Highly complex and highly regulated
The challenges the energy market is facing are many and varied. The legal elements of the nuclear phase-out are making headway, and while in Karlsruhe the proceedings involving the constitutionality of the nuclear phase-out are on the horizon, the governmental liability proceedings against the German federal states in connection with the shutdown of the German nuclear reactors are already in full swing.
In addition to this, a number of essential regulatory matters were ruled on in late 2014 by the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht), for example concerning the Federal Network Agency’s redispatch stipulation.
Calm year for M&A
In contrast to the manifold challenges in regulation, the M&A scene is rather quiet – this year there were no major deals, such as network sales. The large energy corporates are busier with the restructuring and – like the public utilities – with the reorientation of their portfolios, particularly in renewable energies. The passing of the Renewable Energies Act in 2014 led to a rally in project launches at the end of the year. In the offshore sector, for instance, projects are changing owner. There is also much to do on the interface with restructuring, as shown by Prokon’s change of corporate form.
A new era for firms
For 15 years, nothing happened in the German advisory scene without the team at Clifford Chance – the practice was among the pioneers in energy law. Those days are over. The move of the extremely well-respected team around Dr. Peter Rosin and Thomas Burmeister to White & Case highlights the trend reversal currently evident among advisors. The spinoff of the Scholtka & Partner partnership towards PwC Legal and Beiten Burkhardt can also be viewed in this context: regulatory advice has come under immense pressure and teams in large firms are having to readjust their business models. Though the Rosin team had set about implementing this change at Clifford Chance, it opted for a new start in a different setup. For White & Case, the arrivals represent a huge opportunity, as they close a gaping hole in energy law and at the Düsseldorf office. But the task here will be the same: trimming M&A work and regulatory advice down to high-end activity.
Freshfields, Linklaters and others are or were facing the same challenge – and have done their assignments well. Linklaters secured a prestigious project in the shape of the E.on restructuring. This involved everything that is considered lucrative for a firm of its setup: complex aspects of corporate and numerous other fields, the undivided attention of the executive and supervisory boards and a high degree of time pressure. Freshfields, who would no doubt also have liked to take on this instruction for its regular client, is casting out its net towards more international work, and very successfully. Both strategies are bringing in very attractive instructions.
JUVE Law Firm of the year