Hengeler Mueller on How German Firms Can Compete in the Global M&A Arena

Germany's 2020 “Law Firm of the Year” honoree in Mergers and Acquisitions Law

An Interview With Hengeler Mueller
Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers

December 4, 2019 12:00 PM

This interview was conducted as part of the 2020 Edition of The Best Lawyers in Germany “Law Firm of the Year” award recognitions. Our partner Handelsblatt, also published these awards on June 27, 2019, online and in print in their June 2019 edition.

For Hans-Joerg Ziegenhain of Hengeler Mueller—Germany's 2020 “Law Firm of the Year” honoree in Mergers and Acquisitions Law—advising family-run legacy companies and multibillion-dollar corporations is what he loves to do every day. Ziegenhain joins Phillip Greer, CEO of Best Lawyers, to talk about the current M&A landscape in Germany and to provide some insight on how global political tensions have affected different types of investments.

How have global political tensions had an impact on the mergers and acquisitions field?

Hans-Joerg Ziegenhain: Let's put it this way, I think it's fair to say that there is a bit of a slowdown; however, I can only speak for Germany and I can't really speak for global M&A because I don't really have the whole picture. If you look at the stats as regards Germany, you can see that the appetite for German assets has slowed down. I think the reason is, in large part, that all automotive-related businesses are not as in demand as they were, let's say, about two or three years ago. The shift from the traditional engines to electric cars, hybrid cars and so on causes some slowdown in the market.

It further feels that some [private equity] players won’t go for certain assets—even though they really want them—once it reaches a price, which is just over and above what they think is reasonable. Still, you find some bias. But large-cap funds, like KKR, Bain Capital, or Advent International, would not just go for anything anymore and so all that taken together leads, in my view, to a bit of a slowdown.

Were there any M&A projects you were especially proud of or found challenging in the last five years that you can speak on?

We acted for Deutsche Börse on the acquisition of Axioma, Inc., a privately held U.S. company, which was owned by some 130 shareholders. We just closed the deal about four weeks ago. Axioma was merged with the help of a private equity player, General Atlantic, into a wholly owned subsidiary of Deutsche Börse, a publicly traded German DAX company. The business acquired resembles a PE-led portfolio company and, therefore, the integration into a publicly traded DAX company group posed a number of interesting issues, which we had not seen before. It further involved a cross-border reverse triangle merger with the German entity becoming the top holding company of the combined businesses. So from both, a legal and a business point of view, it constitutes a very interesting transaction.

Your firm has been involved with some major projects of note. Is there more pressure handling multibillion-dollar deals or is it business as usual at this point?

I wouldn't say there is more pressure. I would say it's our ambition to handle these transactions, but it is a challenge for German firms, in general, to be involved in big-ticket cross-border transactions. Take Nestle Skin Health, for example: in this case, even though you had a Swiss-based seller and a Sweden-based buyer, U.K. law governed the transaction documents. Why would you go for a governing law which has no genuine link with the transaction? That means you are really fighting over the applicable law, which then has a direct bearing on the firm which is going to be involved. It's not the question of whether there is more pressure, there's a lot of appetite to advise on these kind of deals and to act as counsel to the transaction. Needless to say, we are always competing with U.S. and even more so U.K. firms, which traditionally love to act as counsel to the transaction, for the better or worse.

Your website bio lists family business and entrepreneurial families as an area of interest. What types of advice do you offer to families that run a business?

I'm advising families with sometimes a large number of shareholders with a divided interest and on a focus on their succession issues and how they transfer the business from one generation to the other without causing too much trouble and disruptions. My expertise is also in bringing in investors together with long-established family-owned companies to create benefits for both sides. Family-owned businesses may benefit from my expertise gained through advising corporate and financial sponsors which may allow family-owned businesses to unlock hidden jewels and to create new perspectives for their businesses.

This interview has been edited for brevity and grammatical clarifications.

Related Articles

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Germany™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Germany.

Black, red and yellow stripes

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms, including our inaugural Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recipients.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Germany

Working With Changes

by Best Lawyers

Carolyn Pugsley, the Joint Global Head of Practice for Corporate, Australia at Herbert Smith and Freehills, discusses policy changes affecting the M&A market in Australia as well as the impact of the pandemic on the practice.

An Interview With Herbert Smith and Freehills

The Company They Keep

by Best Lawyers

Thomas Richter discusses the idea of corporate criminal liability.

An Interview With HammPartner

Easy Being Green

by Best Lawyers

Markus Deutsch discusses the impact of climate change on the firm and its clients.

An Interview With Dolde Mayen & Partner

Impact of Climate Change on Real Estate Law

by Best Lawyers

Dr. Christian Schede discusses rent in large cities, the effect of Airbnb, and more.

