Year in Review and Outlook 2021 - Germany

by Dr. Nikolaos Paschos, Dr. Susan Kempe-Müller, Pia Sösemann

With virtual connectivity on the rise, the tech industry has seen an increase in dual- and tri-track M&A processes, as well as in private equity investments.

2020 was a year in which technology facilitated rapid changes in how people work and live. Despite fewer M&A megadeals and a lower volume overall, tech stood out as an increasingly active and competitive sector that is poised to see further growth in investment activity, particularly as companies look to upgrade their capabilities and offerings by harnessing technology. Several notable M&A transactional trends emerged in 2020, including a rise in dual-track and even tri-track processes. Growth equity also rose significantly as Europe’s startup scene further matured. Amid these developments, key IP and privacy questions have arisen for businesses in the digital sector to consider, including those surrounding artificial intelligence (AI).

by Dr. Henning Schneider, Christoph Engeler

The healthcare and life sciences (HCLS) sector remained particularly active throughout 2020. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, deal activity was very strong in the first half of the year — with notable transactions including Asklepios’ US$1.3 billion takeover of listed Rhön Klinikum AG. The second half of the year saw continued deal activity in HCLS, including Siemens Healthineers US$16.4 billion acquisition of Varian and the sale of German-Spanish pharmaceutical producer Neuraxpharm.

International players have shown increasing interest in HCLS — including, in particular, major private equity investors. This trend, which was evident before the outbreak of COVID-19, has only accelerated during the pandemic, due to the disproportionately large impact the virus has had on certain other sectors of the economy (e.g. Logistics, Real Estate, Automotive, Hotels/Traveling). Major hospital and nursing home operators, telehealth, online pharmacies, lab diagnostics, and similar services are likely to see continued increased investor focus also in 2021. Acquirers will also place increasing importance on scalable internet-driven business models.

*Note: data as of 25th January, 2021 | Source: Bloomberg, Latham & Watkins Tactical Opportunities Analysis

By Dr. Tobias Larisch and Dr. Jana Dammann de Chapto

The energy and infrastructure sectors continue to experience transformative changes at a high pace, a trend that Latham expects to sustain momentum for the foreseeable future.

Energy Sector

The global mega-trend of decarbonization had repercussions in Germany in 2020, most prominently displayed by the “Coal Exit”. In July 2020, the German federal government passed legislation to end coal-fired power generation in Germany by 2038, and a decommissioning schedule for individual lignite power plants was agreed. For utilities, the legislation entailed challenging negotiations with the German federal government to reach agreement on the terms of this phase-out (previously covered in this Latham post). The Coal Exit will likely continue to accelerate the energy transition, with an ever-increasing share of renewables in the overall energy mix.

In 2020, hydrogen became the energy buzzword given its potentially key role in the global push to produce carbon-free energy. A wholesale shift to clean hydrogen could remove carbon from the electricity system, which is currently responsible for around a quarter of the world’s annual 33 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. A hydrogen shift could also help clean up transport and heavy industry, which account for the bulk of other global emissions. However, the opportunities around hydrogen would also require coordinated policy, lower hydrogen production costs, and massive growth of renewable energy source.

By Alice Fisher and Prof. Dr. Thomas Grützner

Recent developments include updated DOJ compliance guidance, a continued rise in FCPA proceedings and penalties, and new investigatory approaches in light of the pandemic.

2020 saw many important developments in US white collar enforcement, driven by Administration priorities, business trends and practices, and the realities of COVID-19. The legal and business communities paid particular attention to the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) updated guidance on “Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs,” the growing number of contentious Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) proceedings (matched by significant penalties), and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on investigative strategies by regulators and corporate compliance programs. Now, with the United States transitioning to a new administration, it is yet to be seen whether these trends will continue and what other changes may be in store.

DOJ’s Updated Guidance on Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs

The DOJ issued a number of updates to its guidance in recent years, providing companies and the defense bar with additional transparency into the US government’s priorities and expectations.  In 2020, the DOJ and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an updated FCPA Resource Guide (which largely codified well-established policy, case law, and enforcement updates); and in June 2020 the DOJ issued updated guidance for prosecutors evaluating corporate compliance programs. The updated guidance includes the following key enhancements and clarifications. For more information, see this Latham Client Alert.

by Dr. Christoph Baus, Tim Wybitul and Stefan Patzer

Recent developments in the area of collective redress will redefine the litigation landscape in Germany and throughout Europe.

Mass actions have been on the rise throughout Europe for some time. In 2020, the balance clearly tipped towards a more plaintiff-friendly environment. Most importantly, the EU passed a new directive on representative actions that will implement an EU-wide collective redress regime. Traditional mass actions have spiked, too, and a particular area of focus for many companies should be GDPR-related claims, a segment of the market that saw a number of troublesome judgments in 2020. Finally, legal tech companies and litigation funding received a big boost from the German Federal Court of Justice (FCJ), and now the German lawmakers is getting involved.

by Frank Grell and Dr. Nils Röver

Looking back at the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit many companies hard and amplified disruptive trends in various sectors. In addition to other measures to address COVID-19 impact on businesses, Germany has made significant progress toward international best practices for restructuring: StaRUG — known as the German scheme — came into effect on 1 January 2021, as one of the most modern restructuring laws in the world. But how will StaRUG help German companies survive the crisis and what if insolvency is unavoidable?

von Burc Hesse, Dr. Tobias Larisch

The German M&A/PE market was off to a good start in 2020, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, unsettling the market and leaving many market participants to wonder whether we were going to face a situation comparable to the financial crisis in 2007, when there was a shutdown in the capital markets and M&A dropped precipitously.

When business went largely virtual in 2020, so did M&A activities. While there was a significant slowdown in the second and third quarters in M&A/PE activities, no drop-off happened comparable to the one in 2007. According to Refinitiv’s Global Mergers & Acquisitions Report, in terms of deal value, there has even been an increase in announced M&A transactions with German involvement of 18% compared to 2019 (while the number of transactions was indeed lower than in 2019 due to the slowdown in the second and third quarters). The German M&A/PE market has hence proved to be resilient despite the challenges resulting from the pandemic, and private equity’s share in German M&A deals even increased compared to 2019.