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Ukraine is undergoing a period of structural reform throughout its financial and banking sectors that is unprecedented in its scale and complexity. The reform of the currency control regime culminated in the full cancellation of a 26-year old system and the introduction of a legislative road map for the gradual implementation of the free movement of capital. The reform gave a critical impetus to the development of the securities market and foreign investments, with Clearstream opening a direct securities account at the National Bank of Ukraine (the NBU) to provide easier access to hryvnia-denominated sovereign bonds. Ukrainian banks were authorized to grant short-term loans in local currency to foreign investors so they could invest in the bonds and hedge the FX risks of such transactions. The introduction of the IBAN standard is another example of the ongoing process of harmonizing the Ukrainian payment landscape.

Earlier this year the Estonian parliament enacted long-awaited dedicated covered bond legislation, finally allowing local banks to enter both regional and European-wide covered bond markets and to gain access to a reasonably priced and stable source of long-term funding for their key banking businesses (most importantly for funding the issuance of mortgage loans). Additionally, under the new legislation, local covered bond issuers able to meet prudential requirements under the Capital Requirements Regulation (CRR) will be able to benefit from certain forms of preferential treatment afforded to covered bonds. For the local banking sector that, at the moment, remains dominated by Scandinavian banking groups, the new legislation also creates a viable alternative to the parent funding.

Amazingly, the Lithuanian FinTech ecosystem report of 2018 revealed that there were 170 FinTech companies based in Lithuania – reflecting 45 percent growth over the previous year – with some 2,600 employees working in FinTech companies, more than 700 of which were newly-employed in 2018. The numbers are still growing this year.

Cash pooling is a staple of corporate treasurers as an efficient way to allocate liquidity and reduce financing costs within a group of companies. Despite its commercial importance, neither Austrian statutory law nor the Austrian Supreme Court has provided any guidance as to whether cash pooling is permissible under Austrian law – in particular whether it is compatible with Austria’s strict capital maintenance laws.

The organic development of the Hungarian insolvency laws was interrupted by the era of the socialist planned economy, which ended in 1990. The novel Insolvency Act of 1991 (IA) may have satisfactorily served the economy in the first years of the transition period, but due to the profound changes in the socio-economic environment in subsequent years, the statute has become obsolete. Successive governments over the past three decades have made multiple efforts to keep the IA up-to-date and to follow the numerous demands made by the various players of the market and interested legal professionals, but the more than one hundred (!) amendments have rendered the system opaque and relatively difficult to use.

The concept of financial restructuring was introduced in Turkey following the currency crisis of August 2018. Financial restructuring became the major item on the agenda of Turkish financial institutions, and regulators intervened immediately, working to create a useful legal framework for the process. The joint efforts of the Banking Regulatory and Supervisory Authority (the BRSA) and the Banks Association of Turkey (the BAT) resulted in the Framework Agreement. Nevertheless, restructurings commenced pursuant to the Framework Agreement are progressing very slowly, and in most cases have reached an impasse.

Bond financing has recently become quite popular in the Czech Republic and companies often finance their business needs by issuing corporate bonds instead of the more usual credit financing. Obviously, the popularity of corporate bonds is also associated with the greater willingness of investors to buy them. Bonds are perceived by the general public as a safe and conservative investment instrument. Nevertheless, recent market developments show that corporate bonds issued by private companies may not always be a safe investment, as evidenced, for example, by the insolvency of online fashion store Zoot, which funded its expansion by issuing bonds.

The main characteristics of the Macedonian banking market are its small size and the relatively large number of players. According to the latest reports of the National Bank of North Macedonia, out of fifteen active banks, five have significantly higher market shares than the rest. The combined market share of these five biggest banks is 74.4%, with a significant discrepancy between the bank that owns the largest amount of assets (a market share of 22.7%) and the one with the lowest (a market share of 0.5%).

Some might say that Serbia’s banking sector is blooming and steadily consolidating. Others may argue that actual consolidation is still far away. Either way, players on the local market are changing. This is clear now following the exit of Societe Genarale, BNP’s Findomestic, and two Greek banks, followed by the bold revamp of Hungary’s OTP and the strengthening of domestic investors such as AIK and Direktna Bank.

The wide usage of benchmark rates and their key role in the financial system requires that they be reliable and defiant to any manipulation. To ensure this, the EU undertook to reform the benchmark rate determination process and improve market confidence in them, resulting in the adoption of the EU Benchmarks Regulation (the BMR).

In 2013, a wide range of changes were introduced in relation to the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate. A staple for a wide range of financial products, LIBOR has been the dominant rate for syndicated loans, bonds, and derivatives entered into on the Bulgarian, CEE, and wider European markets. However, following a series of problems over the past decade, the need to move away from LIBOR has become apparent. As panel banks would not be required to submit their references by the end of 2021, the question has become what the alternatives to LIBOR are and how they can be implemented.

Peter Malovec is the Group Head of Legal at HB Reavis in Bratislava. He joined HB Reavis in 2010 after spending seven years in private practice with the BBH law firm. We reached out to him to learn more about his background, style, and strategies.

The legal profession in Slovakia will shortly celebrate 30 years of independence. And as the country itself is not much older than that, the profession-building and country-building have taken place side by side, going through ups and downs.

Frances Gerrard, a member of CMS’s Corporate and M&A team in Prague, is a long way from her home in Australia. We spoke to her about the path that brought her to the Czech capital.

One of the challenges of introducing class actions to the Czech legal system is the finding of a proper balance between the interests of clients and those of attorneys. While the default position is that attorneys are to protect the justified interests of their clients and place them before their own (within statutory limits, of course), a careful balancing exercise will need to be carried out if class actions are to be allowed. While class action law is still at the stage of an initial proposal in the Czech Republic, this proposal is demonstrative of the direction the Czech Ministry of Justice intends to take.

The Deal: Earlier this year, CEE Legal Matters reported that Clifford Chance Prague had advised CTP, an industrial developer in the CEE region, on a EUR 1.9 billion underwriting package agreement with Erste Group Bank AG; Ceska Sporitelna a.s.; Societe Generale S.A. and Komercni Banka a.s.; and UniCredit S.p.A. and UniCredit Bank Czech Republic and Slovakia a.s. White & Case advised the lenders on the agreement, which covered CTP’s Czech industrial portfolio consisting of over 200 buildings and covering 2.7 million square meters of industrial space.

In the 26 years since its launch in 1993 by Marek Prochazka as a Prague banking and finance boutique, PRK Partners has added offices in Bratislava and Ostrava and grown into one of the largest and most successful law firms in the Czech and Slovak Republics. That growth, the firm’s partners maintain, is a by-product of the firm’s traditions of flexibility, professionalism, and innovation, rather than the result of a predetermined plan.

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