Solicitors governing body: Österreichischer Rechtsanwaltskammertag
Competition authority: Die Bundeswettbewerbsbehörde (BWB)
Financial regulator: Die Finanzmarktaufsichtsbehörde (FMA)
IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:
Energy and infrastructure (published June) - Energy and infrastructure
Financial and corporate (published October) - Banking and finance, Capital markets, M&A
The upper echelon of Austria’s legal market is dominated by the country’s larger domestic firms - Binder Grösswang, CHSH Cerha Hempel Spiegelfeld Hlawati, Dorda Brugger Jordis, Schoenherr and Wolf Theiss - with one exception in the form of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
A clear distinction can be drawn between the stronger domestic firms on the market: those that have expanded internationally into CEE (Central Eastern Europe) and, in some cases, the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), and those that opted against this strategy. CHSH, Schoenherr and Wolf Theiss are the most notable proponents of an international model; Binder and Dorda fall into the latter category.
Looking at it from an Austrian context, there was a good rationale behind developing an international network. After the collapse of communism, Austrian businesses – most notably the larger banks and energy companies - expanded aggressively into CEE and, until the financial crisis, markets in the region were hugely profitable.
However, there are benefits to the local model too. Purely domestic Austrian firms can offer clients the greater flexibility of choosing which firms they work with in other jurisdictions. Firms can pick the best firm for any given mandate, or simply work with the leading local firm in a jurisdiction, if the circumstances are right.
Aside from Freshfields, only a few international firms have a presence in Austria, with most choosing to service their clients in the country from Germany. In terms of the size and calibre of their Austrian offerings, CMS and Baker & McKenzie also have significant practices.
Spin-offs from local and international firms in Austria are not uncommon in Vienna. Some lawyers are frustrated by the limited options for partnership; in other cases there are frictions about the direction or remuneration policy of firms. There are a number of recent examples of this trend. Schindler and Partners was formed by partners from Wolf Theiss and Schoenherr; the Vienna branch of Eisenberger & Herzog was established by lawyers from Freshfields in Vienna; and, Benn Ibler is a boutique established by a team from DLA Piper.
Ben Naylor - EMEA Editor
Binder Grösswang is one of Austria’s leading banking law experts and generally strong in transactional work (lending and financing, capital markets and M&A).
In the banking and finance area, recent deal highlights for the firm include several complex bank restructurings, advising the largest creditor group to Heta, and acting for Volksbank Wien on the Volksbank group’s restructuring. It also advised on several banking M&A deals and assisted lenders on project financings.
In capital markets, the firm’s notable deals include advising the originator on a large securitisation, assisting a number of banks in establishing bond programmes and issuer roles for two banks which undertook capital increases.
The firm’s M&A practice has been busy working on cross-border deals for both strategic buyers and financial investors in a variety of sectors, with the most prominent deals coming in energy, transport, and banking. A highlight saw it representing Snam on its acquisition of Gas Connect Austria.
Banking is the firm’s specialty and it is lauded for its knowledge of supervisory law. It has also been notably active in energy recently.
Key clients include various international and domestic lenders such as BNP Paribas, UniCredit, Société Génerale, Credit Suisse, Sberbank, Raiffeisen and Volksbanken.
“Excellent expertise, high availability, quick responses and high flexibility. Pragmatic, solid advice; candid feedback; friendly and proactive.” – Banking and finance
“An excellent law firm with highly experienced lawyers. Very open-minded, deep knowledge of the market and several fields of law, and accessible anytime.” – Banking and finance, capital markets: debt, restructuring
“Very fast understanding of the client’s problem and a very practical approach to solve it. Written documents are extremely useable. Great expertise in banking law. Partners are perfect supporters in any negotiation: constructive and target-orientated.” – Investment funds
“I know the firm for a very long time and always admire the business acumen they show in understanding our position or problem. They are innovative as they are the only firm that employs a documentation manager for the prospectus work.” – Investment funds
"Professional support with a strong hands-on approach. Strong sector knowledge and expertise. Strong strategic and analytical skills, great availability and very short response times.” – M&A
“Professional and 100% reliable on timing and answers. Able to explain complicated legal issues in understandable language.” – M&A
"They have a good understanding of project finance lenders' needs, a relatively large team ensuring financial close can be achieved within the time prescribed by the tender documentation, and an ability to lead the documentation process efficiently and pragmatically.” – Project development, project finance
“Outstanding in his ability in grasping, and even more so in solving, the problem. Huge experience and industry knowledge.”
