GCR 100 - 17th Edition

Argentina

10 January 2017

Argentina

With Argentina’s National Commission for the Defence of Competition revitalised, competition work looks likely to go beyond merger control as a reliable source of income for Argentina’s antitrust bar.

Elite

Julián Peña leads ALLENDE & BREA’s competition practice. He heads a team of one counsel, two senior associates and four associates. Another litigation partner and a senior associate occasionally work on competition matters. Peña regularly organises competition conferences and has co-edited a book that serves as a practical guide to Latin American competition law.

The team does a significant amount on merger control work for international companies. Recent deal work includes advising Santillana in the acquisition of Norma; Plastic Omnium in the acquisition of Faurecia Exteriors; and Suramericana in the acquisition of the Argentine business of Royal & Sun Alliance.

Allende & Brea counsels clients in some antitrust investigations, and has conducted compliance and antitrust risk assessment work for international companies with operations in Argentina. The firm represents one of the four pharmaceutical companies sanctioned in one of the biggest cartel cases in Argentine antitrust history.

Rivals have called M & M BOMCHIL one of the most active firms in the market. Respected partner Marcelo den Toom leads the competition practice and works with senior associates Mercedes de Artaza on general competition work and Martín Torres Girotti on litigation matters, together with three other lawyers. Administrative law partner Francisco M Gutiérrez also assists in antitrust matters, predominantly in telecoms and energy cases, while of counsel Hugo Lafalce pitches in on litigation issues. The firm benefits from referrals from its strong corporate practice, but den Toom says most of his clients turn to the firm specifically for his competition expertise.

On the deal front, Bomchil advised DirecTV in its US$49 billion acquisition by AT&T, which closed in July 2015. Other recent merger filings include Fedrigoni in its acquisition of paper products producer Arjowiggins; Nestlé in its ice cream joint venture with R&R; Gtech in the acquisition of IGT; SSMB and GVH as they set up a joint venture in the academic publications market; Procter & Gamble in the sales of its fragrances and makeup business to Coty and its Duracell business to Berkshire Hathaway; and Shell in its acquisition of British Gas.

Bomchil has been counselling companies in a number of behavioural investigations, including ABB, Anheuser-Busch InBev, DirecTV, Total, Carrefour and Telecom Argentina. The firm also provides general competition advice to blue-chip clients, including several already instructed in merger filings, as well as others such as American Express and DuPont. It is also involved in the wide-ranging banking card investigations.

MARVAL O’FARRELL & MAIRAL practice co-head Miguel del Pino is one of the country’s top antitrust specialists, and – along with partner Alberto Molinario – is assisted by two senior associates including standout Santiago del Río. Two litigation partners and four associates assist on investigations that go to court, while the firm’s chairman, Alfredo M O’Farrell, a corporate and administrative lawyer, also devotes part of his time to competition law and co-heads the practice. The firm maintains many overseas links: summer and winter associate programmes with US and European law schools; the secondment of two associates to Slaughter and May in London, and Shearman & Sterling in Brussels; and relationships with North American, European and Brazilian firms whose references provide as much as half of the competition department’s work.

The firm says it handles more merger filings than any other in Argentina. O’Farrell and del Pino, assisted by Micaela Duffau, advised on the local aspects of China National Tire & Rubber acquiring sole control of Pirelli in a deal worth US$7.7 billion; and del Pino and del Río advised Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent on their €15.6 billion tie-up, and Merck on its US$17 billion acquisition of Sigma-Aldrich. All three mergers are currently being reviewed by the National Commission for the Defence of Competition (CNDC), as is J&F Investimento’s takeover of Alpargatas, on which del Pino advised with the help of senior associate Ariel Irizar.

Marval is working on four price discrimination investigations in Argentina. Assisted by del Río and associate María Belén Gravano, del Pino represents American Airlines in defending against an antitrust complaint filed at the Argentinian authority by online travel agency Despegar, which accuses the airline of abusing its dominant position in the passenger air transport market in the US.

BOUZAT ROSENKRANTZ & ASOCIADOS pairs partners Gabriel Bouzat and Virginia del Águila with two other lawyers in its competition team, which is led by Bouzat, a former CNDC president. Del Águila is also an alumna of the antitrust enforcer, and has worked on competition cases for the past 15 years. The firm counts many local subsidiaries of multinational companies among its clients, including Cervecería y Maltería Quilmes (Anheuser-Busch InBev), Petroquímica Cuyo (Dow Chemicals) and AMX Argentina (Claro/America Móvil), in addition to homegrown giants such as the Clarin Group and its newspaper La Nación.

