TBY talks to Gabriel Lansky, Managing Partner of Lansky Ganzger & Partner, on Austrian penetration of the local market and the legal potential for foreign investment in Azerbaijan.
TBY How many Austrian companies conduct business in Azerbaijan and what are the main areas of their activity?
GABRIEL LANSKY Presently over 30 Austrian corporations conduct frequent business in Azerbaijan in various fields including construction, tourism, and energy. These companies include established names on the Austrian business market such as OMV, Strabag, Doppelmayr, and Coop-Himmelblau. LGP, along with OMV, ASP Consulting, Siemens, and Coop-Himmelblau founded the Austrian-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce, which is dedicated to improving business and cultural relations between Austria and Azerbaijan, increasing export-import operations between the two nations, and attracting further Austrian and Azerbaijani companies to enter both markets.
Could you tell us about your first experience with Azerbaijan?
We have been working on legal projects with clients from Azerbaijan for several years and are proud to say that our firm was one of the first Austrian companies to enter the Azerbaijani market. Beginning initially with the smaller-scale legal cases of private companies from Azerbaijan, we expanded to representing the interests of Azerbaijani clients before the European Court of
Why did a joint venture operation appeal to you above other modes of establishing a presence in the country?
In general, it is not easy for a law firm to position itself internationally, primarily as different regions require different business models. One cannot simply employ the same strategy in the enormous markets of Russia or China as in the smaller, network-oriented markets of Azerbaijan. We established a joint venture as we felt that current traditional models are simply sub-par for our clients. Our competitors who operate internationally do so mainly on the basis of a sort of franchise system in which they collaborate with local lawyers under the name of a Western law firm. The most successful local firms, however, are usually well established in their domestic markets and are not inclined to work under a foreign name. Meanwhile, smaller firms operate internationally with loose networks. This does not necessarily make for an ideal solution based on international standards, and consequently we developed a new strategy. Depending on the size of the target market, we maintain different numbers of qualified “best-friend firms”, combining this site model with the activities of legal experts in the target markets with our main offices in Vienna and Bratislava. As with BHM, these legal experts not only know every aspect of their domestic markets, but also coordinate collaboration with the appropriate partners for each project and guarantee the necessary quality assurance. Our joint venture became the very first project of its kind in Azerbaijan and the model is a unique solution combining the services of the deep-rooted international experience of LGP with successful local firm BHM.
Could you highlight any specific foreign investment success stories in which your firm has been involved?
We offer valuable assistance to foreign companies entering the market and are committed to the continued success of the region as a destination for FDI. We have assisted several companies in quickly registering their branch offices in Baku and also providing them with all necessary legal backing and market consultancy services. Today these companies are operating in Azerbaijan successfully with our ongoing cooperation. As I mentioned before we have also established the Austrian-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce (ATAZ), which has now attracted numerous members and aims to further strengthen business relationships in the country.
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