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Are Private Equity Bank Buyouts Set to Soar?

Posted in M&A and Private Equity

European regulators’ openness to PE investors is presenting attractive banking sector opportunities, but such opportunities require careful regulatory planning and local issue navigation.

By Carl Fernandes, Hans-Jürgen Luett, David Walker, Tom Evans, and Catherine Campbell

Ten years ago, a PE investment in a European bank would have been a rare occurrence. However, more recently, PE firms have deployed capital in the banking sector, encouraged by changing regulatory perceptions of PE bidders. Apollo, together with parallel investors, acquired the former German subsidiary of KBC Bank NV, which since then has completed several add-on acquisitions, kicking off a series of German bank deals. PE firms including Cerberus, JC Flowers, and Blackstone have also completed bank buyouts, as European regulators become more open to financial sponsors — a trend we see continuing in 2019.

What Is Driving European Bank Transactions?

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Disposal requests from the European Commission — as a consequence of breaching subsidy regulations — and regulatory reform have produced deal opportunities. The emergence of new growth markets has drawn the interest of PE, underlined by Blackstone’s €1 billion deal for Baltic lender Luminor. New technology and digital products have also attracted interest, as demonstrated by Cerberus’ acquisition of French consumer business GE Money Bank. Further, control of non-performing loans has meant less unpredictable downside risk for acquirers, but potential upside through enhanced operational efficiency (e.g., adopting FinTech) and exploiting scalability (e.g., through consolidation). As ever, distressed situations also present opportunities.

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5 Antitrust Trends for Private Equity to Watch

Posted in M&A and Private Equity

We examine: increasing focus on non-controlling stakes, burdensome document production requests, heightened enforcement of gun jumping rules, examination of vertical deal overlaps, and ongoing political developments.

By John Colahan, Peter Citron, Calum Warren, David Walker, Tom Evans, and Catherine Campbell

In a continually evolving antitrust landscape, we consider five key trends that PE deal teams should be aware of.

Focus on Non-Controlling Stakes in Competing Companies

Antitrust authorities are paying closer attention to “common ownership”, the simultaneous ownership of non-controlling stakes in competing companies, with the EU’s Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, publicly stating that the European Commission is looking “carefully” into the issue. While public companies were the initial focus, we expect that private companies will face a similar level of scrutiny. As co-investment deals and non-controlling acquisitions become more common, deal teams should not assume that acquiring a minority position will mean that antitrust issues cannot arise.

Increasingly Burdensome Document Production Requests

Burdensome document requests from the European Commission and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have become more frequent – both regulators are now adopting a more fulsome US-style approach to document production. PE firms need to consider communications made in preparation for and during a deal, and how these may be viewed by competition authorities. Requests for third-party reports, sale documents, and even emails between buyers, sellers, shareholders, and customers are not uncommon. When faced with document requests, firms need to engage in early coordination to handle authorities’ information requests, manage carefully the search and production of discovery materials, and address attorney-client privilege protections and data privacy safeguards. Even if transactions ultimately do not raise substantive concerns, fines can be imposed and delays to transaction timetables can occur as a result of non-compliance. Continue Reading

Will Regulatory Reform Make Cryptoassets the Next Buyout Boom for Private Equity?

Posted in FinTech, M&A and Private Equity

Regulatory guidance on cryptoassets and digital currency companies may lead to a legitimisation of crypto-businesses as an investable asset class.

By Stuart Davis, Sam Maxson, David Walker, Tom Evans, and Catherine Campbell

Recent and upcoming regulatory guidance on cryptoassets and the regulation of companies engaged in digital currency, such as issuers, crypto-exchanges, crypto-custodians, crypto-brokers, and other service providers, could help facilitate private equity investment in this space. While there has been some institutional investment in crypto-businesses — such as Goldman Sachs’ investment in Circle (owners of the Poloniex crypto-currency exchange) and Tiger Global’s investment in Coinbase — this has been a relatively nascent market with most money coming in the form of early-stage and venture investing.

