GCR 100 - 17th Edition

Czech Republic

10 January 2017

Czech Republic

Competition practitioners have seen work decrease in recent years due to the Czech enforcer’s inactivity, but these firms are rising to the challenge.

Elite

Robert Neruda continues to lead the large, growing HAVEL HOLÁSEK & PARTNERS team in Prague. The firm has gained partner Ondřej Majer, who joins Neruda, three other partners, two managing associates, five senior associates and four junior associates. Neruda is a former chair of the Czech Republic’s competition enforcer, and his team provides counsel for a slew of Czech and international clients.

Havel worked on a variety of cases this past year, notably serving as counsel to construction company Strabag in connection with the largest-ever Czech domestic cartel case. Havel was able to get a 20% reduced fine for its client and helped postpone the enforceability of the fine while a challenge to the administrative decision is pending. The firm also acted for T-Mobile’s Czech subsidiary during the company’s proceedings before the Czech courts regarding interconnection agreements; and for Czech web portal Seznam.cz against CHAPS, a company that manages nationwide timetables and is accused of abusing its dominant position in the online search market for transport services. The court ultimately sided with Havel’s client.

Havel provided advice to Unipetrol, which sought to acquire 68 oil stations from Austrian-headquartered oil and gas company OMV. The firm helped the Czech gas company secure unconditional Phase I clearance, despite substantial overlaps in the parties’ activities in several markets; the deal also required coordination with Austria’s competition enforcer.

KOCIÁN ŠOLC BALAŠTÍK’s competition specialists continue to do good work within the Czech antitrust bar. The firm’s reputation is steady; cemented as one of the country’s most prominent firms, it works with several established clients on important cases. Pavel Dejl heads the practice, joined by one other partner, one counsel and five associates.

In 2016 the firm kept working on a case stemming from a 2003 dawn raid against Delta Pekárny. The constitutional court agreed with KSB’s arguments in the continuation of the bakery’s case and issued a decision on the inspection conducted at Delta’s premises. The court agreed with the European Court of Human Rights that the dawn raid grossly violated the claimant’s rights, although the case remains pending due to the decision of the regional court. KSB also represents LEO Express in civil proceedings on damages for the breach of competition rules regarding a complaint filed before the Czech Competition Authority and the European Commision of alleged abuse of dominance by Czech Railways.

KSB was also able to get a fine reduced for Skanska after the competition authority fined it for allegedly violating the competition act through a bid-rigging scheme. On appeal, the firm secured an 18% reduction for its client in February 2016. That decision was challenged, however, and remains pending before a regional court. In an abuse of dominance case, the firm helped RWE reduce its 370 million koruna fine to just 40 million koruna.

Martin Nedelka continues to lead his boutique competition practice – the country’s first – which features an additional two partners and six associates. NEDELKA KUBÁCˇ ADVOKÁTI specialises in Czech, Slovak and EU competition law and is the only boutique firm focusing on competition with a presence in both of those countries.

Nedelka’s team represented clients in some big-name cases this past year, including CHALIŠ, a construction company involved in the competition authority’s investigation into a construction industry cartel. The Czech competition authority investigated several companies for alleged bid-rigging on roads in South Bohemia, and ultimately levying one of its highest-ever fines. The firm was able to get its client moved to a separate proceeding with the competition agency, ultimately securing a settlement.

NKA also advised IT companies KKCG and Foxconn in their notification of a joint venture to the European Commission. The firm helped a client in the hobby market chain prepare a notification to the Office for the Protection of Competition.

Karel Muzikář is the head of the competition group at WEIL GOTSHAL & MANGES’ office in Prague. On an operative level, the competition group is lead primarily by Jiri Kindl and Martin Kramar, who is a member of the Appellate Commission of the Office for Protection of Competition. Fifteen associates are actively involved in various antitrust matters.

Weil represents Czech Railways, a state-owned railway company, in connection with two separate domestic abuse of dominance investigations. Weil represents the company regarding alleged predatory pricing and in associated court disputes over damages claimed by LEO Express, a competitor on the Prague–Ostrava line. Weil also continues to represent Czech Railways in proceedings regarding allegedly abusive practices in the rail freight market. The firm was able to get the courts to cancel a previously issued €10 million fine. The case is now pending before the Czech Supreme Administrative Court. The team also advises CEZ, the Czech energy incumbent, in connection with allegations regarding abuse of dominant position through discriminatory and unfair coal pricing.

In mergers, Weil regularly advises clients before the authorities in connection with numerous transactions.

Partner Tomáš Bílek and senior associate Vladimíra Kubová lead the small DENTONS Czech Republic competition practice. Senior counsel Petr Slach continues to work on some of the firm’s biggest cases.

The team was particularly active in the pharmaceutical industry last year, working for at least two global companies on competition matters, helping navigate contractual relationships with distributors and advising on intellectual property issues. The firm is also involved in helping an unnamed client work through a competition audit of its distribution network, as well as representing it in a dispute with a former longstanding distributor.

