For the first time, the Supreme Court has upheld a security right granted under German law, even though the asset had been transferred to Austria. Previously, such rights were terminated once the asset was moved from Germany to Austria. The decision will substantially facilitate the financing of companies with cross-border business.
The Constitutional Court recently ruled on whether the Squeeze-Out Act is compatible with the Constitution. The plaintiff argued that certain provisions of the Squeeze-Out Act violate the Constitution because they restrict shareholders' property rights and the principle of equality (rights enshrined in both the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights). However, the Constitutional Court held that this was not the case.
Companies regularly store information about their customers, clients, employees, investors, partners and vendors. Privacy and data security are therefore important aspects of most M&A transactions. Although the risk of non-compliance with privacy laws may result in severe negative consequences, many M&A agreements still lack adequate privacy-related representations and warranties.
In 2014 the Austrian Supreme Court submitted a request to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of EU law regarding cross-border mergers. The ECJ recently ruled that in cases of merger by acquisition, all contracts entered into by the transferor company pass to the acquiring company without novation. Thus, the law applicable to the contracts before the merger also applies to the underlying contracts after the merger.
There has been a noticeable rise in foreign investments in Cyprus, with an upswing in mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures. This has been the result of various reforms and legislative amendments that have added legal certainty and contributed to the creation of a coherent statutory framework. International investors might well consider these factors when assessing Cyprus as an investment hub for future transactions in the M&A market post-Brexit.
Cyprus boasts an attractive merger and reorganisation regime not only locally (ie, between Cyprus entities), but also at an EU level. Besides the well-known advantages of merging two companies (eg, the transfer of assets and liabilities without the need for the novation of contracts or other cumbersome procedures), mergers and reorganisations in Cyprus are also attractive from a tax perspective, as those which fall within the scope of the law may result in a total tax exemption in Cyprus.
Cyprus is a popular jurisdiction for establishing special purpose vehicles with an increased involvement in shadow banking, which takes the form of, among other things, securities lending, repurchase and derivatives transactions. This has resulted in a call for strengthened regulations to mitigate risks and support financial stability. Newly introduced regulations now bring non-financial counterparties, such as limited liability companies, into the ambit of transparency reporting.
The disclosure, transfer and processing of data raises concerns at several stages of the due diligence process during a transaction and undoubtedly makes things more complicated. Unless companies can navigate their way around the rules set out by the General Data Protection Regulation, it is highly likely that they will encounter significant difficulties and potential data protection breaches in the context of due diligence work undertaken for M&A transactions.
The European Union has proposed a new EU framework for screening foreign investment that raises security and public order concerns for the European Union and its member states. The commission intends to launch, and possibly complete, the proposed framework by the end of 2018. Opposition by several member states means that it is unclear whether the proposal will be approved by the Council of the European Union.
The Action Plan for Business Growth and Transformation was recently adopted. This ambitious law introduces (among other things) a new arsenal for the French state to monitor foreign investment in sensitive industries. It has also brought with it several answers, clarifications and improvements to existing rules applicable to the preferred shares and free share allocation plans regimes, which will undoubtedly be useful to investors and companies undertaking private M&A transactions.
The recently adopted Action Plan for Business Growth and Transformation contains new rules that will be of interest to parties that undertake private M&A transactions, particularly those involving foreign investment. Further, it clarifies the measures that the minister of economy can take should an investor pursue an investment without prior authorisation or fail to comply with the conditions set out by the minister in such prior authorisation.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that the granting of a call option over an asset which is subject to a pre-emption right violates such pre-emption right. In this specific case, the call option had been exercised when the pre-emption right was no longer applicable. However, the court held that the transfer had breached the pre-emption right as it had resulted from the exercise of a call option agreement that had been entered into when the pre-emption right was still applicable.
The rules and procedures for protecting the interests of French companies when it comes to foreign investments have been amended by Decree 2018/1057, which came into effect on 1 January 2019. The new decree has extended the control of foreign investments to new sectors and enabled targets to take an active part in the process by giving them the right to directly ask the Ministry of Economy and Finance whether the foreseen investment is subject to a prior authorisation.
In the context of the acquisition of group companies, the parties will carefully select what to insert in the bylaws of the company, whereas in separate private agreements, which are confidential, the parties may include further, more detailed information. If the advantage of such private agreements is their confidentiality, the drawback is their lack of enforceability against third parties. The Supreme Court recently held that a sale made in violation of a shareholders' agreement was void by application of the bylaws.
A variety of factors are fuelling a sustained boom in M&A activity around the world, including a number of mega-deals across a variety of sectors. Irrespective of deal size, a wide range of positive factors has driven deal volume. All of this is good news for the financial services community in Guernsey, which is seeing significant growth in work as a result – not least law firms with experienced M&A teams.