The Mergers & Acquisitions Review: Greece

Overview of M&A activity

Following many years of deep recession and increased levels of unemployment, Greece is now trying to recover and restore stability in the Greek economy. Increased taxation and social security are not helpful, and enterprises are awaiting for stability and solutions to structural problems of the Greek economy, which will allow extrovert business, new investments and the creation of new jobs.

At the same time, the government had started to make some progress with the privatisation procedures already announced as part of the policy framework, and some further measures for the strengthening of the private economy, including tax decreases, have been also adopted.

However, in 2020 all countries have been hurt by an unprecedented economic downfall relating to the coronavirus pandemic. This has affected economies, companies and stocks, and the Greek market is no exception. Tourism has collapsed, huge number of deals have been abandoned or drastically revisited, and there has been a common fear in the market that we are sailing in uncharted waters.

The private sector, to the extent that it is not dependent on the state, has shown it is capable of surviving despite these difficulties. After overcoming the pandemic and under improved circumstances in the global financial environment, it should be possible for the Greek market to grow rapidly and recover relatively quickly.

Introduction

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General introduction to the legal framework for M&A

The Greek M&A legal framework is mainly composed of the following:

  1. Law 4548/2018, on public limited companies;
  2. Law 4601/2019 (corporate provisions for business transformations);
  3. Law 4172/2013 (tax incentives for business transformations);
  4. Law 2166/1993 (tax and other incentives for business transformations (e.g., merger, split, spin-off));
  5. Law 1297/1972 (tax incentives for business transformations);
  6. Law 3049/2002 on privatisations, and Law 3985/2011 and Law 3986/2011 on the Privatisation Fund;
  7. Law 3864/2010 on the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund;
  8. Law 3777/2009 on cross-border mergers of limited liability companies (implementation of Directive 2005/56/EC);
  9. Law 3401/2005 on prospectuses in the case of public offers of securities; (implementation of Directive 2003/71/EC), which was amended by Law 4374/2016 (adopting EU Directives 2013/50 and 2014/51);
  10. Law 3461/2006 on public takeovers (implementation of Directive 2004/25/EC);
  11. the Athens Stock Exchange Regulation;
  12. Law 4706/2020 (Ccorporate Ggovernance rules for listed companies); and
  13. Law 3959/2011 on Greek merger control provisions.

Strategies to increase transparency and predictability

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Developments in corporate and takeover law and their impact

Following the legislative initiative in 2018, in combination with Law 4601/2019 (on business transformations), a modern and more attractive framework has been established for Greek companies. A new element is that a new law (Law 4706/2020) has been recently enacted with regard to corporate governance rules, which is also a modern tool primarily for listed companies, expected to strengthen the Greek stock market.

Indeed, requests from the business community concern more important measures that need to be taken to increase the competitiveness of Greek enterprises in their daily operations, such as fast-track permit procedures.

Us antitrust enforcement: the year in review

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Foreign involvement in M&A transactions

Notwithstanding the above efforts, the business environment in Greece remains to a large extent characterised by bureaucracy, administrative procedures and actual disincentives for foreign investors. One of the recent legislative initiatives refers to the reform of the framework for strategic investments, the results of which remain to be seen in the near future.

Other than that, within the privatisation programme run by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, there are several significant ongoing projects, including the sale of the natural gas incumbent (DEPA Infrastructure and DEPA Commercial), the sale of a minority stake in Athens International Airport, as well as the concession of regional ports around Greece. On the other hand, the attempted sale of a 50.1 per cent stake in Hellenic Petroleum ended in failure in 2019, as neither of the two consortiums that had originally expressed an interest submitted a binding financial offer, while the ongoing process for the concession of Egnatia Odos is significantly delayed.

Significant transactions, key trends and hot industries

There have been a couple of M&A deals during the past 12 months. In the banking sector, probably the most interesting deals were demerger procedures. Following the demerger of Eurobank Ergasias, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank also recently followed suit, and the relevant demerger processes are currently ongoing. In the gambling sector, OPAP proceeded with the acquisition of 51 per cent of Stoiximan SA (Greek and Cyprus activities), one of the leading online betting companies in the region, while in the telecoms sector, Forthnet SA has been acquired by BC Partners. Another interesting deal concerned the further investment by CVC Capital in Greece's leading e-commerce platform (skroutz.gr), following its dynamic entry into the Greek health sector by further acquiring Hygeia SA hospital after having previously acquired both the Metropolitan and IASO hospitals.

