winning appraisal system motivates our staff to perform at their peak and we are committed to continuing professional education for everyone employed within the firm.
Secondly, we are a pioneering firm that is willing to take risks, naturally this is with our resources and not those of our clients! We are continually looking for ways in which we can expand and improve our services to clients and identify and enter new markets. For example, in the past year following a successful pilot we have fully launched, with positive results our ALSP, Neolaw.ai . We have also established a new ‘Technology Law’ department specifically to assist high tech start up and early-stage businesses and to service high-tech companies wishing to relocate to Cyprus in the wake of changes to the Cyprus government’s foreign investment strategy. For several years we have also operated an ‘Innovation Hub’ and our policy has always been to encourage employers of all levels to contribute their ideas on how we can improve ourselves and the services we offer.
Finally, we are committed to Cyprus and the communities we operate in. At national level our goal is always to take actions and speak out in ways that will help to drive the Cypriot economy forward and raise the international standing of the professional sector in Cyprus. Last year saw us publish ‘Ex-Tempore’ – a definitive legal guide to Cyprus law. We also forged a partnership with the Cyprus Institute of Marketing to help deliver its new LLB honours course. More locally we take actions intended to help our community thrive. These include regular blood donation drives, awarding school prizes, breast cancer awareness and men’s health issue campaigns and general collections of goods and money to assist those greatest in need.
Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?
I am optimistic that we will see growth in most areas of the firm’s activities. However, probably the areas most likely to see the highest levels of activity are those linked to regulatory compliance (tax and financial), cybersecurity, superior technology and artificial intelligence, and possibly corporate mergers and company restructurings. The pandemic was a great accelerator for the use of modern technology and cyberspace for both the general public and for business. In turn this has boosted the opportunities for a host of different cybercrimes and, consequently, for the need to seek legal protection and redress. It also raises a host of data protection issues requiring legal advice. The government’s desire to position Cyprus as a hi-tech hub brings multiple opportunities for corporate, tax, intellectual property and immigration teams – to the extent that we have established a specialist ‘TechLaw’ team to deal with them. The deepening world consensus on preventing tax avoidance and evasion looks set to keep our Advanced Tax and Business Structuring team busy for the foreseeable future whilst the scramble to find effective means of regulating cyber and digital assets should keep our Financial Services team on its toes. The shipping sector also offers potential and is benefitting from the advances made by the Deputy Ministry. Finally, I still expect to see some M&A activity as the full shake out of events in Ukraine unfolds.
What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?
In the past year we have completed a full launch of our ALSP Neolaw.ai. This has greatly reduced the time it takes our lawyers to research relevant legislation and case law. This has had the double benefit of increasing the cost effectiveness of our service and of allowing our lawyers to allocate more time to the value added aspects of our service such as, for example strategic planning for case handling, contract negotiations and business expansion activities. We have also developed a niche service for hi-tech clients.
Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?
For sure, and it is important to us that we embrace rather than fear the changes that we now see happening at a rapid rate. Properly understood and utilised there are many aspects of emerging technology that can assist rather than replace us in improving our client offering. At its simplest level technology allows us to be active almost anywhere in the world. Our clients can access us with relative ease and save time and expense by meeting with us ‘online’ for most matters if they prefer. In some instances, they can also make use of e-signatures rather than having to be physically present. Technology also gives rapid access to information such as world-wide legislation and case law, emerging trends and global eco- political developments. It has also opened up new avenues of service for us to exploit such as cyber and data security and, with the race to develop artificial intelligence functions, a whole new sphere of activity is likely to open up for our Intellectual Property Team.
Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?
There are numerous instances where we have been approached to provide, for example, corporate advice on an acquisition contract, and because of our ability to draw specialists from all branches of the law, we have also been able to highlight and assist with issues such as tax efficient structuring, employment law and Intellectual property law which might otherwise have been ignored and caused problems at a later date.
