There are a number of restrictions on share transfers in Russia which companies should bear in mind. In addition, companies should be aware of the laws regarding whether minority shareholders can alter or restrict changes to share capital structures, when shareholders must notify changes to their shareholding to a regulatory authority and whether companies can buy back their shares. A number of restrictions also exist with regard to exiting a company.
The Ministers of Finance of the Federal States recently agreed on new real estate transfer tax (RETT) rules for share deals. According to official press releases, a fundamental RETT reform that had been previously discussed was not agreed. Rather, the agreement consists of new RETT rules regarding share deals with a lower threshold, longer holding periods and aligning the rules that are applicable to corporations with those that already apply to partnerships.
Transaction structures involving special purpose vehicles, whose main assets after completion of the purchase process consist only of the purchased real estate, are often chosen in Germany. Such structures are used in particular to shield from liability, so that third-party access to the special purpose vehicle's assets is limited. They are also used to facilitate a sale without incurring real property transfer tax for the exit.
Transactions of Russian joint stock companies and limited liability companies require the consent of the general meeting or the board of directors if they qualify as material or interested party transactions. As the non-observance of the relevant requirements may be grounds for contesting these types of transaction, they should be observed not only by shareholders and members of the corporate bodies of the respective companies, but also by persons that wish to enter into such transactions with these companies.
The Bochum Regional Court recently looked at whether a franchisee's contractual obligation to operate a business can be enforced by way of an interim injunction. To grant an interim injunction to enforce the obligation to keep the business open, it must be demonstrated that the franchisor faces serious losses at least equivalent to a threat to its survival or to drawbacks that cannot later be remedied.
The operation of energy plants usually means securing the required land long term by way of a use agreement. Prematurely ending a use agreement can substantially reduce the profitability of investments in energy plants. Defects in the written form of use agreements therefore constitute a risk for such investments. However, the Federal Court of Justice has decided that written form remedy clauses are invalid and do not prevent a contracting party from terminating a use agreement by invoking a written form defect.
The Federal Court of Justice recently ruled that an authorised dealer, such as a franchisee, has no compensation claim in analogous application of the regulation governing sales representatives contained in the Commercial Code if the franchisor is contractually obliged to block the customer data provided to it by the franchisee, to discontinue using it and to delete it at the request of the sales intermediary when the contract is terminated.
Patient treatment and research creates a wealth of data. Given that health data is sensitive, reaping the benefits of data-based medicine brings particular challenges when it comes to data protection requirements. EU data protection law is currently based on the Data Protection Directive, among other things. This directive will shortly be replaced by the General Data Protection Regulation, under which data concerning health is subject to increased protection.
Parliament recently passed a law revising the safeguarding of secrecy where third parties are involved in the exercise of professional duties by persons with a duty of confidentiality. The legislature responded to calls for a long-overdue reform and finally updated the criminal rules on secrecy for certain professionals. For the healthcare sector, this reform opens up a number of new opportunities for using the services of external service providers without facing the risk of criminal liability.
For companies that are interested in entering the Russian market, but reluctant to establish a physical presence in the country, an online presence can be a viable alternative. The legal requirements for selling goods to Russian customers online are similar to those of other countries. In addition to complying with the mandatory requirements of Russian law, sellers should also make use of the benefits offered therein.
In recent years, the commercial titles of the Civil Code have been aligned more closely with international commercial practices and the Russian courts have been enforcing these new standards. These improvements are noticeable in the area of franchise law. Because these statutory provisions are new, franchisors should check the latest court decisions for additional guidance before structuring transactions based thereon.
A landlord can terminate a rental agreement for residential premises if he or she has a justified interest in ending the lease. Two recent Federal Court of Justice decisions provide clarification regarding a landlord's needs as grounds for termination. While the change in case law regarding the legal consequences of a breach of the duty to offer is welcome, the judgments also show that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether termination due to a landlord's needs can be declared valid.
The Medical Devices Regulation and the In Vitro Diagnostic Regulation, which the European Commission drafted following the Poly Implant Prothese breast implant scandal, were recently adopted. In particular, the Medical Devices Regulation strengthens market and post-market surveillance. The provisions require stricter assessment of product safety and clinical evaluations. In addition, the regulations cover previously unregulated aesthetic products.
The Supreme Court recently clarified parties' right to terminate a contract unilaterally (ie, the 'right to unilateral refusal of performance' in Russian terminology) or amend a contractual obligation unilaterally. The court also clarified the requirements regarding the fulfilment of payment obligations, including with regard to bank transfers, currencies and interest in the event of a default, among other things.
Russian law continues to develop with respect to the disclosure of beneficial owners of Russian businesses. New provisions came into force at the end of 2016, which require all Russian legal entities to take reasonable and available steps to identify their beneficial owners and disclose them on request, among other things. For this purpose, the law expressly entitles a Russian legal entity to request information from its shareholders, as well as from other persons who in any way control the entity.
The Federal Court of Justice recently criticised a franchising advertising flyer in terms of competition law. One interpretation of this judgment is that it makes the advertising of franchise systems significantly more difficult. However, this point of view does not ultimately do justice to the decision, as the judgment does not fundamentally question the typical advertising of franchise systems.
The statutory deadline for holding the annual general meeting of a Russian limited liability company (LLC) is April 30 2017. The meeting must approve the annual results of the LLC's activities – in particular, its annual financial statements as of December 31 2016 and its 2016 annual report. Violation of the deadline or any formal requirements may result in administrative fines. The deadline for holding the annual general meeting of a Russian joint stock company is June 30 2017.
A residential landlord's right to compensation for use against a tenant who has been given notice of termination but not vacated the property in time is often of concern if the landlord demands compensation to the value of the rent customarily paid in the area. Until now, how to calculate this compensation precisely has been unclear. A recent Federal Court of Justice case has created legal certainty for those applying the law and has strengthened the interests of landlords.
A Brandenburg Higher Regional Court decision regarding the payment of franchise and marketing fees in arrears shows the importance of a substantiated presentation of a claim, as well as the importance of accurate, transparent and comprehensible billing by franchisors. The court could not ascertain whether there were unpaid franchise or marketing fees, as the franchisor failed to present sufficient facts demonstrating the exact amount of the franchise and marketing fees in the respective timeframes.
The Federal Fiscal Court recently clarified previously disputed issues on whether the lease of a shopping centre qualified as trade income or income from property administration. Surprisingly, the court also decided that marketing measures conducted by a centre manager are not detrimental for trade tax purposes, giving real estate investors much more flexibility for existing and future real estate investments in terms of ring-fencing trade tax exposures.