The real estate sector, after having suffered severely from the effects of the banking crisis, is already recovering, with a lot of ongoing investments especially in the tourism sector (e.g., Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens, Grand Hyatt Athens). However, the covid-19 pandemic has caused tremendous damage to the Greek tourism market, and the same goes for short-term leases (e.g., through the Airbnb platform), which has been particularly popular in recent years, but now there is no demand.

It is also finally worth noting the trend of several Greek companies to seek an alternative to bank financing through the issuance of bond loans. This tendency has continued in the past year, especially through bonds listed on the regulated market of the Athens Stock Exchange.

Financing of m&a: main sources and developments

As far as mergers are concerned, there is no practical need for financing since they are implemented through an exchange of shares. Acquisitions can either involve an exchange of shares (which was the case in several past deals, especially in the banking sector) or a cash consideration, in which case financing is required. Such financing normally takes the form of one of the two following alternatives:

  1. self-funding by the shareholders of the acquiring company: the procedures for an increase in share capital are rather formal, as per the EU directives, especially when made in cash. A main point of interest is the price offered for the new shares to be issued (which cannot be less than market value), because this is linked with the valuation of the company and determines the balance between shareholders; or
  2. bank financing, which can either be in the form of a classic bank loan or that of a bond loan (common or convertible) issued by the company: experience shows a tendency in favour of bond loans due to their favourable tax and other treatment, as well as due to the easy transfer of bond titles, if needed. It cannot be ignored that, contrary to the recent past, the severe financial situation has heavily affected and practically eliminated bank financing for M&A.

In a case of intra-group financing, attention should be paid to the applicable provisions of Law 4548/2018 regarding related party agreements. In any case, one must also be cautious about the arm's-length principle, in accordance with transfer pricing rules.

Employment law

Employment legislation was not further developed during 2018 or to date in 2019 as far as M&A activity is (directly) concerned, except for a couple of provisions pertaining to the protection of employees' rights in the case of ship transfers (as part of the business to be transferred).

On the one hand, there is a plethora of special provisions of law regarding, inter alia, mergers and restructurings of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and within the banking sector. Numerous provisions have been further instituted on an ad hoc basis to regulate the employment relations of specific state organisations (see, for instance, Article 3 of Law 4138/2013 regarding the merger of local development organisations). However, no generally applicable rule can be derived therefrom that would be of any interest for the private sector; past governments very often established special legislative texts for M&A of SOEs due to their politically sensitive nature.

On the other hand, as a general rule, in the case of a merger there is a full succession of the surviving (absorbing) entity regarding all the rights and obligations of the merged company. Accordingly, the latter becomes fully liable for any and all labour obligations of the former. In the case of acquisitions, there are protective provisions regarding transfers of businesses (implementation of European law) that provide that both the transferor and the transferee shall be jointly and severally liable in respect of labour obligations that existed at the date of transfer. It is worth mentioning that the means of transfer (i.e., if it takes place via a contract – even an invalid one – or by law, or even by a simple assignment of the operation of the business without transfer of tangible or intangible assets) is irrelevant, but the transfer and succession in the employer's position is examined on a case-by-case basis.

Since 2010, it has been expected that the downturn in the Greek market and the crisis in the Greek economy would generally give rise to significant changes in employment law, which might not refer directly to M&A topics but would nevertheless have an impact, since the labour perspective is generally a critical point of assessment in an M&A deal. As part of the agreement for the financial support of the country, Greece undertook to proceed quickly with radical changes in many sectors of the Greek economy and in the labour market. The main areas that have been affected from a labour law perspective are as follows:

  1. introducing restrictions in the system of collective labour agreements or negotiations, and a more flexible regime;
  2. abolishing the procedure of referring collective labour disputes to an organisation for mediation and arbitration;
  3. increasing the thresholds in the case of group dismissals and, eventually, abolishing the authorities' prior approval;
  4. decreasing severance pay and allowing its repayment in instalments;
  5. introducing more flexible employment terms (sub minima) for workers under the age of 25;
  6. extending probationary periods, facilitating greater use of part-time work, moderating wages for overtime and introducing remuneration connected to the productivity of a business; and
  7. keeping salaries temporarily frozen (initially) for three years after the conclusion of the previously mentioned memorandum.

