Turnaround and Stakeholder Crisis Management in Greece
The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the resilience of many companies in Greece and internationally, in addition to prompting many to restructure their operations.
Antonis Gkiokas, Senior Manager at M. Psylla – V. Vizas – G. Katrinakis Law Firm (PwC Greece’s legal practice), offers us a look at the Greek distressed assets market and the firm’s own offerings for organisational insolvency and restructuring in his jurisdiction.
How would you describe the Greek distressed assets market? What are the key drivers and trends?
The onset of the pandemic shifted the corporate focus from investment to crisis management. Especially for companies already in financial distress, this has meant a shift from complex restructuring solutions to ‘survival’ mode, further supported by government backed financing incentives and subsidies. However, while the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is receding, the coming months present a fresh set of challenges.
Nonetheless, distressed transactions in Greece are currently on the rise, with several notable announcements over the past year – a trend which we believe will continue, especially given the challenges looming ahead.
Transactional activity is currently shaped by (a) the Greek financial institutions, which will continue the offloading of their NPLs, (b) the loan sales in the secondary market, which has begun, and (c) sale of businesses or assets of distressed companies. Further investment opportunities are also expected through the recovery fund program (RRF).
The Greek government has also contributed to the build-up of the momentum by engaging in several complex business rescue transactions for distressed companies or the disposal of their viable business segments, especially in sectors of high public interest significance such as defence, shipbuilding, industrial minerals, and energy.
The onset of the pandemic shifted the corporate focus from investment to crisis management.
Another recent trend is the acquisition of business assets by investors through forced auction processes. Notable recent cases include luxury hotels, industrial sites, and office buildings and complexes. This follows the recent improvements to the enforcement and electronic auctions framework along with more aggressive marketing strategies employed by banks and NPL Servicing Companies.
Could you please provide an overview of recent legislative developments which in your estimation could shape the Greek distressed assets market?
The Greek government, in implementing its strategic action plan to address the Greek private debt issue while also incentivising distressed M&A activity, revamped its collective enforcement framework with the enactment of the new insolvency framework, which is expected to shape the transactional activity trends.
The new legislation harmonised the Greek framework with Directive (EU) 2019/1023 (Restructuring Directive) but also introduced significant changes and procedural improvements aiming towards a holistic, uniform, comprehensive and efficient set of rules, further bolstered by procedural and tax incentives to enhance its attractiveness. It introduces a toolkit of processes divided into two broad categories, the first aiming to prevent insolvency and the second to manage bankruptcy, with the concept of business rescue having a central role.
The preemptive/rehabilitation process tools envisage sustainable business turnarounds and rescues by way of debt and corporate restructurings, business transformations or business and asset transfers, even without debtor consent in certain limited instances.
The new bankruptcy liquidation process incorporates both tested and new features, aiming to facilitate the quick release of tied-up distressed assets back to productive use, streamlined through an efficient, structured, and transparent public auction process via the e-auction platform. Especially for the disposal of entire businesses, business segments or groups of assets, the relevant auction process does not require a minimum price.
While a business is undergoing restructuring, why is it essential to engage with key stakeholders?
Successful restructurings are complex exercises, especially when they entail debt rescheduling arrangements combined with corporate or operational reorganisations. An important factor is that distressed companies are usually faced with severe difficulties in finding financing from Greek financial institutions, even for working capital purposes, however, the latter are more willing to provide funding to investors seeking to engage in restructuring schemes and distressed transactions.
Successful restructurings are complex exercises, especially when they entail debt rescheduling arrangements combined with corporate or operational reorganisations.
Therefore, an essential ingredient for reaching a successful restructuring is the timely and active engagement of key stakeholders such as the company management, shareholders, potential investors, institutional lenders, bondholders, and other creditors with material exposures. Restructurings need also to factor-in the socio-economic impact, with special interest to the rights of employees, local economies and supply ecosystems, especially when they include financially vulnerable social groups.
Can you share examples of services that PwC Greece’s legal practice offers in this area?
We believe that successful business recoveries generate sustainable businesses, contribute to economic stability and bolster business sustainability indexes, while releasing human resources and capital tied up in distressed situations.
Our dedicated Insolvency and Business Recovery practice has been steadily developing, growing, and expanding to transactional work with substantial exposure in the corporate and financial sector industry, working in diverse roles and mandates with a significant track record in seminal transactions in the distressed assets and NPL sectors. Our transaction credentials include landmark acquisitions of distressed businesses via formal pre-insolvency restructuring tools, navigating international investors to implement their strategic growth plans, maximising their benefits and incentives from the relevant framework.
The Insolvency and Business Recovery practice is part of the core PwC Legal Transactional Practice currently consisting of 15 legal professionals. We cover the broader universe of corporate and financial law advice, with a focus around three key pillars: (i) insolvency and restructurings (involving contentious and non-contentious work); (ii) acquisition transactions of listed and non-listed companies in Greece and abroad and iii) transactional banking and finance projects.
Our transactional teams are further complemented by our Labour Law, Real Estate Transactions and Regulatory practices, which provide support in transactional and regulatory and compliance issues (including capital markets, regulatory compliance, takeover bids, AML and GDPR). The transactional practice combines its offering with structuring services together with the PwC tax practice, as well as our PwC International network of legal partners leveraging our presence in more than 95 jurisdictions, and also complemented by the offerings of our PwC Deals-Business Recovery Services practice.
Antonis Gkiokas, Senior Manager, Insolvency Practice Leader
M. Psylla – V. Vizas – G. Katrinakis Law Firm (PwC legal network)
268 Kifissias Avenue | 15232 | Athens | Greece
Phone: +30 210 687 4012 | Mobile: +30 694 164 2853
Antonis Gkiokas is the leader of PwC’s Insolvency practice in Greece. He is a seasoned legal practitioner with a track record on distressed M&A transactions, insolvency law, corporate law and restructurings. Furthermore, he advises financing institutions in formulating their portfolio recovery strategies. His exposure further extends to NPL and ordinary M&A transactions.
Antonis’s clientele and mandates are diverse, including distressed assets investors, financing institutions and NPL servicers. He also serves clients from industries such as manufacturing, defence, energy and construction, retail, food and beverages. He was one of the select few insolvency experts mandated by the Greek government to be part of the ad hoc drafting committee which prepared the new insolvency framework for Greece.