THE FIRM Widely regarded as one of the best teams in Belgium, Allen & Overy attracts widespread praise for its M&A work in a variety of sectors. It offers a full service in corporate matters, serving both domestic and international clients. Recently, the group advised BNP Paribas Fortis on the acquisition of Fortis Commercial Finance from ABN AMRO. This complex, cross-border transaction perfectly illustrates the team's ability to operate across multiple jurisdictions. A further highlight involved assisting De Vijver with its acquisition of broadcaster SBS Belgium in the largest Belgian media deal of the past decade.
Sources say: "The team builds a solid rapport with its clients and is excellent in negotiations."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Dirk Meeus maintains an excellent reputation for his extensive experience in M&A and sources hail him as "pragmatic and exceedingly knowledgeable, with a keen sense of the commercial aspects of a deal." Practice head Pierre-Olivier Mahieu "is solution-oriented and has his clients' best interests in mind at all times." He is commended for his in-depth knowledge of the Belgian and Spanish markets. Younger partner Wouter Van de Voorde continues to build his market visibility. "He is resilient and highly adept at bringing parties to a swift agreement in negotiations," states one source.
THE FIRM This three-partner team maintains its dominant market position as it continues to win new mandates from a series of high-profile clients. It is extremely active in international M&A deals in addition to handling a large volume of restructuring work. The group has lately advised Dexia on the proposed sale of its USD13.6 billion financial products portfolio. This is a complex transaction involving the restructuring of sovereign guarantees and much cross-border collaboration with the firm's North American offices. The team is also notably active in corporate litigation and continues to represent the National Bank of Belgium in a dispute with a group of its minority shareholders.
Sources say: "The lawyers are very clear and concise in their communications and are perfectly equipped to handle large-scale, complex transactions."
KEY INDIVIDUALS A standout name in the field, Jan Meyers impresses across the board with his remarkable analytical and communication skills. Research indicates that "he is an excellent corporate lawyer and is also well versed in tax and public law, which is extremely useful in M&A deals." Laurent Legein receives similar commendations for his detailed M&A knowledge and extensive experience. He leads on a number of the firm's most prominent deals. Jacques Reding is highly regarded for his expertise in banking and finance issues in addition to his corporate know-how. Laurent Ruzette is another essential member of the team, skilled in M&A but also with a significant grounding in public law. He continues to represent BNP Paribas in corporate litigation with a group of shareholders. Counsel Deborah Janssens is admitted to the Bar in both New York and Brussels and sources assert that "she is bright and hard-working, and always delivers on time."
THE FIRM With one of the largest and most successful corporate teams in Brussels, Linklaters serves huge clients in the financial services, insurance and energy sectors. The firm also boasts a thriving capital markets practice, which operates in conjunction with the corporate department, offering a more integrated approach. In recent times, the group has become increasingly involved in bank restructuring. For instance, it advised KBC Bank on its sale of Centea NV to Crédit Agricole/Landbouwkrediet in a transaction worth EUR527 million. Clients highlight the team's well-organised and efficient service.
Sources say: "We were working on a very difficult project, but the team was fabulous, always at our disposal, exceedingly knowledgeable and quick to deliver results."
KEY INDIVIDUALS European managing partner Jean-Pierre Blumberg is renowned as a "first-class practitioner." His experience extends from public and private M&A to joint ventures and equity offerings. He recently advised Dexia and other minority shareholders on their divestment from energy supplier SPE. Sources hail François De Bauw as "client-oriented and a top-notch relationship manager." Nico Goossens continues to build his market reputation, winning praise for his sharp negotiation skills. He recently advised VPG on the structuring of a EUR300 million logistics platform with AEW Europe and Tristan Capital Partners. Practice head Paul Van Hooghten also receives much positive feedback: "He has vast deal experience which he combines with exceptional leadership skills and a down-to-earth manner." Peers recognise Pia Lavrysen as an up-and-coming lawyer with a bright future. She specialises in corporate governance and regulatory capital matters.
THE FIRM This team is widely commended for its local market knowledge, which it successfully combines with the firepower of an international firm. It assists both domestic and foreign clients with a broad range of corporate matters. Traditionally its strength lies in financial services, but lately it has expanded its client base to the biotechnology sector. The team's many highlights include advising Baloise on its acquisition of the Nateus group of insurance companies.
Sources say: "The firm displays a consistency of quality across all its offices; a truly top-flight network."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Koen Vanhaerents enjoys a superb reputation as one of the top M&A lawyers in Belgium. Clients praise his "strong analytical skills and ability to steer negotiations towards a positive outcome." Peter Leys is regarded as "a solid generalist with valuable experience and an eye for detail." He recently advised KBC Private Equity on the sale of all its outstanding shares in Microtherm Engineered Solutions. Dominique Maes runs a practice focusing on corporate restructurings and buyouts. One interviewee observes: "He has a hands-on approach and is fully aware of the strategic needs of the client."