There have been quite a few examples of the implementation of the above-mentioned guidelines during the past seven years. For instance, the Ministers' Council issued Act No. 6/2012, which instituted an obligatory decrease of 22 per cent in minimum wages under the national collective labour agreement, and abolished the possibility of unilaterally resorting to arbitration in cases where collective bargaining fails. Law 4093/2012 further reduced the termination severance (mainly by preventing the accrual of seniority rights after November 2012), facilitated the split of annual leave, decreased the requirements for the operation of temporary work agencies and instituted a number of additional favourable provisions for the labour market. Most importantly, however, Law 4093/2012 abolished the system of determining the minimum wage through collective bargaining procedures by introducing the minimum wage itself. Finally, it vests the government with the power of adjusting the minimum wage.

In general, the purpose of the above amendments was to reduce the cost of labour and make the Greek employment market more competitive. On the other hand, various provisions have been instituted to protect vulnerable groups, such as older employees. Thus, it is obvious that, due to the financial support of EU Member States and the International Monetary Fund, Greece has been obliged to proceed more quickly to implement those measures to ensure the 'flexicurity' of the employment market.

However, based on the experience of recent years, the measures implemented so far have not efficiently served these purposes. The above situation, apart from rendering any reforms ineffective, has made it unclear whether each provision of this multitude of recent laws affecting the employment terms in the public and private sectors would survive if contested before the Greek courts. There had been various judgments of first instance courts (within the framework of injunction measures) that considered certain provisions concerning public sector employees as being contrary to the provisions of the Greek Constitution and European law. In addition, such legislative initiatives of the government had raised multiple concerns for the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labour Organisation's governing body, especially as to what regards the weakening and eventual abolishment of collective bargaining rights and the overall scope of collective bargaining laws. It must be noted, however, that said changes and restrictions on collective bargaining agreements seem to be reduced after the expiration of the middle-term bailout programme, and the competent authorities will start interpreting the respective terms in a way that is more favourable to the unions' side. For instance, a collective bargaining agreement at the level of a business could include provisions deviating from the agreement made for a specific market or profession and introduce provisions weakening workers' rights and even reducing salaries, which is no longer the case as, since August 2018, said option is considered as no longer valid. Similarly, the government has reinstated the obligatory extension of collective bargaining agreements, which had been suspended until the end of the economic adjustment programme.

Moreover, the government has made use of the option to define the minimum wage, and by the end of 2018 had increased the minimum wage to €650 per month (the previous minimum wage was €586.80), and abolished the distinction between the minimum wage for young (up to 24 years old) workers and employees that gained a gross salary of €511.00. Said increase also impacted the social security contributions for both employers and employees, as well as of other professionals, as the new minimum wage is the basis for the calculation of the minimum social security contribution for professionals (e.g., lawyers, engineers). On the other hand, since 1 January 2019, a decrease in the social security contributions for this category of professionals has been introduced equal to one-third of the percentage calculated on the total income of the individual, but a suspended auxiliary social security contribution for these professionals started to be implemented as of 1 January 2019, although not any more as a percentage on the individual's income but just on the minimum wage amount (as determined with a calculation of years of service); therefore, the hit on the market seems to be less hard than was expected. In 2014, the Administrative Supreme Court found certain provisions of Ministers' Council Act No. 6/2012, and in particular the ones requiring the consent of both parties (employer and trade union) for the initiation of an intermediation and arbitration process, to be non-compliant with the constitutional provisions, which led to the reinstatement of the previous regime of the unilateral application of the interested party (Law 4303/2014).

In 2016, the government launched a dialogue regarding the introduction of a new social security system, which was however rejected by, inter alia, the trade unions and professional associations. The draft bill comprised several structural changes in the area of social security, with the major ones being to have all social security funds and organisations merged into one; and the implementation, for all categories of employees, self-employed persons and other professionals, of a uniform treatment with regards to the calculation of their contributions based on their annual or monthly income falling within a range of 25 to 36 per cent. There were a variety of reactions about this restructuring of the social security concept (e.g., Greek lawyers abstained from their duties for almost six months), but the government managed to pass the legislation (Law 4387/2016). In terms of employment, a direct impact of the recent Social Security Act is employees being subject to more than one social insurance organisation (e.g., through being employees and self-employed at the same time), who are now required to pay more (approximately double) social security contributions without being entitled to additional pension amounts.

