GCR 100 - 17th Edition

Lithuania

10 January 2017

Lithuania

A handful of firms and antitrust experts compete for work in Lithuania’s close-knit antitrust bar.

Elite

VALIUNAS ELLEX is once again ranked as Lithuania’s leading antitrust practice, with the largest portfolio of complex, big-ticket competition work and consistently rated as the market leader by rivals and staff at the competition council. Practice head Marius Juonys is Lithuania’s standout competition lawyer and he leads a team that includes non-equity partner Karolis Kacerauskas and four dedicated antitrust associates. This year the practice was boosted by the hire of Giedrė Adomavičiūtė from Sorainen, a senior associate with a burgeoning reputation. Juonys is assisted on complex antitrust matters by Jaunius Gumbis, who heads the firm’s regulatory practice group; and by associate partner Laura Ziferman, who left the competition team last year to head the firm’s public procurement practice group. The firm has an office in Brussels and the Lithuanian team is active in several cases before the European Commission.

The firm is instructed by the targets of many of the competition council’s high-profile investigations and represents some of the country’s largest companies in the energy, retail, telecoms and insurance sectors. The firm continues to represent Maxima, Lithuania’s largest supermarket chain, in its appeal before the Supreme Administrative Court against a decision by the competition council to impose its highest ever fine on the retail chain for alleged retail price maintenance. The antitrust group also acts for Vilniaus Energija, the country’s largest heating energy producer, in its appeal against a €19 million fine imposed by the competition council, which accused the company of entering into anticompetitive exclusivity clauses with the country’s largest biofuel supplier.

The team is advising Orlen Lietuva on two separate complaints against the country’s state railway company. One complaint is currently pending before the European Commission, accusing the rail incumbent of abusing its dominant position by dismantling the track linking Orlen’s refinery to Latvia’s railway network. The other is a private action alleging discriminatory and excessive tariffs. Juonys also advised TeliaSonera subsidiaries UAB Omnitel and TEO on their merger, the largest in Lithuania in 2015, which was challenged by a rival telecoms provider for failure to notify. The firm successfully argued that the deal was a purely intragroup transaction. Other successes include defending several travel agents in the E-turas case, which concluded after the Supreme Administrative Court annulled fines imposed by the competition authority, following a preliminary judgment by the European Court of Justice; and defending HeidelbergCement in an investigation that was subsequently dropped without an infringement decision, after being accused of alleged anticompetitive agreements and merger control violations.

The antitrust team at COBALT, formerly Raidla Lejins & Norcous, is run by Elijus Burgis and managing partner Irmantas Norkus, who both split their time among general corporate, finance and competition practices. They are assisted by three dedicated competition associates and a managing associate who specialises in litigation and competition. The Cobalt group operates across the Baltic region, with strong competition practices in each country.

This year the firm represented legacy railway monopolist AB Lithuanian Railways in the European Commission’s first abuse of dominance investigation in Lithuania. The team also advised Keliautojų Klubas, a package tour operator implicated in the E-turas cartel investigation that was fully acquitted by the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania. On the merger front, the firm retains a strong presence. It advised Viking Malt Oy, Europe’s fifth largest malting company, on its planned acquisition of Maltosa, a deal that was blocked by the authority after Phase II. The firm is leading the company’s appeal against the decision. Elsewhere, the team is counselling a consortium of investors led by Deutsche Bank on the acquisition of bankrupt Lithuanian bank Snoras’ loan portfolio, which required merger clearance, as well Coca-Cola HBC Lietuva on its buyout of a Lithuanian mineral water producer.

In September 2015, SORAINEN poached the entire competition team from rival Borenius, vastly improving its own antitrust capabilities and eliminating its rival’s once highly recommended competition group. Sorainen snagged widely respected Daivis Švirinas – Borenius’ former managing partner – together with one dedicated senior competition lawyer and two other attorneys with varying levels of antitrust experience. Švirinas heads the competition group, working alongside partner Kęstutis Adamonis, specialist counsel Paulius Koverovas and five associates. Senior associate Giedrė Adomavičiūtė defected to Valiunas Ellex in 2016. The new additions have finally addressed the departures of highly respected antitrust specialist Lauras Butkevičius, who set up as a sole practitioner, and associate Guoda Majauskaite, who went to White & Case in Brussels.

