Belgium

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
Cresco

Founded in 2014, Cresco is a Belgian boutique based in Antwerp.

 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm specialises in advising entrepreneurs, fund managers and start-ups on venture capital fund work (formation, fundraising and investments) and mid-market M&A, especially in the tech sector.

 

Key clients

The firm’s notable clients include Novalis Ventures, Droia Invest, Magnitude Ventures, Novo Ventures, Healthcap, Pontifax, Biomed Invest, and Polaris Partners.

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019 / 2020)

During the research period the firm was most active in fund formation and M&A.

In the funds space it advised clients of forming and fund raising for venture capital funds.

In M&A the firm was active on the sell side, for clients in tech sector mostly.

 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019 / 2020)

imec.xpand

Singapore Technologies €250 million acquisition of Newtec

SmartFin Capital II

 

Client feedback: 30th edition (2019 / 2020)

M&A

“Down to earth, hands on, reliable and agile.”

 

Private equity

“Very proactive and fast turnaround in responses and reviewing documents. Open and clear communication based on past experience.”

 

Olivier van Raemdonck

“Very responsive to questions, reachable. Gives clear explanations and help to think to resolve issues in contract between different parties. In depth know-how of the subject.”

“Constructive in deal-making, to-the-point.”

 

Simont Braun

Domestic Belgian boutique Simont Braun is based in Brussels. 

 

Focusses / specialisms

The firm is most recognised for M&A work, though it is active in the banking and financial services sectors. 

The firm advises on banking supervisory law and financial services regulation for financial institutions mostly, including in relation to fintech.

In M&A there are more commercial entities present in the firm’s client roster and it is often involved in real estate related transactions.

 

Key clients

The Belgian State, Société Générale and UBS are among the firm’s key clients.

 

Research period review: 30th edition (2019 / 2020)

In banking recent work the firm advised clients on regulation, including the EU Payment Services Directive (PSD2) and MiFID II, and licensing matters.

In M&A the firm had worked on several cross-border deals in the retail and real estate sectors, one for a PE seller, one for a foreign corporate buyer, and worked on the buy side of a domestic insurance deal.

The firm hired banking and finance partner Vanessa Marquette from Loyens & Loeff in 2020. Partner Catherine Houssa retired in early 2021.

 

Deal highlights: 30th edition (2019 / 2020)

Covivio €176 million acquisition of 32% stake in Axa Investment Managers hotel portfolio

P&V Assurances acquisition of Private Insurer

Rewe acquisition of Lekkerland / Conway

 

Client feedback: 30th edition (2019 / 2020)

Banking

“Positive attitude, pragmatic, outstanding quality level, dedication of partners who remain active on their files.”

“They provide excellent and quality services.”

 

Financial services regulatory

“Responsive to what client wants, flexible and takes a commercial approach.”

“Very reactive approach adapted to start-ups, as well access to partners.”

“Strong team, high quality lawyers, on the ball mentality and thinking along with the client.”

 

M&A

“Responsive, high tax and M&A knowledge.”

“Long term vision and strong understanding of sentiment and culture in the controlling family shareholder group which I represent at the board.”

“They are skilled, very responsive, cost efficient and nice people to work with.”

“Pragmatic, oriented, positive attitude, always clear and precise in answering, good balance between legal and business orientation, extremely good knowledge of market, legally outstanding and nice people to work with.”

“Professional, good experience and smart counselling.”

 

Private equity

“Ability to combine international law and large stock market regulations with understanding of long term family shareholders.”

 

Axel Maeterlinck

“Solid advisor; aligned with us as a client; flexible."

 

Philippe De Prez

“Cooperative, all round financial regulatory lawyer, responsive, nice person to work with."

"Subject matter expertise and responsiveness."