COMMERCE SQUARE, LISBON
Anastasia Hancock reports
OF THE westernmost European countries, Portugal was one of hardest hit markets, with an econo- my so badly impacted that European financial
leaders feared for the stability of the euro zone as a
whole. Unemployment levels reached a high in 2009,
and it has the lowest GDP per capita of its neighbouring countries.
As Nelson Raposo Bernardo, managing partner of
Lisbon-based Raposo Bernardo points out, deal flow has
taken a real hit. ‘Apart from the financial, economical
and social crisis, the country is currently going through
a huge confidence crisis, which deters foreign investors
and leads domestic firms to postpone investment plans
or to take them on abroad’.
However, in the past month Portugal has been granted a €78bn bailout from the EU and the IMF, and has
promised an extensive privatisation programme.
Interest in the country from foreign investors, although
stalled, has by no means diminished and 2010 saw the
country’s largest corporate transaction to date when
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
Telefónica acquired Portugal Telecom’s 50% stake in
Brazilian mobile operator Vivo for € 7.5bn. Although a
number of public sector projects that looked promising
for the top tier firms were mothballed at the end of
2010 thanks to unfeasibly low liquidity, the June elections will go some way, along with the EU funds, to getting PPP back on track.
All of which has caused some firms to look further
afield than their native Portugal, with CCA Advogados
and PLMJ looking to lucrative Asian markets – Shanghai
and Beijing respectively – for much needed revenue.
However, some firms spotted a niche in the market,
with Spanish independent Gómez-Acebo & Pombo
opening its doors in the Portuguese capital last year.
Most of the top independent firms in Portugal, such as
PLMJ, Raposo Bernardo and Abreu Advogados, have
excellent coverage of and historic links to Lusophone
countries, many of which are considered emerging markets and are therefore still active in areas such as infrastructure, projects and TMT.