Joana Gomes dos Santos

Chinese investment in Portuguese infrastructure and energy driving demand for M&A-related legal advice – Caiado Guerreiro

Portuguese M&A lawyers are receiving a significant amount of infrastructure and energy-related instructions from Chinese investors, says Joana Gomes dos Santos, partner at Caiado Guerreiro in Lisbon.

Chinese investors have long had an interest in deals in Portugal, particularly since the introduction of the Golden Visa programme in 2012, says Santos. The programme was designed to allow non-EU investors to obtain an expedited residency visa by making certain investments, such as the acquisition of real estate with a value above €500,000. “This made Portugal more visible, as it became an entrance gate to Europe,” Santos says. “After a while, investors from China gained interest in the country itself, seeing it as an opportunity to invest in a range of different sectors.”
Chinese investors currently have a strong appetite for investing in energy companies and land assets. Santos says that law firms that have been advising Chinese clients since the early days of the Golden Visa programme are well placed to pick up these mandates. “Since our firm started working on this programme very early, we built up a number of contacts in China,” she adds. As Chinese investors are now familiar with, and active in, several European jurisdictions, many of them already have preferred firms. They then refer work to Portuguese law firms under “best friend” agreements.
The energy and infrastructure sectors are proving to be particularly attractive at present, with solar energy, in particular, having considerable appeal. “Wind energy is already fairly developed,” notes Santos, although there are still opportunities to purchase and develop existing wind farms. “You will see wind farms all over Portugal, now the new trend is solar,” she says. The south of Portugal is the best location for solar projects, and Chinese investors are acquiring land there with this objective.