Iceland

Reviews

Practice area

IFLR1000 Reviews

Overview

Solicitors governing body: Lögmannafélag Íslands

Competition authority: Samkeppniseftirlitið

Financial regulator: Fjármálaeftirlitið

IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:

Energy and infrastructure (published June) – Energy and infrastructure

Financial and corporate (published October) – Financial and corporate

Jurisdiction overview

With a population of just 325,000 Iceland is the smallest non-microstate nation in Europe, and is also the most sparsely populated. Despite its size – and even taking into account its suffering one of the most dramatic consequences of the financial crisis – it is considered one of the best places to do business in the world, ranking above heavyweights such as France and the Netherlands. Much like its Nordic neighbours, it has an unrivalled reputation for openness and transparency. Indeed, only Sweden and Norway are seen as more established democratic nations and it ranks above both the UK and France in terms of human development.

Economically the country has diversified since the financial crash, which saw the collapse of its three biggest banks. Traditional industries such as fishing remain vitally important – as do the production of aluminium and ferrosilicon – but there has also been a significant increase in the technology and tourism sectors in particular. 

With one of the freest and most flexible labour markets in the world and a favourable tax regime – it has one of the lowest corporate tax rates globally – it is a favourable destination for foreign direct investment. This is especially true in the energy sector, where the vast majority of the country’s energy needs are met through domestic renewable resources, and it has one of the highest rates of energy production per capita in the world.

Unsurprisingly because of its size, the legal market remains dominated by a few major domestic firms, with no foreign law firms currently registered. There are no nationality restrictions on practising law for individuals, though there is a requirement of at least one year’s residency for foreign nationals wishing to sit the bar exam. As a signatory to the European Free Trade Agreement there are also no restrictions on foreign lawyers from fellow EEA states providing legal services in the country. Those from outside this area, though, are more restricted in their scope.

Jonathan Moore - Journalist - EMEA

Financial and corporate
AX Legal Services

AX Legal Services is a firm established in January 2019, which focuses on banking, M&A and projects work. 

The firm has notably acted on the buy-side on acquisitions and merger within the fisheries and tourism sectors, during the research period. 

Corporate partner Atli Björn Þorbjörnsson, who left his role at BBA Legal, leads the firm.  

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Iceland Seafood International €70 million financing
  • Össur €180 million financing
  • N1 IKr40 billion acquisition of Fest
BBA // Fjeldco

BBA // Fjeldco is recognised for its strength in cross-border M&A work, where it acts across the board for buyers, sellers and financing parties. In banking mandates the firm often represents lenders and has worked with the likes of Arion Bank, Citibank, JPMorgan and Nordea in recent years. 

During the research period the firm’s recent M&A mandates saw the team act on large deals in the energy, financial services and retail sectors for Icelandic and international clients. The firm also assisted the Asian Development Bank on a large cross-border financing relating to geothermal heating in Asia. 

BBA Legal merged with Fjeldsted & Blöndal during September 2019. During the research period, partner Atli Björn Þorbjörnsson left to open boutique AX Legal Services.  

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Iceland Seafood €13 million acquisition of Oceanpath
  • N1 IKr40 billion acquisition of Festi 
  • Össur €180 million financing

Client feedback

"Very high quality service and solution-orientated law firm." – Banking

"Has a good understanding of the LMA documentation that the bank uses and the granting of security over various assets." – Capital markets: Debt

"Key strength is business acumen, coupled with solid legal knowledge." – Restructuring and insolvency

Bjarney Bjarnadottir

"Very organised"

Bjarki Diego

"Solid overall."

Höskuldur Eiríksson

"Very good understanding of LMA documentations."

Halldor Karl Halldorsson

"He is highly skilled and responsive. His documentation skills are unmatched in the Icelandic market. He has in-depth knowledge of real estate and project financing market."

Fjeldsted & Blöndal (merged with BBA Legal in September 2019)

Fjeldsted & Blöndal has a credible offering across the financial and corporate space. 

Capital markets is an area of strength for the firm and it acted on debt and equity deals during the research period. 

The firm has a strong M&A practice. Recent mandates were a mix of aviation, food and beverage, pharmaceutical and real estate sector transactions, with a mix of work for acquirers and sellers.  

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Arctic Green Energy $300 million refinancing
  • Kaupthing IKr48.8 billion private placement of Arion Bank shares 
  • Wow Air €60 million 9% bond issue 
Juris

Juris is recognised for its strength in cross-border M&A and projects work. It is among the market leaders for cross border investment and is active in deals involving small local technology companies.  

The firm has worked on the development of Iceland’s largest silicon plants, and has been representing companies on construction and project finance mandates during the research period. It also worked on several acquisition finance deals and secured lending mandates for its clients.  

Following on from impressive work during the financial crisis during the research period the continued to attract roles on some of the country’s largest restructurings.  

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Bakki Silicon Metal Plant
  • Silicor Grundartangi Solar Silicon Plant

Client feedback

"Highly capable and professional." – M&A

Lagahvoll

Lagahvoll has strengths in banking and M&A. 

The firm’s recent banking and finance experience has included assisting borrowers in the education and tourism industries on financings. 

In the capital markets space the firm notably worked on the preparation of a social impact bond. 

In M&A the firm acted for both buyers and sellers in sectors including retail, technology and transport. A key deal saw the firm work for private equity funds Akur Investment and Horn III on the acquisition of shares in Ölgerðin, the largest producer of beer and soft drinks in Iceland.  

