Belgium

Reviews

Practice area

IFLR1000 Reviews

Overview

Solicitors governing body: Institut des Juristes d’Entreprise, Ordre Français des Avocats du Barreau de Bruxelles, Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten bij de Balie te BrusselOrde van Vlaamse Balies

Competition authority: Belgian Competition Authority

Financial regulator: Financial Services and Markets AuthorityNational Bank of Belgium

IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:

Financial and corporate (published October) – Banking and finance, Capital markets, M&A

Jurisdiction overview

Lying at the heart of the EU, the Belgian economy and legal market has a distinct international feel. Like the other Benelux countries, deals here will more often than not involve some non-Belgian entity, as buyer, seller or financier, and these will come from a range of different jurisdictions, including significant amounts from France, Germany, the UK and beyond.

The legal market is a mix of international and domestic firms. Broadly speaking, historically the international firms took a larger share of the high-end market with domestic firms more focused on mid-cap and smaller deals. However, in recent years those domestic firms – along with the Benelux regional firms – are increasingly being seen on the bigger, more complex matters.

Almost all practices are headquartered in Brussels, though there are a number of firms either based in or with offices in Antwerp as well.

Jon Moore - Journalist - EMEA

 

EU COMPETITION

PLEASE NOTE - EU COMPETITION RANKINGS AND COMMENTARY CAN BE FOUND HERE

Competition authority: European Commission

Overview

All member states of the European Union (EU) have to abide by EU Law in addition to their own national legislation systems. The EU’s competition law regulates four main areas that affect fair trade: abuse of dominance, cartels, merger control and state aid. The European Commission (EC) is the body responsible for dealing with competition law regulations and infringements.

Abuse of dominance law is designed to prevent parties who have dominance in a market from impeding other parties through actions such as interfering with acquisitions or limiting production.

The law surrounding cartels is designed to prevent collusion among different parties within an industry sector. Illegal agreements can include areas such as price fixing and supply.

Merger control law is concerned with preventing market dominance through mergers and acquisitions. It prevents companies from achieving a dominant market share by acquiring other companies and assets. Cases are classified as either Phase 1 or 2, if a company cannot or will not abide by the EC’s recommendations from Phase 1 the case will move to a Phase 2 proceeding.

State aid law is designed to prevent member states giving an unfair advantage to public or strategically important companies through strategies such as financial incentives, tax cuts and market access.

EU competition work has created a whole new legal market within Brussels and it is a broad and varied church with law firms from across Europe and America all maintaining offices and staff to handle case work.

Lawyers from any EU member states can become permanent European lawyers in Brussels if they register with a local bar in Brussels. They can practice EU law and the law from their home state but not Belgian local law unless they do so in conjunction with a Belgian lawyer. It is this arrangement that allows lawyers from across the EU to set up in Brussels and offer EU law advice to clients from their home country.

Sam Duke - Editor

Financial and corporate
Allen & Overy

Allen & Overy has strength across the full spectrum of financial and corporate work in Belgium and is top tier in all IFLR1000 local rankings. 

The banking team works for both lenders and borrowers in connection with the market’s largest acquisition financings and general corporate financings. It is also strong in the project financing space, where it has recently assisted with loans for the development of nationally significant offshore wind farms and highways.  

The firm’s capital markets team stands out for its combination of transactional and regulatory expertise. On the debt side the firm has recently generally been busy with EMTN programme issues and updates. On the equity side the firm often represents issuers on IPOs and share listings on Euronext Brussels.  

Its M&A team advises clients on private equity matters, divestments and joint ventures, and recently acted on deals in the insurance, media and technology sectors.  

