ZRP Schoenherr
Tuca Zbarcea & Asociatii

TSAA business breakfast in Vienna talks Romania investment with 70 foreign law firm partners

09 Octombrie 2015   |   Andrei Cîrchelan, Vienna

The meeting was a typical move for a firm such as TSAA, a young dynamic player in the Romanian legal market.

 
 
Bucharest law firm TSAA went to Vienna, during the week of the International Bar Association Annual Conference, to host a business breakfast with 70 major law firm partners and discuss investment opportunities in Romania.

This meeting is not about us, TSAA, it is about Romania, with the investment opportunities it brings”, said Silviu Stratulat, Managing Partner of TSAA, in the opening speech.

The audience, arriving promptly after 08:00 in the morning at the Motto am Fluss restaurant on the Danube, consisted mostly of lawyers interested in asking questions about Romania, bringing along their appetite for networking. Visitor badges included legal market household names such as Gateley, the first british law firm to float stock, Reed Smith, an international giant with over 1.800 lawyers in its ranks worldwise, or Gun, the larges law firm in Turkey. On the other side, a strong presence by TSAA, with a large team of lawyers, made sure the audience is well managed, as each small networking group included a TSAA lawyer in its midst.


Each guest received a brochure with the key facts and figures about Romania. The speakers, three experienced professionals chosen to answer a wide range of questions on investment in Romania, included an ambassador, a banker and an investor.

Romania through the eyes of the ambassador

One of the speakers invited to the event was Bogdan Mazuru, Romanian ambassador to Vienna, and his message was that Romania can only go up in the future.

”First of all, the geostrategic assets: well-located geographically bewteen East and West, we have the Black Sea, we have a good market, good labor force, still cheap, still well-trained, and if you see the diversity in the Romanian economy you see there is a lot of room under the ceiling. You have a lot of room to grow in practically everything that defines an economy”, said the ambassador.

In addition, according to Mazuru, in infrastructure, roads, railroads, communications, a lot has been done, but there are a lot of things to do.

In agriculture Romania has one of the best potentials in the entire European Union and we know that in the future we will have a food crisis, so in a still not modernised agriculture there are a lot of things to do”, the ambassador said, adding the advantages presented by energy and tourism as well, with investment in nuclear reactors or hydropower and, respectively, through the geographic diversity for tourism, especially in the Danube Delta, ”one of the most beautiful places on Earth”.

”Poland five years ago” and ”the hunger for a brighter future”

Another speaker was Cristian Popa, former Deputy Governor of Romania’s central bank, who spoke in macroeconomic terms about the fact that Romania moved, within five years, from being ”the bizarre kid on the block” to looking ”like everybody else” in terms of economic development.

Prior to 2008-2010, Romania was the bizarre kid on the block, we always stood out with the wrong figures, either the inflation or the budget deficit, or the fiscal deficit. Growth did not add up to as much as in the other CEE economies. Now Romania looks like everybody else, but not exactly”, said Popa.

According to the veteran banker, one of the main issues in Romania is the fact that investment has disappointed. Not only private investment has failed to be where expected, but Government spending on capital has been low, and this is common to many governments for the past 10-15 years: ”when they revise, they cut public investments”.

EU fund absorbtion, however, non-refundable money, has greatly improved as of late and, after a period of single-digit absorbtion in terms of percentage, the target can now be set at 100%.

In the labor market, according to Popa, 2008-2009 were years of ”huge labor shedding”, which means that productivity increased ”fantastically”, but right now there is a trend for wage increases. Added with the public sector wage increases, ”this means productivity will be squeezed”. Labor participation rates are low across the board, but unemployment is gradually going down.

All the shortcomings are potential opportunities for people who believe the risk is worth it. Romania is closest to Poland in terms of economy, but Romania is like Poland five years ago. So if you wish you were in Poland five years ago, now is your chance”, Popa concluded.

For the investor’s point of view, TSAA invited Mikael Fredholm, CEO of fitness club chain World Class Romania.

In Romania, the biggest asset is the hungry people. You can really see the hunger of Romanians to achieve something. I did not see in the Czech Republic, Sweden, France, it’s a big huger for a birghter future. This is important, especially if you work in the hospitality industry”, Fredholm said.

Then the investor shared with guests the story of how the World Class business entered Romania at a time when the market did not seem ready for such service and products. The target was the average to high income segment, and the business has seen strong development in recent years, with a large number of gyms launched in Bucharest and other major Romanian cities.

On corruption, a constant ”hot topic” in international talks about Romania, Silviu Stratulat said ”the fight against corruption has been the main focus of the Romanian Government for the past two years. Things are changing drastically, at a very gast pace. (...) This means something is done at this level and things will continue to improve in the next few years”.

At the epicenter of the legal market

The event organised by TSAA took place in Vienna, the European capital that for one week was the epicenter of the global legal market. In a venue the size of an airport and with 190-pages worth of presentation in the programme alone, the ”IBA Annual Conference Vienna 2015” turned the Austrian capital into the law firm capital of the world. Tens of conferences held in parallel, 85 exposition booths from the main legal market players and keynote speakers such as Fatou Bensouda, Jose Manuel Barroso, Kofi Annan sau Anders Fogh Rasmussen, brought to Vienna thousands of lawyers looking to widen their contact networks.

The TSAA business breakfast, however, was one of those ”behind the scenes” meetings that constitute the true purpose of conferences such as the IBA Annual, events where lawyers meet in close quarters and talk business for expansion into new jurisdictions or collaboration with interesting firms.

The meeting was a typical move for a firm such as TSAA, a young dynamic player in the Romanian legal market. Within three years, the firm has reached an approximate total of 30 lawyers in its ranks, a middleweight size by local standards, with people brought in from some of the strongest players on the market.

On an international level, the firm is working with Christopher Jackson, a British lawyer with a 40-year background in outfits such as Fieldfisher or Reed Smith. He acts as consultant for TSAA, with business development attributes.

Not long ago, BizLawyer held an interview in Bucharest with Haibin Xue, partner within Chinese giant Zhong Lun, who had come to Romania invited by TSAA, to look for business development opportunities.

Such criteria and many others put TSAA in a category of legal market newcomers that define the third generation of law firms, after the NNDKP/Mușat & Asociații generation and the Țuca Zbârcea & Asociații generation. Right now, competition is fierce and many new players are showing similar dynamism, which would make it premature to speak of a ”TSAA generation”. However, the telltale signs are there.
 
 

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