IFLR1000 Reviews

Baker & McKenzie
Name partner Georg Diwok, who is best known for his lending and regulatory work, and Dieter Buchberger, a funds specialist, are the firm's key banking partners. The firm's recent banking activities have included restructuring and insolvency, regulatory and transactional advice. In one deal Diwok, working with the Warsaw office, advised Immofinanz on financing the expansion of Silesia city centre in Poland.
Binder Grösswang
Independent Austrian firm Binder Grösswang has one of the strongest banking and finance practices in the country. In addition to standard corporate borrowing, and acquisition, asset and project finance, the practice handles structured finance and securitisation. The firm is particularly strong on lender side representation and has good relationships with some of the country's leading institutions, including UniCredit and Volksbank, and international banks such as Morgan Stanley and ING.

The firm advised a syndicate of mostly international lenders, including Deutsche Bank, on providing a loan facility for EVN in 2012. Stefan Tiefenthaler led on the deal that was a rare large syndicated loan in Austria in 2012.

Since the crisis regulatory advice is more commonly sought by Austrian financial institutions and the firm has been advising Volksbanken on the restructuring of the cooperative banking sector in Austria.

A recent example of the firm's borrower work, and the largest finance deal it was involved in recently, saw Tiefenthaler act as Austrian counsel to the automotive supplier Schaeffler Group on an €8 billion refinancing.

CHSH Cerha Hempel Spiegelfeld Hlawati
Cerha Hempel's banking practice is less well known than its corporate offerings, but it's strong, particularly on borrower side representation because of its good corporate relationships, and it has mandates for banks too.
CMS Reich-Rohrwig Hainz
The banking practice is headed up by Günther Hanslik. Its recent mandates have been restructuring and insolvency matters and acquisition financings. One example of the latter saw Hanslik advise Ortner on finanicng its acquisition of Porr through UniCredit.
Dorda Brugger Jordis
Varga and fellow banking and finance partner Andreas Zahradnik are recommended. Clients say regulatory and investment fund specialist Zahradnik is innovative. "He is always coming up with good ideas, thinking outside of the box," remarks one. Varga, who specialises on finance including capital markets, is said to be "diligent, responsive and very fast". Another finance partner who elicits praise from clients is Paul Doralt. "We have a long term relationship with Mr Doralt. He has participated in many of our project financings and has added value and brought alternatives and solutions to the matters," says one client.

Varga and Zahradnik teamed up to act as Austrian counsel to a committee of lenders, led by GoldenTree, to Sacher Funding, the holding company of Austrian financial institution BAWAG, in converting a €1 billion debt investment into an indirect equity investment in the bank.

Fellner Wratzfeld & Partner
Fellner has strong relationships with, and is held in high esteem by, some of Austria's biggest banks, including UniCredit, BAWAG, Erste and RBI and, in addition to restructuring and insolvency advice, the firm is also recommended for its banking regulatory expertise. One recent example of this was Fellner's recent advice to HYPO NOE Gruppe Bank where he counselled on banking supervision, state aid, company law and the civil law issues related to the bank's acquisition of a package of loans issued by the Province of Lower Austria valued at €900 million.

One of the firm's biggest recent restructurings was for Alpine, where it led a consortium of banks led by Erste and UniCredit Austria assisting with the company's global financial and corporate reorganisation in more than 30 countries.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Freshfields has the best team, notes a banking client, when comparing the firm to the others on the market. "Some firms have one or two stars in the team while the remaining staff are fluctuating. Freshfields appears to have very loyal staff despite the hard work that is expected and delivered".

The firm saw two high profile departures recently. Head of finance Maria Pflügel retired and finance partner Attila Csongrady joined DLA Piper Weiss-Tessbach. Pflügel's absence will be felt, particularly because of the relationships she had fostered. She had, however, become less active on transactions in the past year or so, and the firm has a deep bench of talented partners. Highly regarded partner Friedrich Jergitsch now leads the banking and finance teams.

In addition to its more senior lawyers, the firm has a number of younger partners with excellent reputations, with banking and finance specialist Florian Klimscha, who was made up in 2013, among them. "Klimscha, whose development we have been following up for many years, is an outstanding individual not only in all legal aspects but also with regard to perfect manners, communication and other soft skills which must not be neglected," says one client. "He is our preferred lawyer provided that clients are willing to pay the fees."

Banking regulatory advice has made up a decent proportion the firm's recent work in this area, but it has also been involved in large transactions. Jergitsch and Klimscha often team up, recently figuring on several large aquisition financings.

Graf & Pitkowitz
Within the broader financing space Graf & Pitkowitz has traditionally been focused on project finance, although in recent years it has expanded into bank lending, restructuring and real estate financing. The firm has also picked up litigation and disputes work related to financing institutions.

Otto Wächter leads the team, which operates out of Vienna and Graz, and generally acts on the lender's side on mandates.

Rautner Huber
The firm's banking work has been a mix of syndicated loans, refinancing, project finance and working capital facilities. VTB Bank has mandated the firm on more major deals than any other client. In one transaction Huber advised the bank on financing Austrian investor's acquisition of Güssinger Beverages & Mineralwater group.
Saxinger Chalupsky & Partner
The firm's lending practice focuses on energy and infrastructure project financings. In 2012 it advised Kommunalkredit as part of a syndicate financing for two new wind farms in northern France. It was involved in several capital markets deals, handling a €70 million bond issue for Strauss & Partner and acting for KTM-Sportmotorcycle on the securitisation of €40 million in receivables.
In banking especially the firm has developed to such an extent that for the second consecutive year it is promoted, this time joining the top tier. Good deals backed up by good feedback, particularly for banking and finance head Martin Ebner, is the reasoning behind the firm's promotion.

In addition to lending and finance advice, Ebner's team is responsible for capital markets, structured finance, securitisation and restructuring. One client describes him as "highly motivated," and another appreciates his "drafting skills". Others commend him on his technical expertise and product knowledge.

Ebner is not the sole stellar partner within the practice; peers also recommend Peter Feyl. "He should be mentioned as a no nonsense lawyer with a lot of experience in complicated deals," notes one. One client feels Walter Gapp has made his own is mark in the funds work. He has the "highest legal knowledge regarding investment fund law available on the Austrian market," says the client.

Several cross border restructurings have occupied the banking team lately. In one matter Ebner was representing a group of 40 senior creditors, mostly Austrian and CEE financial institutions, in bauMax's debt restructuring and refinancing.

Baker & McKenzie
Capital markets is one area that has benefitted from recruitment over the last five years. Eva-Maria Ségur-Cabanac and Philipp Spatz, hired in 2008 and 2010 respectively, jointly lead the team and have elevated the firm from relative obscurity in the Austrian capital market scene to something of a player. The firm has also been bulking up its offering in Frankfurt, which is a big asset as most Austrian companies list on German exchanges for greater exposure.

Ségur-Cabanac's focus is equity while Spatz's practice also covers debt. There has been a dearth of equity work in Austria since 2007 so, understandably, Spatz has been the busier of the two. His recent highlight was advising, in conjunction with the Frankfurt office, Crédit Agricole as the arranger of Austrian steel producer Voestalpine's €1 billion EMTN program.

Binder Grösswang
Binder is well regarded in capital markets and as it has grown in stature the firm has increased its market share of the bigger deals. Khol and Tibor Fabian, who handles the finance advice, often lead transactions together. One of their recent collaborations was for Oberbank, which they advised on a base prospectus for a programme of bonds and derivatives worth up to €750 million. The two were also at the helm when the firm assisted ASFINAG, Austria's road operator, with its €12 billion EMTN programme.
CHSH Cerha Hempel Spiegelfeld Hlawati
The firm's capital markets expertise spans equity and debt. It's especially known for its involvement in local landmark equity deals, but as there have been few transactions of note in this area in the last 12 months, the firm has focused on debt. Its largest deal was Voestalpine's €1 billion EMTN, and a close second was Telekom Austria's €600 million subordinated bond. Volker Glas led on both transactions, in addition to the majority of the firm's other notable deals. He is a widely respected lawyer in Austria and praised for his depth of knowledge. "Technically he's very good, he really understands the products," says one client.

One of the firm's large banking deals saw Glas advise Starbag on securing a €250 million revolving credit facility with Raiffeisen Bank International and UniCredit.

CMS Reich-Rohrwig Hainz
Capital markets work in Austria is, currently, generally limited to debt and structured finance work, and the firm has had its share of both. On the debt side it has been acting for banks as issuers and mangers. The firm's head of capital markets, Martin Zuffer, represented RBI as the manager of an €80 million corporate bond issued by the Montana-Group.
Dorda Brugger Jordis
In capital markets, clients highlight Christoph Brogyányi's equity work. "He's one of a few Austrian lawyers who really knows how to draft a prospectus because he has the experience," says one. He's also praised for his knowledge and pragmatism.

Debt work dominates the firm's recent portfolio of capital markets work. One deal saw Tibor Varga act as transaction council on a €150 million corporate bond issued by Austrian Egger Holzwerkstoffe, where BAWAG and UniCredit Bank were lead arrangers.

Rautner Huber
Uwe Rautner heads the capital markets team. "When it came to complex issues, he had very good suggestions which moved the deal along," says one client of Rautner, adding: "He really knows the law." Rautner has been involved in liability management exercises for banks, assisting HSBC in one transaction, structuring additional tier 1 capital under Basel III and CRD IV. He also assisted HYPO NOE Gruppe as lead manager on seven bond issues with an aggregate value of €350 million, in addition to acting as transaction council on a Schuldschein loan, and representing another bank on a derivative offering.
For capital markets advice, younger partner Ursula Rath is establishing a name for herself.The firm has had a good range of work, acting on high yield issues, securitisations and several corporate bonds. Equity capital markets deals have been virtually nonexistent in Austria but Feyl and Rath were involved in several transactions, the largest being UNIQA's €500 million rights offering where they represented the issuer.
Weber & Co
Name partner and founder of Weber & Co, Stefan Weber, is one of the country's leading capital markets experts. He works for issuers and banks, often advising the latter on regulatory matters, in addition to providing transactional advice. His practice spans the spectrum of capital markets and his knowledge across each area is undisputed. All Weber's recent work is confidential but he has been active on a capital increase and several bond offerings, in addition to advising clients on takeover law in the course of public M&A transactions.
Wolf Theiss
In the capital markets, debt and structured finance are seen as the firm's strongest areas and this is certainly were it is most active, but there has been a paucity of equity deals in Austria for many years.

Claus Schneider is known for his debt, structured finance and derivative work. Schneider lived up to his billing too, taking the lead on the bulk of the firms key capital markets mandates. In one precedent-setting deal he advised Erste Bank on two issues of tier 2 notes, the first such issue by an Austrian entity under the new capital requirements regulation.

Regulatory advice and capital market issues have been occupying the banking team. In one large transaction Heidinger advised Dexia on its nationalisation through a €5.5 billion capital increase subscribed to by France and Belgium.

Baker & McKenzie
The corporate and M&A department at the firm is led by Gerhard Hermann. He has been involved in several notable cross border M&A deals, one involving an Asian company's acquisition of a stake in a local business. Disappointingly for the corporate team, Mario Gall has left to launch his own firm, Pelzmann Gall. He was highly rated by clients for his diligence and intelligence.
Binder Grösswang
The firm's corporate practice is somewhat overshadowed by its leading banking offering, but the team has developed during the past two years and its rankings have improved accordingly. Michael Kutschera is the firm's rainmaker, but younger partner Thomas Schirmer is its most active M&A lawyer.

Corporate partner Florian Khol's main focus is capital markets, but he is good on public M&A and assisted Austrian listed company Lenzing in the auction sale of its plastics business unit in 2013.

bpv Hügel
Domestic firm bpv Hügel dates back to 1979 when legacy firm Hügel & Partner was founded by name partner Hanns Hügel. Corporate advice has always been the outfit's specialty and Hügel himself is one of the country's top restructuring experts.

The firm also has good transactional practice that Hügel jointly leads with Florian Gibitz. It has a broad mix of major Austrian international clients, public and private, and it was involved in a number of large deals in the past 12 months. This strong portfolio of work allied with good feedback from peers sees it join Tier 4 for M&A. One of the firm's largest recent deals was Intercell's €350 million merger with Vivalis.

CHSH Cerha Hempel Spiegelfeld Hlawati
In January 2013 the firm elected two new managing partners. After a three year term, name partner Edith Hlawati and Irene Welser stepped down and Albert Birkner and Clemens Hasenauer were voted in.

Both partners are highly regarded corporate lawyers, with Birkner heading M&A and Hasenauer corporate, and the firm's most active senior lawyers on deals – between the two of them they led on most of the firm's key transcations of late. It will be interesting to see whether this remains the case or if the demands of management mean the pair are less present on deals. The fact the responsibility of being managing partner is shared should enable them to continue with their advisory work.

Both new managing partners have been involved in major deals lately. Birkner led a team advising Telekom Austria on the acquisition of Orange's subsidiary Yesss! for €390 million. Hasenauer, meanwhile, is counselling OMV on buying RWE's stake in Nabucco Gas Pipeline International and RWE's interest in the Nabucco natural gas pipeline project.

CMS Reich-Rohrwig Hainz
In Austria the firm's strongest practice is M&A, where the highly respected Peter Huber oversees a small but high quality team. The one issue some say the office has is it is perhaps a little over reliant on Huber. Looking at the firm's recent mandates, however, he has shared the responsibility of leading on transactions with several other partners.

Johannes Trenkwalder, for example, advised Hypo Alpe Adria on its selling of AluFlexPack to Montana Tech Components, in addition to taking the helm on several other deals. It also added a new corporate partner recently, recruiting Wieland Schmid-Schmidsfelden, former managing partner of DLA Vienna, from Benn-Ibler. Schmid-Schmidsfelden has advised Rudolf Weinberger Holding on its acquisition of Donako from Innova Capital since joining the firm.

Dorda Brugger Jordis
Joint-heads of M&A Andreas Mayr, who oversees public M&A, and Martin Brodey, who manages the private M&A department, are both well-known figures in their fields. Mayr, who also focuses on capital markets, is the firm's rainmaker, while Brodey is regarded as its top corporate specialist.

Brodey's biggest transaction in 2013 was assisting General Motors on its $4.2 billion acquisition of Ally Financial's international auto-finance businesses, which included its Austrian subsidiary GMAC Leasing.

Fellner Wratzfeld & Partner
The firm is also involved in standalone M&A deals and, after strong peer and client feedback combined with a good list of recent mandates, it moves up to Tier 3 in M&A. "Fellner provides high quality work, however, is very focussed on distressed work," remarks one partner. One client highlights the specific expertise of US qualified partner Paul Luiki: "He is a very experienced lawyer in the field of international joint ventures with an excellent commercial understanding," says the client, adding that Luiki has a "very focussed team behind him".

A recent sell-side M&A transaction for the firm saw it advise OMV on the sale of its stockholding business to Erdöl-Lagergesellschaft.

Fiebinger Polak Leon & Partner
Fiebinger Polak Leon has a well-respected M&A practice led by Peter Polak. Clients particularly value the firm's approach. "They were very devoted, we got a lot of partner time," says one. The firm targets and has experience in the paper industry, energy and life sciences.

One of Polak's recent transactions was advising My Place Holding on the sale of 35% minority participation to a US-based financial investor.

The firm's other key M&A partner Bert Ortner has been busy recently. One of his highlights was assisting Dunapack Mosburger on the acquisition of Turkish paper and cardboard producer Dentas Ambalaj ve Ka??t from Abal?o?lu Holding.

The firm has added to its finance capabilities recently, recruiting partner Martin Gaggl from Credit Suisse as head of banking and capital markets.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Freshfields built its name through corporate expertise and is one of the top firms in Austria in this area "The quality of the corporate work provided is very high," says one competitor of the firm. Three partners within the firm's corporate practice - Konrad Gröller, Willibald Plesser and Thomas Zottl - have excellent reputations. Plesser's M&A experience is seen as his asset. "He's seen everything so he knows how to react to when issues arise," says one client. Zottl is young and hungry. "He is always on the clock, very responsive – we really appreciate this," notes another client. Lastly, Gröller is said to be very commercial.

The bulk of the firm's work is high-end, cross border transactions. One of its highlights in the latter area was Gröller's role advising Hutchison 3G in its acquisition of Orange Austria for $1.3 billion.
Hauser Partners
Hauser Partners focuses on arbitration, banking, capital markets and M&A. The latter area is where the firm has been most active in Austria recently. Hauser has taken the lead on two significant deals, advising the Mondi Group on acquiring Duropack in Germany and the Czech Republic for €125 million and assisting overseas investors with the purchase of shares in an Austrian listed company in the automotive industry sector.
Pelzmann Gall
Established in late 2012 by Mario Gall and Helen Pelzmann, who were previously partners at Baker & McKenzie Diwok Hermann Petsche and Karasek Wietrzyk, Pelzmann Gall is a corporate boutique recommended in M&A.

At his former firm Gall established an excellent reputation in the area, specifically for his knowledge of public M&A and takeover law. Clients are resoundingly positive about him. "Young, aggressive, smart and innovative corporate and M&A lawyer; top tier without a doubt," is one's description of the firm's cofounder.

Although the outfit is still in its naissance, it has already built a good size team. Stephan Hofmann and Georg Perkowitsch, who were recruited from Pelzmann's old employer and Schoenherr respectively, were the other two prominent hires, but a further six lawyers have also joined the start-up.

The firm's recent work has been a mix of M&A and restructuring, with the firm's founding partners sharing the lead role on transactions or collaborating. One highlight for the pair was the merger of two public companies, Vivalis and Intercell, where they advised the latter on forming a company with a combined market capitalisation of €320 million.

Saxinger Chalupsky & Partner
M&A is seen as the firm's strongest transactional practice by peers, who agree with its Tier 4 ranking. It's strong in construction and real estate and has advised several clients on the acquisition of commercial property. In August 2012, Franz Mittendorfer and Christoph Luegmair advised BluEstate in its purchase of the shopping complex Centre West in Graz from IKEA.
In M&A the firm's reputation remains unblemished. As is often the case, it topped the Mergermarket's M&A deals tables in 2012 for Austria by volume, ranking sixth across CEE. It has a large team with quality throughout and its international reach is an attractive asset. "Our main reason for choosing Schoenherr as our principal law firm is their network in CEE, which covers the area we need expertise in. There are very few competitors that offer the same broad network," says one client. The key figures in the team are Christian Herbst and Sascha Hödl. They are known for being efficient and experienced.

The firm's M&A mandates have predominantly been cross border deals. Hödl advised Heineken on selling Pago to Eckes-Granini, while Herbst took the lead advising EQT on its acquisition of UC4 Software Group from Carlyle for €220 million.

Taylor Wessing e|n|w|c
In Austria the firm is focussed on banking and M&A. Before the merger its main capability was widely considered to be in M&A by competitors, and this remains the consensus today. Name partner of legacy firm enwc, Raimund Cancola, whose initial still features in the firm's title, is admired by several peers. "He's a very client focussed guy. I've worked with people who work with him and all the reports are good: he's committed, he gets involved in the transaction and he really knows the law," says one.

Cancola and fellow partners Claudia Steegmüller and Philip Hoflehner share the responsibility of leading on deals, often working on M&A transactions where they also handle the finance advice. A good example of this was Cancola's role assisting Erdol-Lagergesellschaft on its auction of the stockholding business of OMV.

Wolf Theiss
Peers say the firm is a market leader, noting it vies with Schoenherr for the accolade of top domestic firm in M&A, with a larger share of private equity and foreign clients against its rival's entrenchment with major domestic corporations. Several lawyers are central to the firm's success. Name partner and head of banking and finance Richard Wolf has excellent relationships with the country's leading banks - and he's deputy chairman of the board at Erste Bank - but his core strengths are capital markets and M&A. Markus Heidinger is the firm's most dextrous and experienced banking specialist and recommended for his regulatory expertise. Claus Schneider is known for his debt, structured finance and derivative work and in M&A, Clemens Schindler is frequently recommended by rivals.

One partner left the firm's M&A team but the headcount was rebalanced by recruiting a new senior associate. In March 2013 Christian Oehner left to launch his own practice, Oehner Rechtsanwalt, and Phillip Hoyos was hired from Thiery & Ortenburger.

The firm reinforced its reputation securing roles on several large transactions. Schindler was involved in one of the firm's biggest deals, heading the team advising América Móvil on its acquisition of a 21% stake in Telekom Austria.