In one very practical recent instance, linked to the sudden movement of Russian Commercial Bank (‘RCB”) out of the banking sector and into wealth management, we had to act overnight to arrange urgent refinancing of a EUR 20 million credit facility our client had held with RCB and to transfer all of its transactional accounts to Bank of Cyprus. The depth of our resources and the skill and experience of our team were the deciding factors between the probable ruin of the client and its current healthy status.
Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?
Our clients are certainly looking for these attributes. One of the aspects of our structure which is valuable to them is that we have defined career progression and that this is reflected in the teams that we use on each case. This means that knowledge of the client is retained by the team, even if a member retires, and the client always has a familiar face to address any concerns to. This builds a relationship of trust. The ability to offer strategic advice is one of the major things that differentiates a true professional firm from lesser firms, Google searches and ‘Chatbots’. Our clients understand that we carry with us vast experience of differing markets, deals, legal systems, negotiations and political situations. They expect us to utilise this effectively to assist them with their goals whatever they may be e.g. expansion, downscaling, acquisition. In today’s world the ability to provide such support is essential.
Press Releases14th June 2023 We are proud to announce that Elias Neocleous & Co LLC was the recipient of the prestigious IN Business Award 2022 in the category Business Innovation for its groundbreaking contributions to advancing industry standards.
9th May 2023 The capital markets team of Elias Neocleous & Co LLC advised Allwyn Entertainment Financing (UK) plc in connection with its high yield issuance of EUR 1.3 billion comprising EUR665 million 7¼% senior secured notes due 2030 and USD700 million 7⅞% senior secured notes due 2029. The proceeds of the notes will be used by the said company to repay drawings under its revolving credit facility, to redeem existing notes, repurchase preferred shares issued by its parent company and for general corporate purposes. Allwyn is a leading multi-national lottery operator and operates lotteries across the EU such as OPAP in Greece and the UK National Lottery. The team of Elias Neocleous & Co LLC was lead by Elias Neocleous with the assistance of Michael Pelosi and Demetris Roti.For more information please contact Michael Pelosi or Demetris Roti
May 3, 2023
Elias Neocleous & Co LLC accredited with ISO 45001:2018 certification in Occupational Health and Safety27th April 2023 We are extremely proud to announce that, following an audit by Bureau Veritas, our firm has added certification with ISO 45001:2018 to its list of accomplishments.
7th February 2023 The shipping department of Elias Neocleous & Co LLC is proud to have assisted Royal Caribbean Group in registering the cruise ship, “Spectrum of the Seas”, under the Cyprus flag.
Elias Neocleous & Co LLC, together with Gofstein and Partners, has recently advised Zantemark Limited, operating under its brand name Yoloco, on setting up its operations and headquarters in Cyprus9th September 2022 Yoloco is a leading social data technology company aiming to revolutionize advertising through improving a brand’s ability to select the most effective ‘social media’ influencer to market its products. To do this it has developed a platform that will assist the client in understanding the target audience for its product and match it with the most suitable influencer on the YouTube and Instagram networks. The platform makes use of ‘in house’ developed advanced algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence to extensively analyze data which is publicly available on social media networks.
7th January 2022 Elias Neocleous & Co LLC in collaboration with Latham & Watkins represented J.P. Morgan, ING Bank, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs International, Morgan Stanley, Natixis and Poalim IBI (the “Initial Purchasers”) in connection with a US$450 million offering of Rule 144A/Reg S high yield senior secured notes issuance by Energean PLC, an international independent gas-focused oil & gas company focused on the exploration, development and production of gas and oil assets in the Mediterranean and listed on the London Stock Exchange as well as the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Proceeds will be used to repay and cancel commitments under Egyptian and Greek reserve-based lending facilities, including Greek subordinated debt, and for general corporate purposes. The senior secured notes are expected to be listed on The International Stock Exchange.
23rd April 2021 Having completed the review of the firm’s financial performance for 2020 the management of Elias Neocleous & Co LLC would like to thank all partners and staff for the hard work and dedication that they have shown throughout what has been a very difficult year.