This year, Sorainen advised Forum Cinemas in a price-fixing investigation instigated by the competition authority. It is currently appealing against a €1.34 million fine before the Supreme Administrative Court. Other behavioural work includes defending bakery company Mantinga in a retail price maintenance investigation. The company was fined by the competition authority, alongside supermarket chain Maxima, but Sorainen appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court, which subsequently halved the fine. The team also represented Envija, a combustion engine manufacturer, in a price fixing probe, securing a 28% fine reduction on appeal at the court of first instance. Elsewhere, the firm is advising Eurocash1 as a claimant in a follow-on damages action against cash-carrying company G4S, which was fined for entering into restrictive purchasing agreements with three banks.

Leading competition and dispute resolution specialist Lina Darulienė heads the antitrust practice at TARK GRUNTE SUTKIENE, which includes partner Iraida Žogaitė and five associates who split their time between competition and other practice areas. Darulienė and her team advise Maxima, together with Valiunas Ellex, in its appeal before the Supreme Court, relating to a retail price maintenance investigation by the competition council. The firm acted for cinema company UAB Multikino Lietuva, securing immunity from cartel fines after a successful leniency application.

The firm represented four travel agencies in the E-turas cartel, three of which had their fines annulled by the Supreme Administrative Court while the fourth had its fine reduced. Darulienė was instructed by the Lithuanian Municipal Services and Waste Management Association in a case before the Lithuanian Constitutional Court regarding the granting of exclusive rights to regulated entities. In one of Lithuania’s few private enforcement actions, the firm successfully acted for AB Klaipėdos nafta, an oil and liquefied natural gas terminal operator, in a civil dispute before the Supreme Court, which overturned an infringement decision regarding exclusivity clauses. The firm continues to advise state-owned energy company Lietuvos Energija on several competition issues and it also represented Swedbank on its acquisition of Danske Bank’s retail business, a deal that secured unconditional clearance.

At GLIMSTEDT, associate partner Andrius Ivanauskas leads a competition practice that includes former competition council head Rimantas Stanikūnas and two junior competition specialists. Four other associates have competition experience and assist in the firm’s antitrust work. The competition group advised Vienna Insurance Group on its acquisition of BTA Baltic Insurance, a deal that required structural remedies. Ivanauskas successfully defended cement company Akmenes Cementas in an investigation by the authority into both an alleged cartel and failure to notify a merger. The firm continues to advise Amilina in an abuse complaint against a dominant company in the natural gas sector, which allegedly imposed excessive prices and abusive loyalty rebates. Previously the team represented MasterCard in Lithuanian investigations regarding its interchange fees. It continues to defend Elering against a private damages claim.

Firm

Head(s) of competition

Size

Who’s Who Legal nominees

Clients

Elite

Valiunas Ellex

Marius Juonys

1 partner

1 associate partner

3 senior associates

1 associate

Marius Juonys

Orlen Lietuva, Veolia Group (Vilniaus energija, Litesko, Druskininku dujos), LITGRID, Coca-Cola, SEB bank, Swedbank, DNB bank, Omnitel and TEO, Svyturys-Utenos alus, Klaipedos nafta, JCDecaux

Highly recommended

Cobalt

Irmantas Norkus

Elijus Burgis

2 partners

1 managing associate

3 associates

None

Lithuanian Railways, Lukoil Baltija, Gjensidige Forsikring ASA, Practica Venture Capital KU¯B, Nutricia Baltic, Cgates, Coca-Cola HBC Lietuva, Keliautoju˛ klubas, Deutsche Bank AG, Viking Malt Oy, Bayer, Busturas

Sorainen

Daivis Švirinas

1 partner

1 specialist counsel

1 senior associate

2 associates

Daivis Švirinas

PZU, State Enterprise Lithuanian Airports, INIT LT, Kauno termofikacijos elektrine, Mantinga, Forum Cinemas, Envija, Eurocash1

Tark Grunte Sutkiene

Lina Daruliene˙

1 partner

3 senior associates

2 associates

Lina Daruliene˙

Neste Oil, Mars Lietuva, Maxima, AB Pieno Žvaigžde˙s, SEB, HRC group, Philip Morris, PKN Orlen, Viasat, Royal Canin, Carlsberg, AirBaltic, Microsoft, UAB Malsena Plius, AB Klaipedos Nafta, AB U¯kio Bankas

Recommended

Glimstedt

Andrius Ivanauskas

1 associate partner

1 senior consultant

3 senior associates

3 associates

None

Vienna Insurance Group, GRIGEO, Roquette Freres/Amilina, IKEA, Litcapital, Lithuanian Ministry of Energy, Elering, MasterCard, Tele2, General Motors, UniCredit, Lithuanian Post, Akmenes cementas

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