In the projects area the firm works on Belgium’s largest infrastructure projects. It is particularly experienced on PFI and PPP related mandates, often working for developers. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Athora €540 million acquisition of Generali Belgium
  • Blackstone €600 million acquisition of Goodman Group European logistics portfolio
  • SeaMade 487MW wind power plant
  • Shurgard Euronext Brussels IPO
  • Trans Adriatic Pipeline 

Client feedback

"Very good level of quality. They think together with us." – Banking

"A great team, which is led by a very experienced partner." – Capital markets: Debt

"Very responsive, qualitative and provide hands-on advice." – Capital markets: Debt

"Client-centric, flexibility, strategic thinking." – M&A

"Excellent team, broad set of qualitative people, doing many deals." – M&A

"Good quality work, strong international network, and has the ability to mobilize large teams for transactional work." – M&A

"Very responsive and completes high quality work. Has the ability to manage complex projects with different parties on time and with an expected quality." – M&A

"A great strength is their very strategic thinking." – Project development

Baker McKenzie

The Belgian offering of Baker McKenzie works on matters across the financial and corporate area and has particular strength in banking. 

Historically, the firm’s banking team prioritised its work for banks but it has recently diversified and been representing direct lenders, sponsors, and real estate investment funds. The firm is strong in the acquisition finance space, while it has also recently developed its trade and export finance teams.  

In capital markets work the firm performs best on equity mandates, representing issuers as they list on the Euronext Brussels. Other areas of strength include accelerated bookbuild private placements, where the firm often assists issuers and advising bookrunners on issues by companies in the life sciences and pharmaceutical sectors.  

The firm’s M&A and transactional private equity practice worked on several large deals, recently in the financial services and biotech sector. The Belgian team also regularly assists as local counsel on international mandates working alongside other offices in the network. 

A notable staffing change in the research period saw banking partner Pierre Berger join DLA Piper. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Bekaert €450 million loan facility
  • Hansea €109 million restructuring
  • Sequana Medical Euronext Brussels IPO
  • The Federal Holding and Investment Company €120 million acquisition of 2.05% stake in Euroclear
  • VF Corporation €2.25 billion revolving credit facility 

Client feedback

"Accessibility and availability of the partners is a clear strength." – Banking

"It accompanies you with a 360° approach on the transaction, covering not only the structuring aspects but also any other corporate law aspects." – Banking

"Lawyers know their business as well as the underlying product and framework very well. Very responsive." – Banking

"Outstanding service and a pragmatic, solution-driven approach." – Banking

"Precise, efficient and reactive. Creative. Problem solver." – Banking

"Really excellent work - always fast responses giving proactive and innovative advice." – Banking

"They have always matched our expectations in providing original solutions for unusual issues. They are reactive at short notice and very flexible." – Banking

"They proposed proactively the good solutions when needed. Excellent experience." – Banking

"Their hands-on and proactive approach is much appreciated by us. Very responsive." – Banking

"A very thorough law firm with a strong team. They have great project management skills and do the utmost to stick to agreed time-lines." – Capital markets: Equity

"They do the job, and they do it well." – Capital markets: Equity

"Excellent technical and commercial skills." – M&A

"Good quality on M&A deals." – M&A

"Highly competent, deal oriented and very efficient." – M&A

"Very solid legal competence. Good negotiation and support skills. Very service oriented and available." – M&A

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton’s best transactional practices are M&A and capital markets, where the firm maintains a good share of the market’s significant deals.  

The firm’s banking and finance team is generally involved in a variety of transaction types for both sides - acquisition financings, debt refinancing and project financing. The governments of African nations including Benin, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar and Senegal also recently worked with the firm’s banking practice on an assortment of deal types.  

The firm often advises on relatively rare deals – in a local context – in the capital markets space. It recently worked on securitisation programmes and advised issuers on commercial paper programmes to finance infrastructure development.  

In M&A the firm is best known for its cross-border work and the team leads on transactions where the target is based abroad. The team regularly acts as the local counsel on large global deals alongside the network. 

Recent Deal Data highlights

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev / Anadolu Efes merger
  • Axéréal acquisition of malt business of Cargill
  • Republic of Benin €737 million refinancing
  • Republic of Madagascar €40 million loan facility
  • Republic of Senegal €250 million bridge loan 
Clifford Chance

The Belgian office of Clifford Chance is renowned for its banking practice, which is among the market’s best. It also has one of the leading debt capital markets practices in the country. 

In the banking and finance space the firm works on a range of significant mandates for borrowers and lenders, from acquisition financings to refinancings.  