15th March 2021 Elias Neocleous & Co LLC is pleased to have assisted Lupp + Partner PartG mbB in advising Norwegian based Mintra Holding AS on its strategic expansion and strengthening of its training capabilities through the cross-border acquisition of German based maritime digital learning and crew competence management specialists Safebridge GmbH and its Cyprus subsidiary Safebridge Limited.
25th August 2020 ELIAS NEOCLEOUS & CO LLC ADVISES GREENMONT AIFLNP LTD ON ITS INVESTMENT IN NACE ENERGIA IN SPAINDuring Q2 of 2020, our Financial Services and Regulation, Corporate and Commercial as well as Energy teams assisted our valued client, Greenmont AIFLNP Ltd (“Greenmont”), a Cyprus-authorized alternative investment fund on the Cyprus law aspects of its private equity investment in Nace Energía (“NACE”).
9th June 2020 As Cyprus moves forward with its plans to build a Liquefied Natural Gas terminal on the Island, Elias Neocleous & Co LLC is proud to have advised and assisted Abamba Limited, a consortium of global engineering firms EPCM Consultants SA (Pty) Ltd, Global Maritime Consultancy Limited and iX Engineers (Pty) Ltd, with the submission of their tender application to the Natural Gas Infrastructure Company (ETYFA) for the Engineer Supervision Contract for the project to develop the infrastructure to import Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) into the Republic of Cyprus.
20th February 2020 Elias Neocleous & Co LLC is proud to have advised CPI Property Group (“CPI”) on the Cypriot aspects of its recent acquisition of shares in Globalworth Real Estate Investments Limited (“GREIL”). CPI is a company listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange with a property portfolio of circa EUR 8 billion. The shares it successfully acquired had previously belonged to Mr. Ioannis Papalekas who held them via a Cyprus SPV. Mr. Papalekas is the founder of GREIL and was responsible for growing it into a successful business. GREIL is currently listed on the AIM of the London Stock Exchange with a market capitalization in excess of EURO 2 billion. Whilst, as a result of this transactions Mr Papelakis is now no longer a shareholder in GREIL, he remains as CEO and will continue to be actively involved in the business.
Legal Developments22nd March 2019
Elias Neocleous & Co’s Financial Services team assisted the Zarenkov family on Cyprus corporate and financial services law matters in their February 2019 disposal of a 25% shareholding interest in Etalon Group Plc to Sistema PJFC, a publicly-traded diversified holding company. Etalon Group Plc, one of Russia’s largest and longest established development and construction companies, is a Cyprus public company having Global Depositary Receipts (GDRs) traded on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange since 2011. The relevant public announcements on this transaction are available in the website of the London Stock Exchange and of Etalon Group Plc.
25th April 2018
New Cyprus law on data system security
The Security of Networks and Information Systems Law, Number 17(I) of 2018, implements articles 8 and 9 of EU Directive 2016/1148 on measures to achieve a high common level of security of network and information systems throughout the EU. It designates the Commissioner for Electronic Communications and Postal Regulation (Commissioner), appointed under article 5 of the Regulation of Electronic Communications and Postal Services Law 112(I) of 2004, as the national competent authority for the purposes of article 8 of the directive, with responsibility for coordinating the implementation of the cyber-security strategy and monitoring the application of the directive at national level.
25th April 2018
In 2011, in response to public concerns over large multinational companies exploiting differences in national tax rules, the European Commission published a proposal for a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) to unify tax rules throughout the EU. Individual countries would still be free to set their own tax rates, but anomalies between countries in terms of deductibility of expenses and recognition of income would be eliminated. The initial proposal met with considerable political resistance, particularly from the United Kingdom, and was not pursued. In October 2016, perhaps in anticipation of less resistance once Brexit was completed, the Commission issued a revised proposal to replace the earlier one. It aims to introduce a set of common rules for determining the tax base of companies with operations in several EU Member States and tax them in the country where their revenues are generated, and remove the anomaly of large companies paying what the public perceives as disproportionately low amounts of tax in countries where they have significant activities.