An Interview With Greenberg Traurig

How to Advise Clients in International Arbitration and Mediation

by Best Lawyers

Karl Pörnbacher discusses how his firm stays at the forefront of advising clients.

An Interview With Hogan Lovells

This German Firm Protects Their Clients in the Face of Emerging Technologies

by Best Lawyers

Johannes Heselberger discusses theft of trade secrets, the pharmaceutical industry, and fake goods.

An Interview With Bardehle Pagenberg

How This Firm Is Shaping the Economic Future of Ukraine

by Best Lawyers

Denis Lysenko discusses how AEQUO has helped build a new business environment.

An Interview With AEQUO

How Russia's Global Policy Is Impacting Mergers and Acquisitions

by Best Lawyers

Alexei Zakharko and Mathieu Fabre-Magnan disscuss how they are preparing for emerging trends in the next couple of years.

An Interview With Dentons Russia

The Future of German Technology

by Best Lawyers

How Germany's Law Firm of the Year in Information Technology is leading the way.

Isabell Conrad Schneider Schiffer Weihermulle

How Corporate Law in France Is Navigating the Trade Wars

by Best Lawyers

Bertrand Cardi and Cyril Bonan discuss M&A, protectionism, and the trade wars' impact in France.

An Interview With Darrois Villey Maillot Broc

An Interview With Gleiss Lutz

by Best Lawyers

Germany's 2020 “Law Firm of the Year” in Labor and Employment Law

An Interview With Gleiss Lutz

An Interview With Latham & Watkins

by Best Lawyers

Germany's 2020 “Law Firm of the Year” honoree in Banking and Finance Law

An Interview With Latham & Watkins

Why Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos Developed Its Own Legal Tech

by Best Lawyers

Juan Pablo Matus of Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos, 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" award for Corporate and M&A Law in Chile, discusses his firm's joint venture with Cognitiva in creating Lexnova, a legal AI system.

Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos Interview

An Interview With Rainer Krause of Hengeler Mueller, 2019 “Law Firm of the Year” Award Recipient for Corporate Law in Germany

by Best Lawyers

Rainer Krause discusses the unique training approaches that make Hengeler Mueller one of Germany's top firms.

Hengeler Mueller “Law Firm of the Year” Q&A

Trending Articles

Announcing the 2023 The Best Lawyers in America Honorees

by Best Lawyers

Only the top 5.3% of all practicing lawyers in the U.S. were selected by their peers for inclusion in the 29th edition of The Best Lawyers in America®.

Gold strings and dots connecting to form US map

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2023

by Best Lawyers

The third edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America™ highlights the legal talent of lawyers who have been in practice less than 10 years.

Three arrows made of lines and dots on blue background

The Best Lawyers in South Africa™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers proudly announces lawyers recognized in South Africa for 2023.

South African flag

Could Reign Supreme End with the Queen?

by Sara Collin

Canada is revisiting the notion of abolishing the monarchy after Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, but many Canadians and lawmakers are questioning if Canada could, should and would follow through.

Teacup on saucer over image of Queen's eye


2022: Another Banner Year

by John Fields

Block O’Toole & Murphy continues to secure some of New York’s highest results for personal injury matters.

Three men in business suits standing in office

Famous Songs Unprotected by Copyright Could Mean Royalties for Some

by Michael B. Fein

A guide to navigating copyright claims on famous songs.

Can I Sing "Happy Birthday" in Public?

Announcing the 2023 The Best Lawyers in Canada Honorees

by Best Lawyers

The Best Lawyers in Canada™ is entering its 17th edition for 2023. We highlight the elite lawyers awarded this year.

Red map of Canada with white lines and dots

Wage and Overtime Laws for Truck Drivers

by Greg Mansell

For truck drivers nationwide, underpayment and overtime violations are just the beginning of a long list of problems. Below we explore the wages you are entitled to but may not be receiving.

Truck Driver Wage and Overtime Laws in the US

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom

by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?

Thirteen Years of Excellence

by Best Lawyers

For the 13th consecutive year, “Best Law Firms” has awarded the most elite and talented law firms across the country through a thorough and trusted data review process.

Red, white and blue pipes and writing on black background

The Upcycle Conundrum

by Karen Kreider Gaunt

Laudable or litigious? What you need to know about potential copyright and trademark infringement when repurposing products.

Repurposed Products and Copyright Infringemen

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect

by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

Caffeine Overload and DUI Tests

by Daniel Taylor

While it might come as a surprise, the over-consumption of caffeine could trigger a false positive on a breathalyzer test.

Can Caffeine Cause You to Fail DUI Test?

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Australia.

The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2023

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Germany™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Germany.

Black, red and yellow stripes