The Big Question: Searching for international opportunities?

The slowdown at home is pushing Iberian businesses to explore new opportunities abroad.

Are they looking to the usual suspects – like Latin America – or new parts of the world,
and what role is there to play for their existing domestic law firms?

“We are now
receiving requests from
SMEs and bigger
Spanish companies that
are overcoming the
crisis thanks to their,
mainly export, business.
Less than ‘exploring’
new opportunities
abroad, they are now
promoting and
developing their
existing presence. In our case, we are assisting in
strengthening companies’ outbound business,
with distribution agreements or the production
of goods abroad – mainly in the former East
European countries.”
Joan Roca, Managing Partner, Roca Junyent

“Some major Portuguese law
firms are seeking to become
international, probably for the
wrong reasons and mostly
without a proper evaluation of the
risks involved. Their motivation
should not be to compensate for a
temporary loss of revenues in
Portugal, as a result of the present
crisis. We have carefully planned
and actively developed our
international policy for almost a
decade – we are now contemplating diversifying into
China and the Middle East – but success depends largely
on medium and longer-term consistency, thus requiring
substantial investment not only in financial resources,
scarce in times of crisis, but also in the partners’ time in
each country.”
Luís Sárraga Leal, Managing Partner, PLMJ

“We see signs that
Portuguese companies
are heading to new
destinations, such as
French-speaking Africa
and the Middle East.
Portuguese law firms
must find a role to play
in this renewed
international push. We
have recently started
operations in Gabon
and plan to do the same
later this year in the Republic of Congo. As
regards the Middle East, we’ll team up with our
foreign local partners if and when opportunities
Agostinho Pereira de Miranda, Chairman,
Miranda Correia Amendoeira & Associados

“Yes, international expansion is very much in the minds of
Spanish companies that need to balance their portfolios now that
home markets are facing contraction. The leading Spanish
companies have being doing this for some time now –
Santander’s investment in the US, Mexico and Brazil; Telefónica
looking to consolidate in Brazil; BBVA bidding to gain a
footprint in the UK; while the big constructors and concessions
businesses are winning orders around the world. Other firms
that are not facing debt issues are similarly ramping up their
overseas sales drives – for example, Mango, Inditex, Gamesa and

Clearly those law firms with proven global networks stand to
benefit most, especially those with a strong presence in the BRIC
countries, where we are seeing a lot of Spanish interest. Those
firms without such coverage will find it difficult to give their
clients the advice they will need.”
Ignacio Ojanguren, Madrid Managing Partner, Clifford Chance

“Yes, absolutely, in particular those
companies that have activities in the
infrastructure sector. The announcements
recently made by the Spanish Government on
the freeze of significant investments will mean
businesses will have to go to foreign markets to
keep reasonable levels of activity. South
America is a natural market for Spanish
companies but I also now see interest in the US
and Canada and Europe, particularly within
infrastructure. India seems to be another area of
interest. Businesses like to use the Spanish office
of international firms as their point of contact
for the legal advice and I guess this will
continue to be the case.”
Gonzalo Jiménez-Blanco,
Madrid Managing Partner, Ashurst

“Large Spanish companies have been looking to foreign
markets for a few years. Some of them, the most healthy,
have a large part of their revenues outside Spain – precisely
why they may come out of the
downturn in better shape. The most
appropriate foreign markets depend
on the nature of their business. Latin
America has been popular but also
Europe and North America.
Infrastructure and construction
companies have also looked to the
Middle East and Eastern Europe. In
this environment, a strong network
to help companies with their
investments anywhere with the
same (and high) level of quality is
key. Domestic lawyers can be a very important part of the
process, helping select lawyers where no network is
available and making sure that assistance and quality is
Álvaro Sainz, Partner, Herbert Smith