The small WHITE & CASE team remains active in the Czech Republic. Partner Ivo Janda leads the three-person practice, although they receive support from colleagues from the dispute resolution practice group. Nevertheless, the firm is one of the few US law firms with a strong presence in the Czech market, and Janda says that the practice is now self-sustaining and is able to obtain domestic work on its own as well as through references from the firm’s global network.

The merger side is busier than ever. Janda and his team played a key role in advising the owners of ČGS Holding, a Czech rubber conglomerate with leading positions in agricultural and speciality tires as well as engineered polymer solutions, on its sale to Swedish industrial giant Trelleborg. Janda and his team also acted for Rockaway Capital on the greater-than €200 million acquisition of Mall.cz, the second largest e-shop in the Czech Republic and Heureka.cz, the largest price comparison website, from Naspers, a South African-based internet services provider with a particular focus on ecommerce. In the cartel law area, the Prague antitrust law team also represents construction company Swietelsky in cartel proceedings before the Czech competition enforcer, which is investigating the largest construction companies on the Czech market for alleged bid rigging.

Partner Alexandr César continues to lead BAKER & MCKENZIE’s Czech competition practice. The team in Prague is engaged in major competition cases, including merger filings; and dominance cases mainly in the pharmaceutical and telecommunications sectors. In cartel work, the team represented Hochtief during the Czech competition enforcer’s construction cartel.

Senior associate Jitka Linhartová who, prior to joining private practice, worked in the cartel department of the Czech competition enforcer, leads SCHÖNHERR’s competition team. The Czech team is often called upon to assist with competition matters in neighbouring jurisdictions. The firm advised utilities company EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg on Czech and Slovak merger control proceedings regarding its acquisition of natural gas company VNG Verbundnetz Gas. Linhartová and her team also provide various competition advice to clients like chemical producer BASF, luxury car company Mercedes-Benz Česká Republika and Eurofoam, a group of foam and foam-converting companies.

VEJMELKA & WÜNSCH did not respond to request to participate in this year’s GCR 100 survey, but Josef Vejmelka continues to lead the antitrust group, working with partner Tomáš Fiala for clients on a variety of competition issues. Clients include chemical company Dow Chemicals, technology company Hewlett-Packard, entertainment company Sony Pictures and crystal company Swarovski.

Firm

Head(s) of competition

Size

Who’s Who Legal nominees

Clients

Elite

Havel Holásek & Partners

Robert Neruda

5 partners

2 managing associates

5 senior associates

4 associates

Robert Neruda

Jaroslav Havel

Agrofert Holding, Ahold, Arca Capital, Arriva, AutoCont, Capgemini, CˇD Cargo, CˇEPS, Cˇeská lékárna (Dr Max), Cˇeská pošta, Cˇeská zbrojovka, CˇEZ, Expedia, Flaga, Footbal Association, Globus

Kocián Šolc Balaštík

Pavel Dejl

2 partners

1 counsel

5 associates

Pavel Dejl

Heineken Group, RWE Group, Agrofert Group, Schneider Electric, Philips, Telefónica, Karlovarské minerální vody, Reckitt Benckiser, Alpine Pro, Cˇeská národní banka (Czech national bank)

Nedelka Kubácˇ advokáti

Martin Nedelka

2 partners

3 senior associates

3 junior associates

Martin Nedelka

Siemens, Panasonic, Bayer, Porsche Czech Republic, Linde Gas, Markant, PRE, EPH, KKCG, Sivek Hotels, Lidl, CˇEPS, city of Bílina, CHALIŠ

Weil Gotshal & Manges

Karel Muzikárˇ

2 partners

15 associates

Jiri Kindl

AVE, CEZ, CHAPS, CS-BETON, Czech Railways, OMV, Plzensky Prazdroj, Severoceskedoly, Telefónica, AeskuLab, Pivovary Topvar (Topvar Breweries)

Highly recommended

Dentons

Tomáš Bílek

Vladimíra Kubová

1 partner

1 senior counsel

1 counsel

1 senior associate

1 associate

None

Round Hill Capital

White & Case

Ivo Janda

1 partner

2 associates

None

Cˇesky ´ Aeroholding, CSA/Czech Airlines, PointPark Properties, Toshiba Corporation, Czech Railways

Recommended

Baker & McKenzie

Alexandr César

2 partners

3 associates

Alexandr César

Hochtief, Cˇeskoslovenská obchodní banka, Worldline SA, Shell Czech Republic, Schreiber International, Energeticky a prumyslovy holding, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Eli Lilly

Schönherr

Jitka Linhartová

1 senior associate

1 associate

None

EnBW, BASF, Continental (Barum), CECED CZ, Zeppelin/Ramirent, REWE Group (Billa, Penny Market), Mondi, Intersnack CZ & SK, Mercedes-Benz

Vejmelka & Wünsch

Josef Vejmelka

N/A

None

N/A

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