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Drivers of Volatility in Cryptoassets Values

Regulatory uncertainty has been a key driver in dampening the market value of cryptoassets. Regulators around the globe have issued warnings that cryptoassets may be regulated financial instruments, and issuers and intermediaries may require licences. Further, the application of AML/KYC rules to cryptoassets has been unclear. Continue Reading

European Commission Adopts Adequacy Decision for Japan

Posted in Data Privacy

The European Commission adopted its adequacy decision for Japan on 23 January 2019, opening the doors for personal data to flow freely between the two major global economies.

By Fiona M. Maclean and Laura Holden

The Adequacy Decision

Following two years of dialogue between the European Union (EU) and Japan, the European Commission (EC) adopted its mutual adequacy decision (Decision) for Japan on 23 January 2019. As noted in the EC’s press release, the decision is effective immediately.

Japan now joins a list of select jurisdictions recognised as adequate by the EC, notably: Andorra, Argentina, Canada (for private entities only), Faeroe Islands, Guernsey, Israel, Isle of Man, Jersey, New Zealand, Switzerland, Uruguay, and the United States (EU-U.S. Privacy Shield). The Decision is the first of its kind adopted since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became applicable in May 2018. Continue Reading

5 Ways for Companies to Limit GDPR Penalties

Posted in Data Privacy

EU data protection authorities are imposing increased penalties under the GDPR, with more proceedings forecast for 2019.

By Tim Wybitul, Prof. Dr. Thomas Grützner, Dr. Wolf-Tassilo Böhm, and Dr. Isabelle Brams

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has been in effect since May 2018. Although the French data protection authority (CNIL) has imposed the highest fine to date — €50 million on 21 January 2019 — German federal data protection authorities have already imposed fines for GDPR infringements in 41 cases nationwide and say that they have “very many” additional fine proceedings in progress. This first wave of fines has come from five German authorities, with 11 authorities having not yet imposed any fines under the GDPR.

Under the former German data protection law, companies faced a maximum penalty of €300,000 for violations. However, the GDPR provides authorities with different disciplinary options and they can now impose fines of up to €20 million or more. The maximum fine may amount to up to 4% of the worldwide annual turnover. Hence, corporates with an annual revenue of more than €500 million may face fines exceeding the €20 million threshold. Continue Reading

Clinical Trials Under the GDPR: What Should Sponsors Consider?

Posted in Data Privacy

Sponsors outside the European Union conducting clinical trials in the EU should consider current guidelines and the Breyer case to understand whether GDPR requirements will apply to them.

By Gail Crawford and Frances Stocks Allen

Many sponsors of clinical trials believe that companies based outside the EU who sponsor clinical trials conducted in the EU through clinical research organisations (CROs) and/or clinical sites do not themselves need to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Sponsors believe the GDPR does not apply to them as they do not conduct the research directly but only receive results in key-coded form, and only their CROs and/or clinical sites will have access to the raw data and/or the key that connects the key-coded data to individual patients. However, sponsors need to reconsider this presumption in light of current guidelines and the Breyer case. Similar issues arise in other fields, for example, data and market research, in which only key-coded data is received by the organisation commissioning the research. But following the GDPR and the Breyer decision these organisations may still be subject to the requirements of the GDPR.

Is Key-Coded Data Personal Data?

The GDPR defines “personal data” broadly to include any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person. For this purpose, an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier, or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural, or social identity of that natural person (Article 4(1) GDPR). Continue Reading

Corporate Buyers Poised to Reap W&I Insurance Benefits

Posted in M&A and Private Equity

By Drew Levin. Maarten Overmars, Richard Butterwick, Terry Charalambous, and Catherine Campbell

Warranty and indemnity insurance (W&I) has become a common feature of European transactions in recent years, amid a strong sellers’ market that has enabled vendors to offload risk to buyers. According to the most recent edition of the Latham & Watkins Private M&A Market Study, which examined transactions between July 2016 and June 2018, the proportion of transactions employing W&I has continued to increase — from 8%, 13%, and 22% of deals in the previous three editions of the survey, to 32% for the latest period surveyed. We believe M&A deal teams should be aware of changes and enhancements to W&I that will bring insurance coverage closer in line with the US market. In our view, the developments are positive for M&A bidders. Continue Reading

German GDPR Fine Proceedings Conclude Favourably for Defending Company

Posted in Data Privacy

Germany’s first GDPR fine offers lesson for companies planning a data breach policy.