Bouzat and del Águila drafted the Argentine merger filing for AB InBev’s blockbuster tie-up SABMiller, as well as the lingering procedure for local clearance of AB InBev’s purchase of Grupo Modelo. The partners have also filed and advised on Cablevisión’s acquisition of Nextel Communications in Argentina. On the behavioural side, Cervecería y Maltería Quilmes turned to the firm for help when the brewer introduced a proprietary bottle, and conducted mediation meetings before the CNDC with its main rival. Other recent matters include acting for Cablevision as it seeks to quash the administrative revocation of its television licence for alleged anticompetitive effects, and defending YPF at the CNDC from private claimants’ accusations that the energy company has engaged in illegal price discrimination.

BRUCHOU FERNANDEZ MADERO & LOMBARDI clocked another successful year in 2016, as its competition team filed seven new mergers with the CNDC, received six clearances, and continued advising on 17 ongoing deals. The firm is counsel of choice to Heineken for Argentinean antitrust matters, and its strong relationship with top international law firms bore particularly notable fruit in its retention for Ball Corporation’s US$8.6 billion global acquisition of rival container maker Rexam. Partners Estanislao Olmos and Aixa Sureda, assisted by Evangelina González Soldo, handled the local filing of the tie-up for Ball.

Other big-ticket deal work included advising Citibank on the sale of certain consumer business assets from its Argentinean branch to Banco Santander, on which Olmos was assisted by Sofia Bernaciak; Dow AgroSciences on selling half of Forratec Argentina, on which Aixa Sureda was assisted by Soldo; and Sureda’s ongoing representation of NII Mercosur on the sale of Nextel Communications Argentina to Clarín Group. Outside the merger realm, the firm also acts for clients regarding several investigations in the food, retail, banking, plastic tubes and services industries, which cannot be disclosed due to confidentiality concerns.

ESTUDIO BECCAR VARELA’s competition practice is led by Agustín Waisman, who a rival practitioner describes as a “very capable” antitrust specialist. Waisman works with five associates who focus purely on competition, plus a partner and four lawyers from the trade and customs department who also assist on antitrust matters. The practice is surging on the back of a large number of merger and behavioural matters, of which only a few can be disclosed.

The team advised Deutsche Bank on the competition law strategy for selling its local business to Banco Comafi; Sherwin Williams on the merger filing for its purchase of Valspar; SABMiller on the AB InBev tie-up; Amcor on acquiring rival flexible packaging company Alusa for US$435 million; Magna on buying German automotive supplier Getrag; Sanofi Aventis on swapping its animal health business for Boehringer Ingelheim’s consumer healthcare business and on selling a local manufacturing plant to Eurofarma; Gerdau, Sumitomo and Japan Steel Magna on a joint venture; and CSAV on buying a stake in Hapag-Lloyd Argente. Most of the firm’s investigations work is confidential, but the Estudio Beccar Varela team has advised Prisma (Visa Argentina) on CNDC probes involving payment markets and an alleged abuse of dominant position and cartel among its shareholders, and on the development of Boton de Pago, its virtual payment system. The firm also continues to advise and represent Boehringer Ingelheim and Tuboforte regarding separate cartel investigations, and Petroquímica Comodoro Rivadavia in a price discrimination and abuse of dominance probe.

PÉREZ ALATI GRONDONA BENITES ARNTSEN & MARTÍNEZ DE HOZ (H) is headed by Luis Diego Barry, who is praised as a top antitrust expert and a lawyer with a good understanding of how businesses work. He works with four associates who only deal with competition matters.

In a particularly high-profile matter that became public as GCR 100 went to press, Barry counselled Quickfood in its purchase of certain food brands from Molinos Ríos de la Plata. The CNDC said this required a merger notification, but in September 2016 the Federal Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals overruled the competition enforcer and held that the transfer of trademarks alone did not transfer actual control of a company and therefore did not require a filing with the commission. Other public matters include representing Point Argentum Master Fund in the acquisition of a controlling interest in TGLT, a major real estate company. Outside deals, the firm advised Honda Motor on an auto industry investigation, and got a fine revoked by the Court of Appeals; the decision is now subject to Supreme Court review.