THE FIRM This highly regarded independent firm remains a key player in the Belgian corporate market. It focuses on domestic transactions but also frequently provides counsel on Belgian elements of US deals. The team draws praise for its academic profile, as several staff members are well-known university professors. Highlights of the past twelve months include advising Nordion on the sale of its Belgian subsidiary to Best Medical and assisting Aedefica with its EUR8.4 million acquisition of Altigoon.
Sources say: "The team exceeded my expectations; it is rigorous and thorough, and offers superb levels of client service."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Marieke Wyckaert is renowned as an expert in corporate and securities law, subjects which she teaches at the University of Leuven. She is also a popular choice with clients, with one remarking: "I value her in-depth knowledge of corporate matters combined with a pragmatic attitude and a strong sense of ethics." Lars Van Bever is another key member of the team. His practice focuses on a variety of matters including spin-offs, joint ventures and leveraged transactions.
THE FIRM This accomplished and successful team has maintained its market share despite the difficult economic conditions of the past twelve months. Whilst the private equity market has been rather static, the team has picked up a number of mandates from large industrial clients in the pharmaceutical and energy sectors. For example, it recently advised Solvay on its acquisition of French chemicals group Rhodia, in a transaction worth EUR4.5 billion. Such a complex deal required much collaboration with the firm's tax and competition departments in several jurisdictions, a testament to Freshfields' top-flight international network.
Sources say: "An excellent firm, highly reputed for its work in both financial and corporate matters."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Interviewees describe practice head Vincent Macq as "one of the best corporate lawyers in Belgium." His expertise is extremely broad, extending to public takeovers, privatisations and joint ventures. He advised RTL on its bid to buy the Belgian operations of German TV company ProSiebenSat.1. Chris Sunt is a highly respected and seasoned practitioner with extensive knowledge of capital markets as well as corporate matters. He continues to assist BNP Paribas Fortis with its various restructurings. Geert Verhoeven is another big name in the department. A recent highlight for him involved advising the Blue Sky Development consortium on a major joint venture with GDF SUEZ.
THE FIRM This full-service practice offers expertise in capital markets and private equity in addition to its corporate and M&A work. The firm's presence in the Benelux received a considerable boost with the opening of a Luxembourg office in September 2010, and this continues to strengthen its corporate profile in Brussels. Whilst receiving praise for its local market knowledge, the team is also well equipped to handle multi-jurisdictional deals. Major transactions of late include assisting private equity group KKR with its USD2.38 billion acquisition of Capsugel from Pfizer, and advising Goldman Sachs on its EUR1.2 billion secondary buyout of Ontex.
Sources say: "The team advises us with great clarity and accuracy and really adds value to a deal."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Managing partner Jan Peeters commands a great deal of respect from all quarters. Clients view him as a "brilliant practitioner" with a considerable volume of experience behind him. Olivier Clevenbergh focuses on M&A, corporate restructurings and joint ventures, and is also credited with a specialist knowledge of distribution law. Clients describe Pascal Vanden Borre as "business-oriented and flexible, and he takes care to point out all the potential risks facing a business." Interviewees also laud his formidable negotiation skills.
Since publication, Olivier Clevenbergh has joined Strelia
THE FIRM Whilst this firm is traditionally renowned in Belgium for its banking and finance work, it also runs a successful corporate practice. Its strong global network facilitates participation in a great number of cross-border deals, most notably in the media and energy sectors. The group has advised Fluxys G and Publigas in relation to a EUR150 million investment made by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.
Sources say: "We can trust this firm from Beijing to Moscow, as it offers a consistently high level of service and expertise across jurisdictions."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Philippe Hamer runs a practice focused on restructurings and public and private M&A. According to one client, "he combines a deep knowledge of Belgian and international law with a flair for negotiations and a practical approach." Xavier Remy is recognised for his in-depth knowledge of the energy sector. His approachable, down-to-earth manner is a hit with clients.
THE FIRM This seven-partner team maintains a key position in the corporate market, winning mandates throughout Benelux and France. As a full-service operation, it offers counsel on many corporate matters, from takeover bids to litigation following a merger. As well as an office in London, it is also part of a number of international networks, enabling it to participate in cross-border matters. One such file involved assisting Weil Gotshal & Manges and one of the bidders with the Belgian aspects of Pfizer's sale of Capsugel.