The capital markets team is particularly strong in debt work and hybrid issues, often representing underwriters. The firm is also experienced in working on private placement and rights issues. 

In M&A the firm has been busy on public and private acquisitions and sales recently, working on many of the jurisdiction’s largest cross-border and private equity deals. Recent highlights have seen the firm work represent the acquirers on M&A in the fintech and technology sectors. 

The firm’s project development team is experienced in representing the developers on interconnector projects. Recently it has been active on a range of energy projects. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • APG / QIC / Swiss Life €2 billion acquisition of 36% in Brussels Airport
  • Bpost €650 million 1.25% bond issue
  • R-Logitech / PMV / SFPI-FPIM €800 million acquisition of Euroports
  • Tram de Liège PPP
  • Traxys $1.5 billion refinancing 

Client feedback

"Good expertise, knowledgeable and offers clear communication." – Banking

"Great flexibility, strong knowledge, and fast." – Banking

"Very responsive and works seamlessly across borders to deliver excellent one-stop service." – M&A

Cresco

The team at domestic firm Cresco is recognised for its investment funds and M&A work in the Belgian market, where it often represents entrepreneurial start-ups and venture capital firms. 

The firm has a strong presence within the investment funds space, and regularly assists fund managers in the set-up and fundraising of their venture capital funds. A further area of expertise for the firm is acting for venture capital firms on inbound international investments. 

The M&A team often works as sell side advisors on mergers, acquisitions and investments, and regularly acts for technology entrepreneurs in this space. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Nemetschek €50 million acquisition of MCS Group
  • Software acquisition of TrendMiner
  • ST Engineering €250 million acquisition of Newtec
  • Vavato €7.3 million acquisition of Jorisco Group
  • Zynga $250 million acquisition of Gram Games

Client feedback 

"Strong expertise, rapid, and always come with solutions." – Banking 

"Cresco is a very responsive and hands-on law firm driven by the enthusiasm of its lawyers, who are not only experienced but also offer a great value for money." – M&A 

"Cresco was perfectly able to manage the negotiations." – M&A 

"Dynamic, easy to work with, relaxed and pragmatic. They also have good experience in working with foreign venture capital firms and know the pitfalls on both entrepreneur and investor side from national and international perspectives." – M&A 

"Overall, Cresco delivers good value for money." – M&A 

Filip De Schouwer 

"He is a very responsive lawyer who has a broad knowledge on M&A. He acts and thinks swiftly, with a lot of business acumen, leading to practical solutions." 

David Dessers 

"Has the ability to handle any funding questions. He is accessible and has a strong network of investors and clients." 

"Problem solver." 

Wim Van Berendoncks 

"He was always available and ready to put in the work necessary to respect deadlines. He assisted us in pulling the deal over the line, and supplying creative work-arounds to the final problems that always show up." 

Olivier Van Raemdonck 

"He made a very solid impression throughout our entire investment process. He is very responsive, solution-oriented and pragmatic in addressing the various legal issues that arose during the process and got the deal done within an ambitious timeframe. It was a true pleasure to work with him." 

Eubelius

Eubelius is one of the best Belgian domestic firms and is best known for its banking and M&A practices. 

The firm’s banking team is involved in a mix of lender and borrower side work, with significant deals completed in financing energy projects recently.  

In the capital markets area the firm works extensively in the real estate sector. Recent highlights have included working for the issuer a green bond through a US private placement, and assisting an issuer on a secondary listing onto the Euronext Brussels.  