In 2017, Law 4472/2017 introduced a radical change pertaining to the collective dismissals legal framework by abolishing the ministerial veto that used to apply under the previous legal regime, which provided for an information and consultation procedure between the parties involved as well as the prior approval of the competent authorities in cases where the parties failed to reach an agreement. New Law 4472/2017 set out a different procedure on collective layoffs, including the extension of the consultation process of up to 30 days and the supervision of the procedure by a new supervising body, the Supreme Labour Council. Pursuant to these new statutory provisions, the Supreme Labour Council is now in charge of the collective layoffs process, and is also responsible for checking whether employers have abided by the consultation and information requirements set out in law. If the Supreme Labour Council finds that these requirements have been met, an employer is free to proceed with the intended group dismissal. On the other hand, non-compliance with these requirements would be the only reason for the government to discontinue a collective redundancy process, in the sense that the government's role is now limited to the inspection of the existence of these typical consultation requirements.

Until very recently, Presidential Decree 178/2002 on the protection of employees' rights in the event of a transfer of business (which harmonised EU Directive 2001/23) was not applicable in the case of ship transfers. Through Law 4532/2018, said protection is now extended to transfers of ships under the Greek flag, but only when they are part of the business to be transferred and on the conditions set forth in Law 4532/2018.

Finally, the government recently adopted the wording of the Revised European Social Charter as to what regards the termination of an employment agreement, and introduced into Greek employment law the compulsory 'causal' redundancy. Until the introduction of Law 4611/2019 (Article 48), Greek law provided that the termination of an employment agreement should not be grounded on a specific cause if it was made in writing and the employee was receiving legal severance. Today, the right of an employer to terminate must be grounded on a specific cause as per Article 24 of the Revised European Social Charter (ratified by L4359/2016), and the employer must prove that these conditions have been met in cases where the validity of the termination is challenged. This new condition will probably affect and reduce the right of termination of employers, especially in cases of a termination for no apparent reason. The above provision regarding causal termination was eventually abolished by the recent Law 4623/2019 practically reinstating the former statutory regime on termination of employment, i.e., termination of indefinite term employment contracts without any cause whatsoever.

During 2020, a plethora of radical, though temporary, employment changes was issued pursuant to a series of emergency measures implemented by the Greek government owing to the covid-19 outbreak, including, inter alia, the suspension of operation of businesses affected by the adverse consequences of the outbreak and the suspension of employment contracts of respective personnel with the provision of a state allowance, social security relief, Easter, Christmas and leave allowance reimbursement by the state, flexible remote working and other working time schemes, the temporary suspension of specific publication formalities regarding working time schedule changes, special treatment for employed parents and vulnerable employees, and the special labour support mechanism Syn-Ergasia (cooperation) as motivation for maintaining the existing headcount and avoiding collective layoffs. Employers' eligibility for such relief measures is combined with an absolute prohibition on dismissals.

These measures are being revised on a regular basis, depending on the number of new coronavirus cases and the overall picture of the outbreak in Greece.

Following the covid-19 outbreak and the need for the implementation of a new, solid statutory framework on remote working in Greece, a new teleworking law is expected shortly, as per the recent announcements of the Greek government.

Tax law

Following the complete replacement of the Code of Income Taxation (CIT) and the introduction of a new Code of Fiscal Procedure, both of which came into force on 1 January 2014, as of 1 January 2015 the Greek Accounting Standards abolished the Code of Transactions Tax Reporting and the Greek accounting legislation, thereby becoming more compliant with the International Accounting Framework.

During 2020, changes in the tax legislation continued, mostly aiming at implementing reforms agreed by the government within negotiations for financial support and enhancing the collection of public revenues, but also adopting EU rules and complying with commitments under international treaties.

The most important tax issues are as follows.

i Transfers of shares

From 1 January 2014, any capital gain that derives from a transfer of shares of non-listed companies is subject to a 15 per cent tax if the transferor is an individual (Articles 42 and 43 CIT). In the case of legal entities, the capital gain shall be added to the gross income and, should there be a profit from the business activity, it shall be subject to the tax rates that apply to income from business activities (i.e., 24 per cent for fiscal years 2019 onwards). For the calculation of the capital gain, the acquisition cost is deducted from the price.

The aforementioned tax is also imposed on the transfer of shares of listed companies provided that the following conditions are cumulatively met: the transferor participates in the share capital of the company with a stake of at least 0.5 per cent, and the shares to be transferred were purchased after 1 January 2009. In any case, a tax on stock market transactions is also imposed.