Sources say: "The team comes up with innovative solutions tailor-made to suit our business. We are genuinely impressed with its efficiency and practical approach."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Thierry Tilquin is hailed as "technically excellent" and a real asset to the department. He leads on a number of key deals, as does Philippe Malherbe. Clients laud Malherbe as "intelligent and hard-working, with an exceptional knowledge of Belgian law."
THE FIRM Primarily acclaimed for its sterling tax practice, Loyens & Loeff also wins praise for its considerable activity in the corporate arena. Indeed, the tax and corporate departments are renowned for their close collaboration, offering clients a highly integrated service. The group is particularly active in the broader Benelux region and whilst it has no formal alliances with any foreign firms, it frequently works in conjunction with overseas counsel on cross-border transactions. A recent highlight saw the team counsel Van Gansewinkel on its acquisition of the Belgian waste management operation of Veolia.
Sources say: "We are greatly impressed with the expertise and support provided by this team. All the lawyers are deeply skilled and have a broad range of experience."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Clients laud Peter Callens as "an outstanding practitioner and top-class negotiator who always focuses on the most important elements of a deal." He leads on several key files including advising Balta Industries on its acquisition of the floor-covering business of the Domo Group. Grégoire Jakhian is notably skilled in private M&A and restructurings. He is also a member of the Bar in both Brussels and New York. Guy Palmaers is currently on secondment to the firm's Luxembourg office, although he remains an active contributor on Belgian deals. Sources commend his profound knowledge of corporate law in both jurisdictions.
THE FIRM This outfit's formidable reputation in banking and finance continues to bolster its corporate operation, winning several new M&A clients over the past twelve months. The corporate team focuses on mid-market deals in the life sciences, real estate and energy sectors. It advised biopharmaceutical company Shire on its takeover bid for the outstanding shares of Movetis.
Sources say: "An effective, knowledgeable and pragmatic team with the right balance of experienced and junior staff on each job."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Department head Dirk van Gerven earns substantial praise from interviewees. As one client acclaims: "He is proactive and hard-working, and fosters close working relationships." Van Gerven recently assisted L'Immobilière Huon with its management buyout of the Belgian and Luxembourg companies of Foruminvest. Recent arrival Pascal Faes maintains his popularity amongst clients, with one saying: "He possesses an in-depth knowledge of both corporate and tax law, in addition to a business-focused approach."
THE FIRM This ten-lawyer team maintains a significant market presence, serving a broad domestic and international clientele in a variety of M&A deals. Clients particularly appreciate the firm's business-focused approach and strong global network, which enables effective collaboration on multi-jurisdictional files. In addition to its corporate expertise, the team is noted for its venture capital activity.
Sources say: "You don't feel like you're just another client with this firm. It provides a personal service with a great deal of partner involvement."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Interviewees highly rate Stefan Odeurs for his ability to communicate efficiently with legal and business people alike. He is described as "an eloquent speaker, who is adept at bringing parties together in negotiations and achieving the best outcome for his clients." Sources recognise Dries Hommez as a solid team player with strong technical skills. "He has an analytical mind and is able to assess situations rapidly and accurately," say sources. Gisèle Rosselle is gaining increased notoriety for her expertise in corporate finance and private equity matters.
Since publication, Gisèle Rosselle has joined Strelia
Since publication, Dries Hommez has joined Stibbe
Since publication, Stefan Odeurs has joined Stibbe
THE FIRM This well-established independent firm continues to strengthen its corporate department with a number of new hires and internal promotions. It concentrates largely on mid-cap, domestic deals but occasionally provides counsel to international firms seeking expertise in the Belgian market. In addition, it offers a thriving corporate litigation practice experienced in shareholders' disputes and directors' liability issues.
Sources say: "The firm takes the time to understand our business and advises us accordingly. The fees also represent great value for money."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Alexis Goeminne remains a popular choice with clients, who regard him as "collaborative, accessible and business-minded." He continues to advise the Delhaize group on the acquisition of various supermarket businesses within Belgium.
THE FIRM Interviewees appreciate this firm for its local market knowledge and high level of partner involvement. Whilst it is most active on a national scale, the corporate team is well equipped to advise larger firms on Belgian elements of international transactions. The practice offers advice on a broad range of corporate matters, from leveraged buyouts to divestitures and fund formations.
Sources say: "This small yet dedicated outfit provides highly professional and knowledgeable lawyers for a competitive fee."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Hilde Laga continues to lend her considerable experience to the team. She is particularly skilled in acquisitions and private equity issues. David Roelens is progressively building his market visibility. Clients regard "availability and creativity" as two of his key attributes.
THE FIRM Primarily known for its intellectual property work, this well-established Belgian firm also runs a successful corporate practice which enjoys increasing visibility in the market. It is notably active in mid-market deals and popular with francophone clients. The team continues to advise Aedifica on a variety of M&A transactions and share deals relating to real estate in the leisure and elderly care industries.