“Able to explain complicated legal issues to a non-legal person.”
“Always accessible and reliable.”
“Brilliant lawyer - very target-orientated, high commercial understanding, supportive in every way, and an excellent negotiator.”
“Strong sector knowledge and expertise. Hands-on approach and great analytical skills, good availability and very short response times.”
“Professional, efficient and pragmatic.”
“Excellent expertise, high availability, broad experience, stress resistant, friendly and open personality and a team player.”
bpv Hugel’s most notable transactional work is corporate. The firm has an active group of M&A lawyers who generally secure a reasonable share of the market’s more complex deals.
Recent M&A deal highlights included a number of banking M&A deals, including advising Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich on its merger with Raiffeisen Bank International.
Bawag, BP, Immofinanz, OMV, and Verbund are some of the firm’s key clients.
Cerha Hempel Spiegelfeld Hlawati’s strongest practices are capital markets, where it has expertise in equity and equity-linked products and corporate bonds and M&A. In the banking area it is recognised for regulatory advice. The firm has branches across the region, extending as far east as Belarus.
In banking, the firm’s recent highlights have been a mix of lending and regulatory work. The firm has been advising several foreign banks on the domestic regulation related to launching new products in Austria.
The firm’s capital markets practice was involved in a number of large debt issues, which included two large convertible bonds where it acted as issuer’s counsel.
In M&A the firm was involved in a number of large cross-border deals, most notably representing Immofinanz in its €604 million acquisition of 26% in CA Immo and OMV on €601 million sale of 49% in Gas Connect Austria, and its €1.36 billion sale of OMV Petrol Ofisi.
The firm is experienced in the oil and gas and real estate sectors.
Key clients of the firm include Immofinanz, Lukoil, OMV and Telekom Austria.
“Deep knowledge of market standards; broad experience in banking law.” – Banking, capital markets
"Key strengths: knowledge; experience; availability 24/7; dedicated to long-term cooperation and not one-off transaction; always ready to discuss and to see things from several angles; have understanding of basic interests of a client and therefore able to appropriately balance between risks and opportunities of each and every aspect of M&A transaction.” – Banking and finance, M&A, private equity
“High professionalism, high accessibility, and high industry sector knowledge leading to tailor-made solutions.” – Competition
“Commercial understanding, excellent negotiation skills and outstanding legal knowledge.” – M&A, private equity
“Extremely experienced; always to the point; very responsive; strong negotiation skills; pragmatic; deal makers.” – M&A, private equity, restructuring
“High class service by skilled and business-minded lawyers.” – M&A, restructuring
“Simple advice, especially advice that hinders transactions for the sake of making us over-secured, is not something that we want. Fortunately Mr Birkner understands this and knows how to preserve his integrity while giving truly productive advice in line with our interests to bear some risk but allowing transactions to actually occur.”
“Profound commercial understanding, excellent negotiation skills and outstanding legal knowledge.”
"Extremely experienced, strong negotiator and pragmatic deal maker - the best choice in Austria for M&A."
“Broad scope of knowledge.”
Peter Knobl and Manfred Ton
“High professionalism, high accessibility, high industry sector knowledge leading to tailor made solutions.”
“High class service, very business-minded.”
In Austria, CMS has one of the strongest project development practices which has worked on most of the large EU infrastructure developments with an Austrian element in recent history. The firm has expertise in public procurement and PPPs. The firm is also active and experienced in all areas of transactional work covered by the rankings, especially M&A.
In the banking and finance area the firm has worked on a number of loan portfolio sales and real estate and project financings.
The capital markets team was predominantly involved in debt deals including several bond transactions and acting for creditors of Heta in its debt buy-back deal.
In the projects space the firm is advising on developments in the energy, healthcare, real estate and transport sectors among others.
Construction, energy, infrastructure, real estate, transport and utilities are among the sectors where the firm has expertise.