From 1 July 2020 onwards, companies are exempt from capital gains tax arising from the disposal of participation held in a legal entity, provided that the conditions of Directive 2011/96/EU (Parent-Subsidiary Directive) are met (see below under iii).

ii Corporate income tax rate

The corporate income tax rate for public limited companies, limited liability companies, private capital companies, Greek branches of foreign corporations and, in general, any company that maintains double-entry accounting books, has been gradually reduced to 24 per cent (for fiscal years 2019 onwards) (Article 58, Paragraph 1 CIT).

iii Taxation on dividends

For profits distributed from 1 January 2020 onwards, a withholding tax of 5 per cent is applicable on dividends. Until 31 December 2019, the rate of said tax was 10 per cent.

Withholding of the aforementioned tax exhausts the tax liability, provided that the taxpayer is an individual (Article 36, Paragraph 2 CIT) or a legal entity that is not a Greek resident and does not have a permanent establishment in Greece (Article 64, Paragraph 3 CIT). Under specific conditions, which are set out by Article 63 CIT (adopting Directive 2011/96/EC), intra-group dividends may be totally exempt from withholding taxation.

Dividends distributed to Greek legal entities or legal entities with a permanent establishment in Greece are also subject to withholding tax at a rate of 10 per cent, although an exemption under the conditions of Article 63 CIT may apply in the case of intra-group dividends. However, their income from dividends is added to their annual gross income and taxed as a profit at a rate of 29 per cent. In such a case, the tax withheld is credited against the tax payable.

Pursuant to Article 48 CIT, intra-group dividends received by a legal entity that is a tax resident of Greece are totally exempt from tax, provided that:

  1. the recipient holds a minimum participation of at least 10 per cent of the value or number of the share capital, core capital or voting rights of the legal entity that makes the distribution of profits;
  2. the aforementioned minimum participation is held for at least 24 months; and
  3. the legal entity that makes the distribution of profits:
    • has a legal status that is included in the list of EU Directive 2011/96/EC;
    • is a tax resident of an EU Member State, in accordance with the laws of that state, and may not be considered as a tax resident of a third country (non-EU Member State) by virtue of the double taxation treaty that has been signed with that third country; and
    • is subject to one of the taxes listed in EU Directive 2011/96/EC.

In such cases, dividends received by the legal entity must form a tax-free reserve until they are further distributed to the entity's shareholders.

Pursuant to Directives 2014/86/EC and 2015/121/EC, intra-group dividends are exempt from taxation to the extent that the respective dividends have not been deducted by the subsidiary. Furthermore, the aforementioned exemptions (of Articles 48 and 63 CIT) shall be alleviated in cases where it is considered that a non-genuine arrangement exists (i.e., an arrangement that has not been put into place for valid commercial reasons reflecting the economic reality).

iv Transfer pricing

The new CIT and the Code of Fiscal Procedure include transfer pricing (TP) provisions that differ in some ways when compared to the previous legal framework. Under the new legal framework, an advanced pricing agreement may be established with the Ministry of Finance, which (by virtue of Law 4714/20) may even roll back to previous years.

Taxpayers having intra-group transactions exceeding the thresholds provided in the above legislation have two main obligations:

  1. preparation of a TP report for the documentation of intra-group transactions within the deadline for submission of the annual tax return (the report is submitted to the tax authorities upon request and within 30 days of the request); and
  2. the filing of a summary information table within the same deadline.

TP legislation provides serious penalties for the violation of the arm's-length principle and for the failure to comply with the above obligations.

There are also new penalties provided for the inadequacy, inaccuracy or late submission of the summary information table and TP report. Greek TP legislation specifically refers to the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines for the documentation of intra-group transactions (Article 50, Paragraph 2 CIT).

v Losses

In accordance with the new CIT, losses incurred abroad cannot be used against profits of the same tax year or against future profits unless there is income that derives from other EU or EEA Member States and there is no provision in a double taxation treaty that provides a tax exemption for it. By virtue of a recent circular issued by the Ministry of Finance, losses incurred abroad shall be monitored per country and may be used against future profits incurred in the same country. Moreover, by virtue of a more recent circular, before the deduction of said losses in Greece, Greek entities shall need to prove before the fiscal authorities that they have made every effort to deduct losses abroad and have failed to do so.

