The Hypo-Kärnten deal was signed and sealed last Friday. That meant one thing above all: finally a good night's sleep! For those who worked day and night on it.

Hypo Kärnten was sold last Friday. That is known. Also that Hypo boss Gottwald Kranebitter and the Indian-born Briton Sanjeev Kanoria signed the contract. However, few know who were the ants in the background that made the - much criticised - deal possible. