Solicitors governing body: Belarusian National Bar Association
Competition authority: Ministry of the Economy
Financial regulator: National Bank of the Republic of Belarus
IFLR1000 ranking categories in this jurisdiction:
Financial and corporate (published October) - Financial and corporate
Energy and infrastructure (published June) - Energy and infrastructure
Belarus’ infamous authoritarian government, which won a fifth term in 2015, and the figurehead of the regime, Alexander Lukashenko - dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” - do not make the country the easiest place to do business. Fortunately for those needing representation, there are plenty of good local independent and larger regional firms present in Minsk.
Belarus’ private practice legal market is relatively young, having only emerged around the time the country gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The largest and oldest of the domestic firms, the likes of Vlasova Mikhel & Partners, Stepanovski Papakul & Partners and Borovtsov & Salei, along with several regional firms from the neighbouring Baltic states and Russia, are generally the strongest.
Foreign firms first made segues into Belarus’ legal market in 2006, when Arzinger opened in Minsk. Although a UK or US firm is yet to launch in the country, several large regional firms now have branches in the capital. Russian firm Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners, which has the largest network in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), and Baltic outfit Sorainen both made astute hires from local firms to launch in the country and now represent two of the best options on the market.
Younger local firms have a share of the work too. Revera, Aleinikov & Partners and Sysouev Bondar Khrapoutski are all active and recommended. Jurznak, another boutique which could be categorised similarly, recently merged with Borovtsov & Salei.
When it comes to transactional work, firms and lawyers do not generally specialise - although there are exceptions - instead offering the full range financial and corporate advice. In Belarus, a firm that is good at finance work, tends to be a good at M&A.
Looking at the structure of Belarus’ legal profession there is a nuance that is worth noting. As in the UK, there are two types of lawyers, advocates and attorneys, which are equivalent to UK barristers and solicitors respectively. Advocates can represent clients in all courts and advise on any area of law; licensed attorneys, it is worth noting, are only permitted to advise on commercial law matters and, since a reform in 2011, cannot represent clients in court in any capacity.
Ben Naylor - EMEA Editor
Aleinikov & Partners is recognised for M&A and noted for its experience in gaming, technology and telecommunications.
During the research period the firm was active in M&A. A standout deal involved advising start-up AIMatter as it became the first Belarusian company to be acquired by Google. The firm also advised US company Mapbox International as it bought another Belarusian start-up, MapData. Further highlights included work arising from its close co-operation with the Belarus High Technologies Park.
Key clients include the likes of games developer Awem, software company CactusSoft and the United States Agency for International Development.
Arzinger & Partners is active in banking, with further strengths in the project development area and regulatory work. In particular, the firm has a focus on work in the industrial production, IT and retail sectors. Almost all of the firm’s deals are confidential
Broadcom, China Railway Construction Corporation and Schils are among the firm’s notable clients.
During the research period the firm set up a team to deal with increasing start-up and venture capital work.
“Arzinger & Partners are a real team of professionals who quickly respond to any question. During the time we are working with them, there were no misunderstandings. Work with this firm is always quick and efficient. They are accurate, prompt, helpful and their recommendations always work. Financial and corporate practices of the firm are prominent due to the huge experience of the team.” – Banking
“Arzinger & Partners has a highly professional team with a unique combination of skills and specific knowledge and experience.” – Banking
“Excellence in knowledge, speed, execution and value.” – Banking
“They always strive to find a solution that will meet the interests of the clients.” – Banking
“They are responsive and highly professional and are focusing on the interests of their clients.” – Banking
“Arzinger & Partners is a very strong firm. Its competent and skilled team is focused on foreign investment projects. The lawyers are smart, client-need driven and are willing to spend as much non-billable time as necessary to get a deep understanding of the client's industry sector peculiarities.” – Banking, M&A
“Reliable and competent company. Employees are educated and very literate.” – Banking, M&A
“Very professional and responsive. Precise and concise answers, even in complex matters.” – Banking, M&A
“Arzinger & Partners is one of the best full-service legal advisors in Belarus. Very strong and competent team with an international approach to work. The team is particularly strong in financial and corporate work, with a strong regulatory background. Arzinger's role as a guide of foreign investors to Belarus appeals to us very much.” – Banking, M&A, project development
“Fast answers; average cost of service; good practice; good knowledge.” – Banking, project development
“Fast service; wide profile; highly adaptable to the specifics of clients.” – Banking, project development
“I could recommend this company to my friends and partners. The main strength is the high qualifications of the staff and management.” – Banking, project development
“Over the years of working with Arzinger & Partners, I am convinced of their competence. I would note the speed of solution of issues and the quality of the work performed. The company also always timely warns us about changes in legislation.” – Banking, project development
“Highly motivated; good contact; good language skills (English); professional information.” – Banking, restructuring and insolvency
“Arzinger & Partners is a highly professional advisor in regulatory, corporate and financial practice areas. They are very competent, highly responsive and understand our business very well.” – M&A
“I believe Arzinger & Partners are very knowledgeable and responsive in their conduct. They also have a wide network in Belarus that would help finding and meeting new contacts.” – M&A
“The firm is very responsive and organised.” – M&A
“Overall level of service is great. I receive responses when I need and there has never been any delay that is able to harm my business. Lawyers of the firm show great industry knowledge and experience and we find their advice always useful and appropriate for us.” – M&A, Project development
“Arzinger & Partners successfully assisted in the implementation of a large investment project. When implementing large projects, there are questions of various degrees of complexity, but Arzinger & Partners always found a solution. The main advantage of Arzinger & Partners over other firms is their efficiency in solving problems. In addition, huge experience that enables them to look at solving problems from different angles.” – Project finance
Borovtsov & Salei is known for its financial and corporate work in Belarus, and has a strong project development practice. Industry sectors where the firm has been active include banking, construction, energy and real estate.
Notably, in the banking space, the firm advised on one of the first mezzanine loans and ISDA master agreements in Belarus. Other highlights included advising one of the largest oil and gas companies on the full corporate restructuring of its business in Belarus, and assisting an American private investor on the financing for a shopping mall in Minsk.
In the project development space, the firm advised on projects in sectors such as construction, oil and gas, telecommunications and transport. Highlight deals include advising on the construction of the new production facilities of the Minsk Watch Plant, advising General Motors on launching Chevrolet and Cadillac production plants in Minsk, as well as working with Unison on starting production of the first Belarusian electric cars.
During the research period, a notable incoming saw corporate-focused senior associate, Nikolay Artemyev join from Cobalt. On the other side, senior construction associate Anastasia Akulich moved to Revera.
Notable clients that work with the firm include the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), McDonald’s and VTB Bank.
“Leading firm in Belarus. Well experienced, well connected and business oriented. Lawyers are highly professional and smooth.” – Banking, project development
“The lawyers are highly knowledgeable and business oriented. The team unites young and bright new-school lawyers educated in American and Western European law schools and trained at international firms with some of the most established names in the jurisdiction, having experience practicing law for over 25 years. The firm still focuses on advising foreign and international clients investing and doing business in Belarus. All lawyers are ethical and trustworthy.” – Banking, project finance
“Borovtsov & Salei is our qualified trusted legal partners in Belarus. We have worked with them for over ten years and are very satisfied.” – M&A
BusinessAdvisers is known for its work within the projects area, with experience in construction and investments. In particular, the firm specialises in the attestation of foreign developers in the jurisdiction, and often works on projects involving Chinese clients.
Recent work includes acting for a subsidiary of China Railway Engineering Corporation on matters concerning the construction of a multi-functional trade centre in Minsk, and advising contractors Litana-BelStroy on the construction of a McDonald’s restaurant. A further notable deal saw the projects team assist the German energy company, Viessmann, on its provision of boiler equipment to a Chinese-Belarussian company in the Great Stone Industrial Park.
The firm added Yaroslav Kot as an associated partner to its project team, during the research period.
Other key clients of the firm include the China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation, China Telecom, and Codest.
“A very experienced law firm that's distinctive features are reliability and results. One of the other strong features of BusinessAdvisers is an individual approach for each client. The work for each particular project is led by a partner-curator specialising in the relevant field of law and industry who determines the optimal team of lawyers in order to implement the most successful strategy. Another strong feature is its provision of confidentiality.” – Banking, project development
“Conscientious; attentive attitude to work; and perform a large amount of work in a short time. All employees of the BusinessAdvisers are professionals, and both managing partner and junior lawyers are able to provide highly qualified legal assistance.” – Banking, project development
“Deep expertise in selected areas of corporate finance and protect financing, and provide extra opportunities with Chinese loans and support due to their business relationships.” – M&A, project development
“A highly qualified company that helps us solve problems. Strengths of the company are the high competence of lawyers, deep knowledge of the legislation, an individual approach to each client, and the high quality of the services provided.” – Project development
“Careful and responsible approach to tasks, and experience in supporting the most complex projects are strong features of BusinessAdvisers. The lawyers are always guided by the interests of our company, which leads to the successful completion of joint projects. Such an individual approach to work and the dedication of experts can achieve high results.” – Project development
“One of the strengths of BusinessAdvisers is their professionalism. If they set to work, you can be sure they will do it quickly and efficiently.” – Project development
Austrian firm Cerha Hempel Spiegelfeld Hlawati’s Minsk branch is active in the banking, M&A and restructuring areas, often partaking in cross-border deals with a local element.
The firm has acted on a number of restructurings for clients including Austrian firms, Baumit and Silgan. The firm also acted for Russian company Knauf on its indirect acquisition of Belarusian plasterboard manufacturer, Belgips.
The firm added senior attorney Vadim Poleschuk to the firm’s corporate practice to replace the outgoing Nikita Tolkanitsa, who joined Revera.
Multinational corporations such as Chevron, Deutsche Bank, Uber and Walt Disney are among the firm’s recent notable clients.
“The firm provides diligent advice in a timely manner.” – Banking
“We were impressed with the responsiveness, high quality of advice and strict adherence to the deadlines of the team. We were provided with all necessary clarifications and additional details in response to our questions without any additional invoicing.” – Banking
“High quality services, reliable product, solid advice.” – Banking, project development
“He is a high-level professional in various fields of the law and a nice person. He gave the impression of being punctual, responsible, a highly qualified lawyer and a strong manager.”
“Very efficient lawyer, provides solid advice, clients are always happy with the final product.”
“We were satisfied with the advice.”
Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners is a market leader in financing (bank loans, capital markets and project finance) and M&A. During the research period, the firm has been active in sectors including banking, energy, insurance and pharmaceuticals.
The firm’s recent deals have included mandates on the purchase and sale of shares, structuring transactions and cross-border due diligence. A highlight was advising Citic Construction on the creation and operation of a joint Chinese-Belarusian investment fund, in a first-of-its-kind venture. A further key deal saw the firm advise Citigroup and Raiffeisen Bank on the issuance of sovereign eurobonds by Belarus.
In the project development space, the firm worked with European and governmental authorities on the preparation of the jurisdiction’s first PPP project, the M10 road. The firm’s role included providing legal assistance on local law, preparing the project strategy and arranging the launch of the tender, among other tasks. Other notable mandates involved advising Stadler Rail on its expansion in Belarus and Culligan International on its water treatment operations in the country.
Among others, the firm has worked with clients including Heineken, UNICEF and the World Bank.
IE Skuratovich KI has a strong banking practice, and works on matters including foreign investment and project financing.
The firm’s recent highlights include assisting Belarusbank on structuring the foreign financing of China Development Bank’s investment in a new trade centre in Minsk. Other mandates in the research period include working for a bank on the restructuring of its debt, and providing legal assistance to businesses entering the Belarussian market.
Collliers International, Tapas, and WinterInvest are among the notable clients of the firm.
“The firm is great at financing. They have structured deals to bring financing from Belarusian banks to our project. Their work included developing and coordinating the legal and financial structure of our project; the development of the collateral security; and, adapting the business plan to the standards of the bank.” – Banking, M&A
“I have been working only with their lead partner. He does work at a very high level.” – Banking, project development
The Belarusian branch of Vilgerts has a credible offering across the board, and is active in the energy sector.
Within the financial and corporate sphere, the firm’s highlight deals include representing Bryce Company and Lex Inventions on restructurings.
A notable addition to the team was restructuring counsel, Vasili Valazhynets, who joined the firm from Valazhynets and Katsko.
Kruglaya Pizza, Schneider Electric, and Vero Visuals are among the firm’s notable clients in Belarus.
Revera is best known for its project development work, though it also has significant strength across the board in the financial and corporate sphere, especially within corporate transactions. Construction and IT are sectors where the firm has expertise.
In M&A, the firm notably worked on the sale of the IT start-up venture Aimatter’s Fabby application to Google, and on the sale of Belmarket. The firm’s banking team helped secure financing to Belarus National Biotechnological Corporation and for the construction of the mega mall in Minsk, representing the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Highlight deals for the firm’s projects team included work on the construction of the Miorsk metallurgical plant, construction on the first private potash plant in the jurisdiction, and work on the construction of a hi-tech agricultural wall-to-wall production.
During the research period, the firm added Cerha Hempel Spiegelfeld Hlawati senior associate, Nikita Tolkanitsa, to the corporate team. A further addition saw senior construction associate Anastasia Akulich arrive from Borovtsov & Salei.
The EBRD, Stadler and Zubr Capital are among the firm’s key clients.
“High quality service, and a strong team.” – Banking
“The practice is of a sufficiently high level, I do not have any complaints. The firm has a different-sided approach to resolving issues, which helps make their work more efficient.” – Banking
“The company has perfectly coped with our objective.” – Banking, capital markets, project finance
“Highly skilled professionals who are quick to react, but the pricing is high.” – Banking, project development
“Very professional, polite and efficient staff.” – Banking, project finance
“Revera's services were highly professional and it was a great experience working with them. They were very prompt, with an expert approach, a wide spectre of solutions, quickly absorbing information, and demonstrating excellent negotiation skills and legal expertise.” – M&A
“Revera shows good knowledge and experience in corporate work. They are very supportive in accomplishing international contracts both in IT and the real estate sector.” – M&A, project development
“True professionals work on my project, they know what they must do. I know everything will be fine, I trust them.” – Project finance
Sorainen’s Belarusian offering is generally strong in all areas of transactional work.
A notable banking highlight was acting for the jurisdiction’s largest food retailer, Eurotorg, on the first corporate eurobond issue by a Belarusian company. Sorainen also advised Duisburger Hafen in connection with the acquisition of a shareholding in the managing company of the China-Belarus Industrial Park.
In the projects space, the firm worked on several China-related mandates including the launch of cross-national telecommunication services at the China-Belarus Industrial Park for China Telecom.
Changes at the firm saw Aliaksandr Lapkovich, Aliaksandr Artsiukjevich and Alexey Fidek join the corporate team from the Regional Customs Legal Department, the Development Bank of Belarus and PwC respectively. On the other side, Tatsiana Shyshkaravo moved on to become the legal counsel at video game company, Playgendary.
Sorainen’s other key clients include Gett, Ukraine International Airlines and VTB Bank.
“We are pleased with the legal advice and services provided by Sorainen and positively assess our cooperation with them” – M&A
Stepanovski Papakul & Partners has acted on a range of financial and general corporate work during the research period acting in sectors including banking, retail and wind energy.
Highlight M&A deals included advising Belwest in its acquisition of a majority stake in a large footwear manufacturer, and representing Belarusbank in one of the nation’s rare privatisation deals. Other notable achievements include working with the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on several mandates.
In project development, the firm has been active on biofuel, solar and wind projects in Belarus. Other recent work includes advising on the construction of a DIY hypermarket and on the acquisition of an unfinished hotel in Minsk.
Key banking clients include the likes of Commerzbank, Gazprombank and MTBank.
“Customer-focused service and a deep knowledge of customer needs.” – Banking
Sysouev Bondar Khrapoutski is recognised in Belarus for financial and corporate and project development, where it is renowned as among the market leaders. In particular, the firm has one of the leading banking and finance practices in the country.
The firm’s recent notable banking deals include several mandates for the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), acting on issues such as the financing for the construction of a solar power station in the Mogilev region, and the financing of radiation equipment maker, Polimaster. The team also worked on notable restructuring deals, working with the likes of Qatar’s Falcon Investment Company and IT solutions provider, Softline.
Construction, mining, and natural resources are sectors where the firm has expertise within project development.
The firm works with clients including Amazon, Ford, Ikea, and Rosatom.
“I received up to date and comprehensive legal advice and support. The most important matter for us is the understanding of our business and the finance/lease industry and thanks to their knowledge we got prompt and tailor-made service.” – Banking
“Their strengths are: timeliness in carrying out work and rendering service; the quality of services rendered; providing a bespoke approach to each customer.” – Banking
“Flexible and loyal to the client. Can solve a very wide range of tasks.” – Banking, project development
“A reputable company with excellent knowledge in both Belarusian and international law. We usually mandate the firm on complicated cases and are really satisfied with the quality of their services. Highly professional and efficient, immerse themselves in a problem and consider of the problem from various sides, risk assessment - this all characterises the mentioned company. What is really valuable for me as a client is that SBH Law Office is always ready to help with non-standard issues and innovations.” – M&A, project development
Verkhovodko & Partners is an active player in the market, with strength in the finance and project development areas.
While several of the firm’s deals are confidential, some notable finance work involved representing DIY store OMA on its cross-border loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The firm also worked with Belarusky Narodny Bank and Sberbank on lending mandates during the research period.
Some of the firm’s publishable mandates within the project development space include work for Austrian telecommunications company, Velcom, as it sought to become a prominent provider of services in Belarus. Other work included advice on the creation of a mineral wax plant and on investment in the China-Belarus Industrial Park.
Boeing, Pfizer, and Thomson Reuters are among the firm’s notable clients.
“The firm has excellent experience in many legal areas and is a reliable partner.” – Banking
“The firm has good expertise and knowledge of legal matters in Belarus. The response time is quite fast. The firm is faster in their response time than firms of a larger size.” – Banking
“Very professional team with an individual approach and flexibility.” – Banking
“The firm is highly professional and caters extremely well to an international business looking for legal assistance in Belarus. For us after a few unsuccessful attempts to find a local representation, Verkhovodko & Partners were a breath of fresh air and exactly what a Western business group would need.” – Banking, capital markets, M&A
“Highly qualified lawyers; excellent understanding of Belarussian law and norms of international law; good communication skills; upper intermediate / advanced level of English; always available.” – Banking, M&A
“Always acts according to deadlines; high level of professional skills; good English language skills; very loyal and widely developed.” – Banking, project development
“Highly professional and able to meet deadlines.” – M&A, project finance
In the Belarusian market, Vlasova Mikhel & Partners is one of the leading finance experts, usually representing the lenders on the market’s significant deals. The firm also has consolidated its practice within project development, with a particular strength in construction deals.
The firm worked on several high-profile financing deals for lenders including Alfa-Bank, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Export-Import Bank of China and Russian bank, Otkritie.
Other highlight work includes representing frozen foods producer, Belatmeat, on its sale to agribusiness firm Servolux, and printing house Uniflex on its acquisition by Zubr Capital.
In the projects area, the firm notably worked for Emirati firm, Royal Group Companies, on the construction of a multifunctional complex at a historical site in Belarus. Further deals involved roles in the construction of a potash mining plant in Luban, and the installation of wind turbines for Vestas Wind Systems.
Hewlett Packard, JPMorgan, and Sberbank are among the firm’s other notable clients from the research period.
“Professional top tier banking and finance practice. Very good value for money. They are our go-to firm for all Belarusian work. Especially impressive is their willing to go an extra mile to meet expectations and tight deadlines.” – Banking, project finance
“Highly professional team with deep knowledge of Belarus legislation. We can always rely on their advice and be sure that it is in line with Belarusian rules and legislation.” – Project development
“We have enjoyed working with Vlasova Mikhel & Partners. They have been very quick in answering our questions and their fees were very reasonable. They will be our first choice next time when we need advice under Belarusian law.” – Restructuring and insolvency
“She and her associate, Marina Khomich, are very responsive and very good at their work. Especially impressive is their willing to go an extra mile to meet expectations and tight deadlines.”
“Highly professional lawyer who is able to provide professional advise and meet deadlines.”