Strong levels of corporate and M&A work were in the stars this year for the SOG Law Firm, with more to look forward to, according to Partner Milan Samardzic.
“The turn of the year saw a lot of activity, the global economy was doing pretty well, and the impacts of that have been felt in Serbia as well,” Samardzic begins. “As such, our Corporate and M&A practice has been very active over the year so far.”
Samardzic reports that 2022 launched corporate and M&A work to new heights, “even compared to an already quite vibrant 2021. We began working on even more complex and demanding work.” As some of the driving sectors of this workstream, Samardzic points to the automotive sector as well as the ever-rising tide of energy-related work. “There have been many transactions in the energy sector, in particular focusing on wind parks, solar parks, and powerplants in early development stages,” he says. “There is a global premise that accessible, safe, and renewable energy is a key driver of socio-economic development. And this has now been recognized in the Western Balkan countries, which are rapidly providing more and more favorable conditions for the development of renewable energy. Certainly, this kind of energy transition is followed by the electrification of transport, and some major players are pushing a big wave of changes in the automotive industry, too. These are very hot topics, and I expect to see even more work in these areas in the near future.”
Moreover, Samardzic reports that the SOG law firm worked on a number of large deals, including “the acquisition of the Delta City shopping mall by NPC properties (a EUR 150 million acquisition) and the acquisition of Emmezetta by the Mercury Group (an EUR 80 million acquisition).” And they often work regionally, as well. “For example, we have been advising an international asset management company on the acquisition of one of the leading banks in Montenegro, with a total asset value exceeding EUR 300 million. As for wind farms, an example is H-Planet, the company that was advised by us on the acquisition of a company that is developing the 103-megawatt Krivaca wind farm in eastern Serbia. Also, we are advising one other renewable energy company established for the purpose of the development of a 120-megawatt wind farm project in Vojvodina. In addition to these, there have also been others in the real estate sector, which has traditionally been strong in Serbia,” he reports.
All in all, “although last year was amazing for SOG in many ways,” according to Samardzic, “including a record amount of transactional work for our M&A team (we advised on more than 25 transactions with a total value of over EUR 500 million),” as 2022 is slowly closing down, he says the practice is likely “to make even more transactions by the end of the year.”
Looking ahead, Samardzic does say that the future is somewhat uncertain, overall, on account of the war in Ukraine. “I think it is likely that there will be a crisis and a crunch, but not as bad as it was in 2008/2009,” he says. “I believe that there is a limited number of industries that are significantly impacted by the war and, on the whole, the economy is in a good place from a systemic standpoint,” he explains. “This will likely translate onto M&A work by resulting in less robust activities, but I also trust that it will bring new opportunities – for example, non-performing-loan work or distressed asset transactions,” Samardzic says.
“Looking at it from a political side, the economy is heavily dependent on investments,” Samardzic says. “Most investments are coming in from the west, the EU and the US. If we don’t change our policy and align with the west, fewer of those investments will be flowing in,” he says, “which might mean more capital flowing in from the east, primarily China.” Still, he stresses that it is “very important for the country to align with the west, if anything, then from an economic standpoint – historically, much more investment has been coming in from that direction and maintaining this is crucial for the sustainability of the economy.”