The firm’s M&A team, which has recently acted for sellers more than acquirers, has recently advised clients in sectors including life sciences, telecommunications and transport on deals. The firm is also active on work involving private equity firms, where it advises on investments and exits. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Faerch Plast acquisition of a majority stake in 4PET
  • Gabriëls acquisition of Power Oil
  • KBC Ancora €147 million refinancing
  • Spirit AeroSystems €650 million acquisition of Asco Industries
  • Warehouses De Pauw €100 million 2.62% green bond issue 

Client feedback

"Strong in-depth knowledge, professional and client-oriented." – Banking

"Excellent work. Very reactive. Very knowledgeable." – Capital markets: Structured finance and securitisation

"They combine strong expertise, profound knowledge of our company, pragmatism and availability for their clients. An important factor is also that their corporate culture blends very well with our own company culture." – Capital markets: Debt

"Completes high quality work. Has a strong M&A practice." – M&A

"Very knowledgeable on all fields of law. Compromising and always looking for solutions." – M&A

"Very knowledgeable, significant experience in all sorts of M&A." – M&A

"Very professional, pragmatic and has profound knowledge." – M&A

Lime

Lime, a financial and corporate boutique opened in January 2018, is best recognised for its strong banking and M&A practices. 

The firm’s banking team regularly assists clients with refinancing, fund raising and restructuring. The firm has also been active on financial services regulatory work recently. 

In the M&A space the firm has recently been active for buyers and sellers within the insurance, retail and technology sectors. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Galimmo €40 million refinancing
  • Lab Box acquisition of CarASAP
  • Poppy Mobility acquisition of strategic assets of Zipcar Belgium 

Client feedback 

"Excellent comprehension of client needs and an integrated approach on multiple aspects." – Banking 

"Excellent work, with very high quality deliverables, and very strong expertise and know-how." – Banking 

"The law firm keeps a total overview of transactions, does good work on contractual clauses and is efficient at translating the clients' wishes and interests." – Banking 

Julie-Anne Delcorde 

"Excellent expertise and know how." 

Thierry Tilquin 

"Has very good comprehension of problems. Holds regular discussions and offers good management of all items in relation to shareholder meetings and other corporate issues." 

"He offers excellent understanding of the client's needs." 

Loyens & Loeff

Loyens & Loeff’s Belgian arm is best known for its strong banking and M&A practices. 

Within the banking area the firm has strength in project financing, where it has acted for a mix of borrowers and lenders on Belgium’s largest offshore wind farm and biomass plant projects. Real estate financing is another area of strength for the firm.  

The firm’s M&A team is active across the board, and works on transactions ranging from small venture capital mandates to high-value acquisitions. Recent highlights for the firm saw it assist on a merger between two of large oil transportation companies, and represent a US investor as it made a substantial investment into a Belgian tech start-up. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Euronav / Gener8 Maritime merger
  • GTT $2.3 billion acquisition of Interoute
  • Iconiq Capital €87 million investment in Collibra
  • SeaMade 487MW wind farm 
  • Tram de Liège PPP 

Client feedback

"Excellent law firm with good corporate team, who responds quickly with complete and pertinent advice." – M&A

"Good availability. A personal approach, Strong market knowledge." – M&A

"Very efficient and service oriented." – M&A

"Fast to the point. Competent. Customer oriented." – Project development

Monard Law

Monard is best known in Belgium for its strength in banking and M&A. 

In the banking area the firm has strength in aviation finance work and regularly represents the largest national carriers on transactions. During the research period the firm notably acted for TUI Airlines on its fleet renewal and expansion. The firm also has expertise on project financings, where it often represents lenders. 

The firm is also active within the M&A space and regularly works for buyers and sellers on deals within the technology and telecommunications sector. The firm has also advised on recent transactions in the retail and pharmaceuticals sectors. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Alstom acquisition of 21 Net
  • Arslanian €40 million financing
  • Digicert €45 million acquisition of QuoVadis Trustlink
  • Falko $175 million financing
  • Tradeshift €38 million acquisition of Babelway 

Client feedback 

"Quick and practical advice." – Banking 

"Deep legal knowledge, strong network, persistent."  – M&A 

"Pragmatic, no nonsense, well-educated."  – M&A 

"Professional, competent and communicative. Good network for additional services." – M&A 

"Very professional and knowledgeable."  – M&A 

Erik Monard 

"Very strategic, and has an excellent network." 

Pieter Van den Broeck 

"Professional, competent and communicative." 

"Straightforward and has excellent knowledge and negotiation skills. He is also very good at advising, with strong social and personal skills." 

NautaDutilh

Regional firm NautaDutilh has a strong financial and corporate practice across the board. 