Recent Deal Data highlights

  • Akur Investment / Horn III acquisition of 69% stake in Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson
  • easyJet IKr300 million investment in Dohop
  • Gleðipinnar acquisition of a majority stake in BlackBox Pizzeria 

Client feedback 

"Good quality and very good attitude, always available when needed." – M&A 

"They were experienced, professional and responsive. I found them reliable and trustworthy." – M&A 

"Fast, high quality work, good project management and communication." – Project development 

Daði Bjarnason 

"Excellent lawyer – resourceful and provides high quality communication." 

"Very nice and responsive." 

Jóhann Tómas Sigurðsson 

"Very professional and reliable." 

Landslög

Boutique Landslög is best known for transactional work and is regularly involved in the market’s high-end M&A deals.  

The firm provides banking advice to regional organisations including Kaupthing and the Financial Supervisory Authority. It also regularly assists national courts with bankruptcy and restructuring cases having established relationships during the Icelandic financial crisis.  

The firm’s recent M&A mandates saw it act on matters in the energy, fishing and real estate matters, where it represented a mix of acquirers, sellers and target companies.  

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Brim €164 million acquisition of a 34% share in HB Grandi
  • Reginn €185 million acquisition of Fast-1’s real estate business
  • Hagar €133 million acquisition of Olíuverzlun Íslands

Client feedback

"The company has outstanding professionals with valuable experience and insight into local and international laws and regulations, and a strong professional network that benefits us as a client." – Project development

Hörður Helgi Helgason

 "Very qualified in his specialist field. Great technical skills, insight into our field of operation, sharp analysis and a problem-solving attitude."

Lex Law Offices

Lex Law Offices is prominent in Iceland across the financial and corporate space, with particular strengths in capital markets and M&A. In the banking space, the firm works across large project and acquisition finance mandates, as well as on large financial restructurings and bankruptcy proceedings. 

During the research period the firm remained at the forefront of the M&A market, representing clients on a mix of high-value acquisitions, mergers and financial investments across sectors such as gaming and real estate. A recent deal saw the firm act as local counsel for a South Korean buyer in what was Iceland’s largest technology M&A deal.  

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Arion Bank Nasdaq Iceland/Nasdaq Stockholm IPO
  • Bakki Silicon Metal Plant
  • Pearl Abyss $425 million acquisition of CCP 

Client feedback

"Excellent know-how of M&A activities and a good corporate understanding." – M&A

"Usable and timely advice." – Project development

"Very professional, hands on and efficient." – Restructuring and insolvency

Örn Gunnarsson

"Very strong in managing the process and adding in the right persons to the various tasks. Very good understanding of corporate business."

Guðmundur Ingvi Sigurðsson

 "A very dedicated lawyer, who is highly skilled."

Arnar Thor Stefansson

"Very competent and pleasant to work with."

Logos

One of the best teams in the Icelandic market, Logos is recognised for its strengths in capital markets and M&A in particular.  

In the capital markets area the firm is often involved in Iceland’s large equity deals. This was evident recently in a large IPO where it represented a selling shareholder. 

During the research period the firm was mostly active in M&A, and area in which it regularly works on the country’s largest M&A transactions. A recent highlight saw it act on Iceland’s largest technology M&A deal as an Icelandic seller sold its shares to a South Korean buyer.  

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Arion Bank Nasdaq Iceland/Nasdaq Stockholm IPO
  • Kaupthing IKr48.8 billion private placement of Arion Bank shares
  • Pearl Abyss $425 million acquisition of CCP 

Client feedback

"Very easy to work with; good expertise in Icelandic insolvency procedure." – Banking

"Excellent firm in Reykjavik and London. Great understanding of the needs of private equity. The firm has an international outlook and is great at cross border work." – M&A

"Highly skilled and professional law firm with highly qualified people. Very professional, responsive, reliable, good reputation, wide range of advisory services." – M&A

"Our experience of communicating with Logos is very good. I believe the strength of the company is due to its strong lawyers with a comprehensive knowledge of the issues we have approached them for." – M&A

"Very professional. Fast and reliable." – M&A

"Excellent understanding of the law, the local political situation and the commercial issues facing our clients. There were available at virtually any hour." – Restructuring and insolvency

"Their lawyers have a great depth of knowledge, an excellent work rate and fantastic professionalism in every aspect of their work. We are very happy with the work they do for us." – Restructuring and insolvency

Heiðar Ásberg Atlason

"Easy to work with. Good expertise."

Einar Baldvin Axelsson

"He has worked tirelessly and it is clear that his advice over the years has proved to be correct. He gave us the best options to solve complex issues at hand. He has a brilliant knowledge of every case that he undertakes."

Halldór Brynjar Halldórsson

"Has gained extensive knowledge of the pharmaceutical market over time. Fast working, quick to respond, and is comfortable to interact with."

"Very good. Highly professional and skilled lawyer. Very responsive and disciplined. Meets deadlines and can act on short notice."

Þórólfur Jónsson

"Great negotiator with a good knowledge of corporate finance and a practical approach to problem solving. Unflappable in all negotiations."

Óttar Pálsson

"A senior partner with strong familiarity of the banking sector and restructurings and insolvencies. He operates at a very high level. He knows the law and has a great network of contacts."

Gunnar Sturluson

"Very good networking and knowledge of Icelandic business in general."