Key clients include Alpine Bau, Erste Bank, Hochtief and Porr.
“Highly professional work, extensive experience, target and goal oriented approach.” – Banking and finance
“Fully dedicated team. Well prepared and experienced in syndicated corporate loan lending transactions. Very anticipative of one's need and very pleasant to work with.” – Banking and finance
“Excellent service, in-depth knowledge about industry and country, flexible approach (when necessary or required).” – Banking and finance
Dorda is active and strong in all Austria’s ranking categories. The firm is arguably best known for its public M&A and equity capital markets work and among the leading advisors in the country in both these areas. The firm also has a strong finance offering with its team used for complex work such as structured finance and financial restructuring in addition to lending.
In the banking and finance area, Dorda has been involved in a variety of deal types, advising on large acquisition finance facilities, several significant debt restructurings, and financial services M&A.
The firm’s capital markets highlights are mostly in the debt area, with several bond issues - where it has had a mix of issuer and arranger side roles - and some derivatives transactions.
In M&A the firm’s work included two large cross-border deals for Czech client Sazka as it bought stakes in public Austrian companies, and advice to various international private equity funds on inbound deals.
“Excellent choice for Austria; young, dynamic team; easy to engage with; they know what they do and are really good at it.” – Banking and finance, M&A, restructuring and insolvency
“They are usually highly responsive and very solution-orientated." – M&A, private equity
“We used Dorda as local counsel on various M&A transaction. The team led by Bernhard Rieder was always very reliable, met relevant deadlines, thought out-of-the-box by highlighting relevant topics also to other teams, and did good quality work.” – M&A
“Very responsive, good quality work.”
“Very dedicated and pragmatic, excellent for complicated transactions and always stays on top of things.”
Fellner Wratzfeld & Partner is one Austria’s leading insolvency law experts and often mandated by the country’s largest banks for this type of advice. The firm’s most high profile deals are often distress-related such as debt restructurings, divestments, NPL sales or restructurings. The firm is active the project development/public procurement area, where it is recognised for its environmental law expertise and experience advising on impact assessments.
Banking, environmental law, and social infrastructure are areas in which the firm has expertise.
Bawag, Erste Group, and Unicredit are among the firm’s key clients.
In the banking area the firm’s recent deals have predominantly been a mix of loan portfolio sales and debt restructurings.
Among the firm’s capital markets work in the research period were a series of bond issues for a client in the energy sector and a role for some of Heta’s bond holders in its debt buy-back process.
In M&A the firm’s recent portfolio of work includes deals in the banking, energy, and real estate sectors.
Notable project work for the firm included public-private partnership (PPP) infrastructure projects in the healthcare and education sectors.
“Excellent lawyers with hands-on experience and the ability to close complicated capital markets transactions in short time.” – Capital markets
"We highly appreciate the high quality of advice in all relevant topics as well as the reliable and quick responses.” – Restructuring and insolvency
“Dr Fellner is a very tough negotiator, really hands-on, always one step ahead, always focused on finding a solution, and very well connected.”
“Excellent, experienced lawyer. One of the view Austrian lawyers left who knows how to write a bond.”
Graf & Pitkowitz is active in bank regulatory and lending work and in M&A.
Among the firm’s recent banking highlights were borrower side roles on the new money loans and debt restructurings.
The M&A team’s highlights included advising Lukoil on merging its Finnish and Vienna businesses
Banking, oil and gas, and transport are sectors where the firm is experienced.
Lukoil and Marchfelder Bank are among the firm’s clients.
Pelzmann Gall is a corporate boutique focussing on M&A and restructuring, which is acknowledged for its public M&A expertise. The firm acts as EY’s legal arm in Austria.
Recent deal highlights for the firm were predominately public M&A transactions, which included several buy and sell side takeover bids, but also included private M&A deals and corporate restructurings.
Bridgestone and Kronospan are among the firm’s clients.
PHH Prochaska Havranek is recognised for banking and finance work – including lending and debt restructuring.
The firm’s recent notable deals have included several large finance transactions, including acting for the mandated lead arranger financing the acquisition of 49% of Gas Connect Austria.
Banking, financial services, and real estate are sectors where the firm has expertise.