The firm’s banking and finance team often acts on asset-based lending and acquisition and project finance deals. In energy deals it is experienced in onshore wind farm financings in local regions such as Flanders and Wallonia. 

In the capital markets area the firm assists both issuers and underwriters, and has represented clients in the jurisdiction’s two busiest sectors during the research period. In the real estate sector the team advised on equity, equity-linked and debt transactions by Belgian REITs and developers. In the biotech sector the team has recently advised underwriters on Nasdaq IPOs. 

In M&A the firm had buy-side roles on some of the market’s larger deals, and acted on the significant public takeover bid, as well as for the acquirer on key domestic energy and fintech transactions. 

A key arrival during the research period was M&A partner Philippe Remels, who left Linklaters to join the team. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Atenor €50 million dual tranche (2.875% and 3.5%) bond issue
  • Sanofi €3.9 billion acquisition of Ablynx
  • SeaMade 487MW wind farm
  • Triton acquisition of Sunweb
  • Vivendi acquisition of Paylogic 

Client feedback

"An excellent service. Responsive and highly efficient, providing well considered and practical advice." – Banking

Stan Brijs

"His key strengths are his pragmatism and business oriented views."

Anne Fontaine

"She knows our business through and through. This allows us to quickly brainstorm knowing that she will also see all potential risks."

Simont Braun

Simont Braun has strong banking and finance and M&A offerings. 

The firm’s banking team has recently largely been providing financial services regulatory advice to its clients on matters including the EU Payment Services Directive (PSD2), MiFID II and GDPR implementation. The firm also regularly works on international mandates within the fintech and payment services sectors, assisting the likes of Facebook Payments, Transferwise and WorldRemit. 

Real estate M&A work formed the bulk of the activity of the M&A team recently. A further notable transaction saw the team assist the Société d'Aménagement Urbain (SAU) in the creation of the Contemporary and Modern Art Museum and Architecture Museum in Brussels. 

Recent Deal Data highlights

  • Afi-Esca acquisition of Euresa Life
  • Musée Modern Museum
  • Rewe acquisition of Lekkerland/Conway 

Client feedback 

"Excellent quality of work from the entire team. Greatly efficient, very precise with their work and always deliver on time." – Banking 

"High degree of responsiveness, and good technical understanding." – Banking 

"Strong expertise and good personal contact." – Banking 

"Very reactive and supportive. Takes a proactive stance to highlight upcoming issues and propose solutions. Very easy to work with." – Banking 

"Very pleased with their work." – Banking 

"Highly efficient." – M&A 

Philippe De Prez 

"Very professional, very knowledgeable, and a highly motivated lawyer who thinks outside the box. His interpersonal skills are also great." 

Sandrine Hirsch 

"Really committed, available and solution oriented. A true partner in thinking through issues and coming effectively to joint resolutions. Able to navigate complex political environments." 

Catherine Houssa 

"Responsive, clear-minded outlook, and gets to the point." 

Rafaël Jafferali 

"Good explanations and precise."

Stibbe

Stibbe is recognised as one of the leading domestic names in the Benelux region, and has strong transactional teams across the financial and corporate area. 

In the banking and finance space the firm is often involved in high-value real estate finance transactions. Another area of strength is project finance. 

The firm’s capital markets team often undertakes complex mandates within securitisation and the covered bonds market, and regularly assists with EMTN programmes. 

In M&A the firm recently represented both the buyers and sellers on high-profile Belgian domestic deals. The firm is also experienced in representing a mix of multinationals and private equity clients as local counsel. 

The firm’s multidisciplinary projects team has expertise in energy and infrastructure and is among the market’s leaders in the PPP space. It recently assisted developers on roads, tunnels, trams and prison PPP projects. 

A notable staffing change saw the departure of banking partner Ivan Peeters to PwC Legal. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • ABB $2.6 billion acquisition of GE industrial solutions business
  • Eurocommercial €400 million acquisition of Woluwe shopping centre
  • Spirit AeroSystems €650 million acquisition of Asco Industries
  • Tram de Liège PPP
  • Vandemoortele €200 million refinancing