In addition if, during a fiscal year, direct or indirect ownership of the share capital or voting rights of a company is changed by more than 33 per cent of its value or number, the transfer of losses ceases to apply as regards losses incurred during that fiscal year and the previous five years, unless it is proven by the company that the change of ownership has been exclusively made for commercial or business purposes, and not for tax-avoidance or tax-evasion purposes.

vi Deductibility of interest – thin capitalisation rules

According to the CIT, borrowing costs are not recognised as deductible business expenses to the extent that the surplus of the interest expenses against income from interest exceeds a rate of 30 per cent of taxable profits before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA). The term borrowing costs includes, apart from interest on loans, inter alia, other costs economically equivalent to interest and expenses incurred in connection with the raising of finance, as well as the finance cost element of finance lease payments and the capitalised interest included in the balance sheet value of a related asset. It should be noted that the aforementioned rate used to be higher during previous fiscal years, and was gradually reduced.

However, interest expenses shall be recognised as fully deductible business expenses up to an amount of €3 million net-registered interest expenses per year. Any interest expense that is not deductible pursuant to the aforementioned rules shall be carried forward with no time limit. This does not apply to credit institutions or to leasing and factoring companies.

vii Exit tax rules (incorporation of ATAD 2)

Law 4714/2020 incorporated Article 5 of Directive 2016/1164/EE, by virtue of which an exit tax is applicable in Greece in the following cases:

  1. transfer of assets from the head office of the taxpayer in Greece to a permanent establishment in another Member State or third country;
  2. transfer of assets from a permanent establishment in Greece to a head office or another permanent establishment in another Member State or third country;
  3. transfer of the taxpayer's tax residence from Greece to another Member State or to a third country, apart from those assets that remain effectively connected with the permanent establishment in Greece; and
  4. transfer of the business carried on by a permanent establishment in Greece to another Member State or to a third country.

The payment of the exit tax, which is calculated on the market value of the assets at the time of the exit, less their value for tax purposes, exhausts any income tax liability of the taxpayer, the partners, the shareholders and its members relating to the transfer of assets.

The exit tax is paid in a lump sum with the submission of a tax return three days before the exit of the assets takes place. Under specific conditions, payment may be deferred in five equal annual instalments.

viii Automatic Exchange of Information on Reportable Cross-Border Arrangements (incorporation of DAC 6)

Law 4714/2020 incorporated Council Directive (EU) 2018/822, introducing mandatory disclosure rules for intermediaries and, in certain cases, taxpayers with regards to reportable cross-border arrangements. The new rules apply in Greece as of 1 July 2020, and the first automatic exchange will take place by 30 April 2021.

Any reportable arrangement should be reported to the fiscal authorities within 30 days of the arrangement being made available or ready for implementation, or after the first step in the implementation has been made (whichever happens first). Failure to comply with the reporting obligations incurs penalties defined by the law. Lawyers are exempted from reporting obligations owing to legal professional privilege.

ix The concept of tax avoidance

The new Code of Fiscal Procedures introduced a definition of tax avoidance, while a general anti-abuse clause has been introduced, pursuant to which:

the tax administration shall ignore any arrangement or a series of arrangements which, having been put into place for the main purpose or one of the main purposes of obtaining a tax advantage that defeats the object or the purpose of the applicable tax law, are not genuine, having regard to all relevant facts and circumstances.

x Statute of limitations

The statute of limitations period varies depending on the category of tax and the fiscal year.

The basic statute of limitations for fiscal years 2014 onwards is five years, which (from 2018 onwards) may be raised to 10 years in cases where no tax returns have been filed, or new data or information is brought to the attention of the Greek tax authorities, which could not have been brought to its attention within the standard five-year statute of limitations period. For tax years 2012–2017, a 10-year limitation period is applicable in cases of tax evasion.

Competition law

Merger control provisions are included in Law 3959/2011 regarding the protection of free competition (Articles 5 to 10) and are enforced by the Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC), an independent administrative authority.

The Greek merger control system provides for pre-notification to the HCC (30-day deadline) in cases of concentration where the following two thresholds are cumulatively met: all participating enterprises have an aggregate worldwide turnover exceeding €150 million; and at least two of them each has a national (Greek) turnover of at least €15 million. In such a case, the transaction cannot be completed without the clearance of the HCC. The latter theoretically has the power to block a transaction (but has not blocked any application to date).

There is currently no post-notification obligation for minor mergers under Greek law.

Outlook

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