The only international law firm in this chapter, BAKER & MCKENZIE’s antitrust practice in Argentina is headed by Esteban Rópolo and comprised of two other partners and two associates’ . In the past year, they have defended the local subsidiaries of Holcim and Colgate Palmolive in investigations for allegedly abusive pricing in the cement and toothpaste markets respectively. Baker & McKenzie also is advising General Electric in the CNDC filing of the sale of its shareholdings in Mabe, which is part of the global sell-off of GE’s household appliances business to Chinese company Haier after the collapsed deal with Electrolux. The firm advises confidential clients in the auto manufacturing and consumer products industries on day-to-day antitrust matters.

Pablo Trevisán has stepped away from ESTUDIO TREVISÁN to serve as a commissioner of Argentina’s competition authority, and the practice now is led by partners Fernando del Campo Wilson and Laura Bierzychudek, with the support of Delfina Poccard. Most of the firm’s antitrust work arises from referrals from firms in Brussels and Washington, DC, particularly regarding cross-border deals that need clearance in Argentina or behavioural investigations of foreign companies in the country. The firm continues to represent multiple foreign pharmaceutical companies in price-fixing investigations, and has added consumer goods company Queruclor as a client.

Firm

Head(S) of competition

Size

Who’s Who nominees

Clients

Elite

Allende & Brea

Julián Peña

1 partner

1 counsel

2 senior associates

4 associates

Julian Peña

Novartis, Sanofi, Siemens, Santillana, Syngenta, MasterCard, Indura, GlaxoSmithKline, FMC, Berkshire, HNA, Equifax, Mercedes Benz

M & M Bomchil

Marcelo den Toom

1 partner

2 senior associates

3 associates

Marcelo den Toom

DirecTV, Shell, Fedrigoni, Nestlé, Gtech, Procter & Gamble, Telecom Argentina

Marval O’Farrell & Mairal

Alfredo O'Farrell

Miguel del Pino

2 partners

11 associates

Alfredo M O'Farrell

Miguel del Pino

Microsoft, Comcast, Walmart, Dell, Danone, Pfizer, Peugeot, Oracle, Hapag-Lloyd, Eli Lilly, American Airlines

Highly Recommended

Bouzat Rosenkrantz & Asociados

Gabriel Bouzat

2 partners

2 associates

Gabriel Bouzat

Grupo Clarín, La Nación, Cablevisión, Cervecería y Maltería Quilmes (AB InBev), Farmacity, McDonald’s, Petroquímica Cuyo (Dow Chemicals)

Bruchou Fernández Madero & Lombardi

Estanislao Olmos

3 partners

6 associates

None

Ball Corporation, Bunge Argentina, Citibank, Dow Agrosciences, Ingram Micro, Nexans Group, NII Mercosur, Werthein Group

Estudio Beccar Varela

Agustín Waisman

1 partner

5 associates

Agustín Waisman

SABMiller, Sherwin Williams, Amcor, Banco Santander Río, International Air Transport Association, BBVA, Sumitomo, Banco Macro, Japan Steel, CSAV, Affinia Group, Berry Plastics

Pérez Alati Grondona Benites Arntsen & Martínez de Hoz (H)

Luis Diego Barry

1 partner

4 associates

Luis Barry

Google, LAN Airlines, Telecom Italia, Telecom Argentina, Telecom Personal, Brasil Foods, Wintershall Energia, Farm Frites, Mercadeo Libre, Etex, Royal Sun, Endesa

Recommended

Baker & McKenzie

Esteban Pablo Rópolo

3 partners

2 associates

Esteban Pablo Rópolo

ADM, BASF, Abbott Laboratories, Federal Express, Vale, Daimler, MSD, Holcim

Estudio Trevisán

Fernando del Campo Wilson

Laura Bierzychudek

2 partners

1 associate

None

Queruclor, Clariant, Nycomed, Nordic Capital, Abbott Laboratories, Waterstone, Credit Suisse, Wilmar, Nexans, Morpho, Gap

Tanoira Cassagne

N/A

N/A

Bernardo Cassagne

Maximiliano A Krause

N/A

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