Erste Bank, VTB Bank, and Unicredit are among the firm’s significant clients.
Rautner is an Austrian boutique focussed on finance work. The firm is recognised for lending and capital markets advice.
Recent banking work for the firm included several energy project financings.
In the capital markets area, notable deals included advising VTB on a covered bond issue and representing the bookrunner on a hybrid bond issue by Porr.
Banking and financial services are sectors in which the firm has expertise.
HSBC, Kommunalkredit Austria, and UniCredit Bank Austria are among the firm’s clients.
“We have been working with Rautner on banking and finance matters for more than two years now. Most recently, they advised us on the resolution/restructuring of a bank under BRRD. We have been highly satisfied with the quality of the firm’s work.” - Banking
"I have chosen Rautner for one very good reason - they are a specialised firm with a strong and very experienced managing partner who manages to be personally available for his clients." – Project finance
“He is one of the leading experts in this field due to his in-depth knowledge and long-lasting experience in financial and corporate law. Our firm works with him on all finance and banking related matters because he is, in our view, one of the best finance lawyers in Austria.”
“Uwe Rautner and his team are very creative and responsive. Uwe Rautner has an excellent understanding of the financial industry and its legal framework both on a national and European level.”
Schindler Attorneys is best recognised for its M&A and private equity advice, and is active in finance.
In the banking and finance area the firm’s recent deal highlights included refinancing and debt restructurings for borrowers.
In the research period the firm’s M&A mandates have predominately been transactions involving private equity. The highlights include advising investment vehicle Sdiptech on the acquisition of two Austrian elevator businesses.
Private equity and family offices are sectors in which the firm specialises.
Ardian, Carlyle, EQT, and Goldman Sachs are some of the firm’s clients.
"My overall impression was positive as we received swift responses to our questions and clear advice on issues of Austrian law." – Banking, M&A
“Very responsive and proactive, in full command of the legal areas covered.” – M&A, Private equity
“I was satisfied with services provided by Martin - we received clear advice on matters of Austrian law for a reasonable price.”
“Great M&A professional, very responsive.”
Schoenherr, one of Austria’s larger firms with offices across the region, is broadly strong in transactional work. M&A is where the firm is most widely recognised - as it is generally involved in the market’s high-end deals - but it is also experienced in complex financings and has a leading project development practice with expertise in environmental and construction law.
In banking the firm had roles on three prominent restructuring deals. The firm represented Heta in negotiations for its €11 billion debt buy back; advised on the Volksbanken group restructuring, acting for main entity in group, and advised for RBI on its merger with parent company Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich. Additionally in the banking area, the firm has advised on a number of loan portfolio sales and refinancings.
In the capital markets area the firm has mostly been involved in bond issues, for corporates and banks (looking to meet capital adequacy requirements). Its equity capital markets work includes acting for the underwriters on the Nasdaq IPO and rights issue of Nabriva Therapeutics.
The firm’s recent M&A work included several large public M&A deals in the real estate sector, such as Alder’s sale of its stake in Conwert and the O1 Group’s sale of its share of CA Immo. In general it was busy, and involved in private transactions for strategic buyers and financial investors.
In the project development area the firm is advising the Austrian state on the development of a new runaway for Vienna Airport, two hydropower storage plants, and new cross-border roads, the A5 and S7.
Automotive, banking, construction, energy, infrastructure and real estate are among the sectors where the firm is experienced and especially active.
"Very quick communication; advice is clear and sharp; very reliable." – Banking, capital markets, restructuring and insolvency
“Schoenherr is a full service law firm. This enables you to get advice on various aspects of a deal through one contact. Their lawyers are hands-on, able to translate commercial needs into legal documents and understand their role in an investment process. Since we specialise in early stage start-up investment it is crucial to have a lawyer that is able to explain the legal framework in a clear manner. Schoenherr offers all of this.” – M&A, private equity, Restructuring and insolvency
“Very bright and always willing to help and find a solution.”
“Thomas stands out for me since he does not only care about the legal side of things but always tries to put it in perspective by considering commercial aspects as well. He actively seeks to improve your situation beyond the mandate by suggesting innovative solutions that require a deeper understanding of the law and the fields associated with it in an investment deal.”