Sources say: "The firm offers high-quality advice for a reasonable fee."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Paul Alain Foriers is held in high regard by peers and clients alike for his expansive knowledge of corporate law. A renowned academic, he also lectures on a variety of legal topics at the Free University of Brussels. Sandrine Hirsch is another greatly experienced practitioner and key contributor to the team. Sources value her technical capabilities and client-friendly manner.
THE FIRM The Brussels office of this US firm is esteemed for its small yet dedicated corporate practice. It tends to attract a French-speaking clientele seeking counsel on both domestic and cross-border deals. The team receives much praise for its corporate litigation work in addition to providing counsel on non-contentious matters. A recent highlight involved advising shareholders on the acquisition of a domestic airline by a German competitor.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Clients enthuse about Xavier Dieux, saying "he is absolutely brilliant, one of the brightest corporate lawyers in Brussels." He earns equal praise for his academic credentials and technical abilities. Didier Willermain specialises in corporate and financial law, takeovers and business restructuring. Sources regard him as a hard-working and insightful lawyer, who makes a significant contribution to the compact team.
THE FIRM As a relatively new player on the market, this Antwerp-based firm is starting to build a noteworthy reputation on the corporate scene. It caters for a largely domestic client base but also has some cross-border capacity within Europe. For example, the firm acts as key counsel for the Autogrill group across the Benelux region. Interviewees appreciate the mix of experienced partners and younger talent that make up the team.
Sources say: "This pragmatic and dynamic outfit offers superb client service at every turn."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Managing partner Kurt Faes "offers proactive solutions and is always on hand to answer queries, be they large or small," observe clients. He also wins praise for his calm and even-handed negotiation skills in addition to an in-depth knowledge of M&A proceedings. Peers recognise Roel Nieuwdorp as a seasoned practitioner with a wealth of experience.
THE FIRM This compact practice continues to thrive in spite of a challenging economic climate. It is most notably active in the energy and media sectors, winning mandates from domestic and international clients alike. The team recently advised Deficom Group on its acquisition of the Belgium and Luxembourg assets of French cable operator Numericable. In addition to its regulatory work, the group also offers a robust corporate litigation service.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Market sources regard Eric Deltour as "proactive and client-oriented." He has a tremendous amount of deal experience and leads on a number of the firm's key transactions. He continues to advise Elia on a variety of complex corporate issues. René Gonne specialises in restructuring and joint ventures and has developed an in-depth knowledge of the energy industry. Interviewees commend him as methodical and diligent.
THE FIRM This 11-lawyer team has had a successful twelve months, expanding its client portfolio both at home and abroad. As a full-service practice, it handles a wide range of contentious and non-contentious matters whilst also benefiting from DLA Piper's strong global network. The team is currently advising Group Forrest International on several corporate matters relating to its mining and industrial activity in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Erwin Simons is a lawyer of "undeniable quality," say sources. He has broad experience of corporate issues, ranging from post-acquisition restructuring to negotiating joint ventures. Clients find him approachable and pleasant to work with.
THE FIRM The corporate team at this US firm is well integrated in the local market, serving domestic and overseas clients alike. It advises several high-profile Japanese companies on various corporate transactions within Belgium. Cross-border work continues to be a key strength for the group. For example, the Brussels office was extensively involved in advising Procter & Gamble on the divestiture of its Pringles snack business to Diamond Foods in a transaction worth USD2.35 billion.
Sources say: "The team keeps us informed at all times and provides a top-quality service."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Luc Houben earns praise for his extensive knowledge of the Japanese market combined with an innovative approach to problem solving. In a recent highlight, he advised Toyota on its USD1.3 billion joint venture with PSA Peugeot Citroen. Clients appreciate that "he applies the law in a practical manner and has remarkable technical capabilities. He also understands and respects the role of in-house counsel in a way that many other lawyers do not."
THE FIRM The corporate practice at Lydian has continued to expand in the past twelve months, with several new staff hires boosting its capabilities. Sources note that its strengths lie in corporate litigation and M&A transactions, serving a largely domestic clientele. The team recently assisted Parcom Ventures with its acquisition of the Eurobakers group.
Sources say: "The firm provides a responsive and dedicated service that represents great value for money."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Department head Peter De Ryck runs a broad practice with a particular focus on private equity and the capital markets. One observer remarks: "He always puts the needs of the client first and delivers tangible results."
Bird & Bird managing partner Paul Hermant
remains a noteworthy market figure. He is most active in M&A, joint ventures and project finance. Jan Decorte
of Koan is described as "highly efficient and innovative, with a keen eye for new developments in technology."
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