Demarest Advogados has bolstered its M&A and competition practices with the hiring of two partners, Paola Pugliese and Thiago Sandim, formerly of Lefosse. The move comes as part of the São Paulo-headquartered firm’s strategic plan that began in 2011, projecting 15% annual growth. Nine associates have made the move to Demarest along with Pugliese and Sandim.

Pugliese and her team have doubled Demarest's competition practice. As head of the competition practice at Lefosse for the past six years, Pugliese has handled cases before the Brazilian Administrative Council for Economic Defense, representing British Petroleum, Marfrig, Johnson & Johnson, Air France, Syngenta, Volkswagen, and other clients. At present, she is representing Bombardier in the São Paulo Subway cartel case.

Since enactment of the new competition law in May 2012, the market for competition lawyers has changed dramatically, Pugliese noted.

“The introduction of the suspensory regime in Brazil has required from competition lawyers a more business-oriented approach to merger transactions, requiring strategic thinking to find solutions that balance the necessities of both the regulatory and the business worlds,” she said. “Having worked for many years with clients and law firms from more mature jurisdictions in terms of competition law, my team and I were prepared for that change when the new law came into force and adapted very quickly to this new environment. Clients noticed it immediately and appreciated that.”

Sandim specializes in M&A and private equity. In February 2012 and May 2013, respectively, Sandim led the team that negotiated the consortium that won the concession of the Guarulhos International Airport and the team that negotiated Chilean company Falabella’s first investment in Brazil since the acquisition of Dicico in May 2013.

Mainly as a result of the addition of several million people to the Brazilian middle-class consuming sector, Brazil's M&A market has experienced deals of increasing size and complexity during the last decade, according to Sandim. This trend should continue as Brazilian corporations and multinationals doing business locally get larger, he said. Sandim gave the following analysis:

“The core of the activity will continue to be retail, but the infrastructure industry is likely to pick-up in the next couple of years. This will create the need for law firms to adapt, as the type, rhythm, and focus of the work that exists in infrastructure differs from the work that has been done in Brazilian law firms. We have not had a boom in general infrastructure since the 1970s in the country.”

On the private equity side, Sandim said he has seen an increase in the actual number of the transactions in the short term.

“This is because as a result of the somewhat bumpy Brazilian economy, the expectations of Brazilian entrepreneurs are becoming more realistic, therefore making Brazilian assets more accessible to international private equity funds,” he said. “Despite short term hiccups, the long-term prospects are still very good. This is precisely the environment where private equity flourishes. My guess, thus, is that private equity funds ‘will go for it’.”

Demarest also announced the expansion and structuring of two new practice areas: government relations and compliance. The compliance group is comprised of members of the criminal defense, business, competitive, and infrastructure areas. The government relations area will be led by Antonio Carlos Guimarães Gonçalves in Brasilia.

“The team, now bigger and organized in a single group, will assist and guide clients through challenges and issues with the Government and the new Brazilian anti-corruption laws, working together with other areas of practice of the firm, depending on the specifics of the case,” the firm said.