Völkl is recognised for banking work and it recent work highlights have all been for banks requiring regulatory or restructuring advice.
Banking and financial services are sectors where the firm has expertise.
“Small but very proactive, flexible, and highly experienced firm with reasonable fees, which communicates in understandable language, and is very close to clients. Due to its small size it’s not capable of dealing with larger engagements.”
Wolf Theiss is one of Austria’s leading financial transaction advisers, has a strong project development practice and is experienced in M&A and often instructed on cross-border regional deals. In finance, the firm is experienced in structured and project finance in addition to more standard lending. The firm has long-standing relationships with the country’s largest lenders and in recent years has often been mandated to assist with capital adequacy driven transactions. The firm has a network of offices in Southern and Central Eastern Europe.
In the banking and finance area, the firm’s work has been varied and included large multi-jurisdictional acquisition financings and debt restructurings on behalf of lenders. Its borrower side highlights included representing Allianz Capital Partners on financing the acquisition of a 49% stake in Gas Connect Austria.
The firm’s capital markets deals have predominantly been bond issues – programmes and standalone issues – often in roles advising banks as both issuers and arrangers.
M&A highlights for the firm were mostly large cross-border deals, both in-bound and out-bound transactions for Austrian buyers and foreign sellers. The firm worked in sectors including energy, food and beverage and retail.
In the project area, the firm has been active in healthcare and education, advising on the development of new facilities for public and private sector clients and including several PPP deals.
Banking, energy and financial services are sectors where the firm has expertise.
Allianz, Erste Group Bank, Porr, Rosneft and UniCredit are among the firm’s key clients.
“They act very professionally and efficiently. They provide a very well-founded legal support for loan agreements and real estate related topics. Perfect support in connection with foreign investors." – Banking and finance
Committed and highly effective." – Banking and finance, Investment funds
“Extremely professional advice.” – Banking and finance
“High quality work, very responsive, excellent knowledge of the market and the individuals involved in the deal.” – Banking and finance
"Excellent point of advice for us in our countries of operation. Fast response times and high quality of the information provided. Deep knowledge of the SEE markets. Also quick to align open topics with its branches and teams to send us the information requested. Fair and transparent charging of fees.” – Banking and finance, capital markets, private equity
"Good full-service law firm. Familiar with both local and English law documentation, which was important in the transaction context. Good relationships with the various law firm partners our counter-parties were working with which helped to facilitate the negotiations.” – Banking and finance, investment funds
“Our impression was very good. The whole Wolf Theiss team was very professional and able to handle the very complex and challenging transaction process. Main strength was good understanding of particularities of the local market and key players in Austria. The drafting in relation to transaction documentation was good. The financing work-stream was run in a very focused way with an aim to achieve a workable solution for all parties.” – Banking and finance, M&A, private equity
“Reputable and knowledgeable practice. Very engaged, accessible and solution driven.” – Banking and finance
“I've been working with the corporate team at Wolf Theiss for over 10 years, in particular with Horst Ebhardt, Dieter Spranz and Christian Mikosch. I've worked with them on Austrian matters and turned to them to organise matters across several SEE offices. In all cases, they have been extremely responsive, have used great commercial judgment and have both pleased my client and made me look better in front of my client.” – M&A
Karl Binder and Andreas Schmid
“Both lawyers understand and serve their client`s needs perfectly.”
“Horst is very knowledgeable about the market both within Austria and throughout SEE and CEE. He commands great respect within Wolf Theiss and so is able to organise the work of others underneath him in a very efficient and high quality manner.”
“Good impression across all work-streams.”
"Excellent point of contact providing fast answers to us and our countries of operation by also forwarding questions to branches and partners in other countries. High quality of the information provided. Excellent understanding of the subject matter.”
“Highly motivated and skilled, accessible and knowledgeable in the field of project finance”
“Excellent performance, high quality standards, outstanding work.”
“Very responsive, taps well into the broader Wolf Theiss network. Makes me feel well advised and on top of all matters.”
“Very responsive, commercial, and attentive to detail.”
“Very professional team, therefore quick and efficient; very well connected; extraordinary knowledge of real estate financing and the market.”
“Excellent performance, high quality standards, outstanding work.”