By Tim Wybitul, Wolf-Tassilo Böhm, and Isabelle Brams

In November 2018, Germany’s first fine under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was imposed — and it was much lower than many expected. The favourable outcome of the proceedings for the defending company demonstrates that, with a proper defence strategy, GDPR infringements may not necessarily end in a worst-case scenario for companies.

In July 2018, Knuddels GmbH & Co. KG (Knuddels), operator of the chat community Knuddels.de, noted the loss of 1.8 million user data records (including a file with unencrypted user passwords) as the result of a cyberattack. After reporting this incident to the appropriate supervisory authority, Knuddels was investigated for infringement of the GDPR. Because the authority deemed that the company’s IT security was not state-of-the-art, there was a high risk that the supervisory authority would impose a large fine on Knuddels.

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Vorsicht bei der Ausnutzung von „planreifen“ Bebauungsplänen i.S.d. § 33 BauGB!

Posted in Real Estate

Beitrag von Jörn Kassow

Wenn mit der Aufstellung eines Bebauungsplans neues Baurecht geschaffen werden soll, setzt dessen Ausnutzung nicht unbedingt voraus, dass das Inkrafttreten des neuen Bebauungsplans abgewartet wird. Vielmehr kann das neu geschaffene Baurecht unter den Voraussetzungen des § 33 des Baugesetzbuchs (BauGB) auch vorzeitig ausgenutzt werden. Dies bietet für den Bauherrn die Chance einer frühzeitigeren Verwirklichung seines Bauvorhabens, beinhaltet aber auch gewisse Risiken.

Die grundsätzlichen Voraussetzungen für eine solche vorzeitige Ausnutzung des Baurechts sind in § 33 Abs. 1 BauGB geregelt. Hiernach muss der Bebauungsplan insbesondere das sog. Stadium der Planreife erreicht haben, das einen hinreichend verlässlichen Schluss auf die zu erwartenden, zukünftigen Festsetzungen des in Aufstellung befindlichen Bebauungsplans zulässt. Weitere Voraussetzung ist unter anderem, dass der Bauherr gemäß § 33 Abs. 1 Nr. 3 BauGB die Festsetzungen des neuen Bebauungsplans für sich und seine Rechtsnachfolger schriftlich anerkennt. Continue Reading

German Federal Court Reinforces Informal Modifications of Property Purchase Agreements

Posted in Real Estate

Ruling finds that parties may make informal modifications without notarization after the conveyance has become binding.

By Christian Thiele

The German Federal Court recently ruled that parties may informally modify a property purchase agreement if the conveyance has become binding — thereby confirming prior case law. The Court further held that the parties may also make such informal modifications if they have granted fiduciary instructions to the notary not to file the conveyance with the land register until the purchaser has paid the full purchase price.

The case

On 4 May 2011, the defendant bought three apartments from the plaintiff by virtue of a notarial purchase agreement at a price of €309,692. The parties declared the conveyance and applied for the entry in the land register. In the purchase agreement, the parties instructed the notary to file the conveyance only when the purchaser paid the full purchase price. On 24 July 2012, the defendant demanded a €27,100.76 reduction of the purchase price. The plaintiff accepted the reduction in writing, and the defendant paid the reduced price. However, the plaintiff then requested the payment of the full purchase price, arguing that the reduction of the purchase price was invalid because the amendment had not been notarized. Continue Reading

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