This year marks a significant milestone for Dentons’ Bucharest office – a quarter century of delivering legal advice. Business Review discussed with Perry V. Zizzi, Managing Partner of Dentons Romania, about 2022 in a nutshell as well as the firm’s future business plans in Romania and the CEE region.
We are having this conversation in the last month of 2022. What was this year like for Dentons in Romania?
The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis, and the overall geopolitical instability have taken their toll on all of us. As a global law firm, it is our job to stand by our clients and guide them through the risks and opportunities they are facing in this uncertain environment.
Despite the difficult market conditions, our business in Romania is growing each year, and 2022 was no exception. We have been active across all major sectors and have been involved in some of the most complex M&A and financing transactions in the market. We have also seen growing demand for legal advice related to competition, litigation, employment, compliance, technology/media/telecoms and data protection.
What about the team? How has it evolved in 2022 and how do you imagine it will continue to do so?
This was a record-breaking year in terms of recruitment. We hired 12 new lawyers giving us a robust team of 50+ fee earners. We recently recruited partner Liviu Togan and senior associate Cosmin Cretu to establish the White Collar and Government Investigations group in Romania. In this era of increased scrutiny from regulators, the public and the media, we are further developing our White Collar and Compliance offerings to meet the growing demand from our clients.
Oana Voda joined as Head of Public Procurement, bringing expertise in complex public procurement projects in key sectors such as government, security and defense, energy, waste management, automotive, IT, communications and infrastructure.
We have also recruited new team members to consolidate our position in Corporate and M&A, Venture Technology, Litigation, Banking and Finance, Employment, Capital Markets and Real Estate.
These arrivals are part of our ambitious growth strategy for the Bucharest office to strengthen Dentons’ top position in the legal market in Romania and the wider CEE region.
What are the most memorable/interesting transactions and matters your team worked on this year?
We advised KKR and Global Infrastructure Partners on the US$15 billion acquisition of data center operator CyrusOne. My team in Romania and I managed the transaction, which involved over 150 Dentons attorneys in Europe, North America, South America and Asia.
We assisted Romgaz in its $1 billion acquisition of the offshore assets of ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Romania Limited, and in the €325 million financing for the acquisition.
Other landmark transaction is the RON 555 million private placement of the Bucharest municipal bond issue and €153 million bridge to bond structure for Electrica.
We are currently advising on the highly anticipated IPO of Hidroelectrica, a transaction estimated to be Romania’s largest ever IPO. Also our team is currently assisting EnergoNuclear on the service contract for the continuation and completion of the project concerning Units 3 and 4 at the Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant, the only nuclear power plant in Romania.
We assisted several major media and communications clients – including Netflix, Tata Communications, and a well-known American cable news channel – with various regulatory issues.
In life sciences and healthcare sector, we represented the European pharmacy chain Dr. Max in its €940 million refinancing.
Which segments of the Romanian market do you expect to grow fastest in the immediate future?
The mergers and acquisitions market in Romania has experienced a huge surge over the last year. With a possible economic slowdown looming, it is unclear whether M&A volume will stay buoyant, but there is certainly investor interest in Romania.
In the real estate sector, the logistics and data center segments (the latter of which is just getting started in Romania) are still hot. In the context of the conflict in Ukraine, the energy sector (both renewable and conventional) is expected to be very dynamic.
We also anticipate growth across the heavy industry, manufacturing, security and infrastructure sectors. It is no accident that companies in these industries are expanding their footholds in Romania with ever greater vigor. If companies focus on innovation and the development of state-of-the-art, high-quality solutions, Romania could become a key player in Europe in the coming years. We also hope to see government and private investment in infrastructure development projects boosting growth in this sector.
Cybersecurity and sustainability remain top priorities across all industries.
Is this development in the various sectors of the economy reflected in the workload of the various practices at Dentons? Where are the lawyers kept busiest now?
The workload of our lawyers is of course influenced by developments in the market.
Our Corporate and M&A team has been busy with transactions in sectors such as energy, agriculture, IT, communications, financial services, consumer products and industrial manufacturing.
The same goes for our Banking and Finance team, who have worked on numerous financing deals, most notably in the energy and real estate sectors. There is growing interest in sustainable investing and financing, and Dentons has strong capabilities in green finance and ESG-related advisory.
Our Real Estate team has worked on several important deals, especially in the data center and logistics segment.
Our Competition and Litigation teams are dealing with a large volume of mandates covering compliance, data protection and employment. Our TMT practice has been busy in the regulatory space.
Nowadays any business has a responsibility to make a positive impact on our community. What is Dentons view on this?
Dentons is deeply committed to contributing to the communities in which we live and work. Our longstanding commitment to Romania goes far beyond business.
Two years ago, Dentons teamed up with ING Bank, Mega Image, Raiffeisen Bank, and the NGO “Orasul Meu, Culorile Mele” to launch the Romanian Diversity Chamber of Commerce. Since then, organizations such as Accenture, CTP, Diageo, Dow Chemicals, EBRD, EIB, GNK Fokker, Google, IKEA, Kaufland, Orange, Sanofi, UiPath, Visa, Vodafone and World Class have joined us. Together, we are working to promote more inclusive business practices in Romania and economically enfranchise women, LGBTQ+, Roma, disabled people and other disadvantaged groups by developing business skills, contacts and opportunities.
Every year, we handle more and more pro bono matters. These not only allow us to make a positive impact on the community, but they also offer our people an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Our office proudly supports a number of pro bono clients such as Code4Romania or the Roma Entrepreneurship Development Initiative.
We are collaborating with the Clinique Juridique Francophone de Bucarest, the first law school clinic in Romania, in several areas, such as working on practical cases and offering internship opportunities for students.
We have partnered with United Way Romania Foundation to facilitate the social and professional inclusion of vulnerable young Romanians who are about to exit the social protection system. The new program, 18.0 Unrevoked, will provide 30 youth, who have spent their childhood in state-funded care facilities or other forms of social protection, with long-term counseling, training and support to help them break the cycle of dependence on the social support system.
Our Firm is active in supporting the human rights of war refugees. One of our senior associates, Lawrence Florescu, recently returned from a pro bono secondment in Lesvos (Greece) where he assisted refugees in preparing for their asylum interviews. Another senior associate, Mariana Marcu, will join the program next year. Our charitable foundation, the Dentons Europe Foundation, has raised approximately €500,000 to assist Ukrainian families and children displaced by the war.
What is the outlook for Dentons in Romania? What are the firm business plans for the near future? What will the law firm market be like in the years to come?
As they say – change is the only constant. The legal profession is constantly evolving in response to changes in client demand, technology, and the law itself.
There are undoubtedly challenging times ahead, and no law firm is better positioned to assist clients manage and anticipate the associated risks. Furthermore, clients are increasingly concerned about sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and technological transformation. As part of our vision to be the law firm of the future, we will focus on helping our clients address these challenges. This means continuing to invest in our people and capabilities in Romania to meet the increasingly complex needs of the market.
We are optimistic for the future and are looking for ways to expand our service offering, improve efficiency, and nurture the trusted relationships we have built up over time. We will also continue to deliver the world-class experience our clients have come to expect: quality, responsiveness, concern for the client’s interests, and a practical and commercial approach to legal advice.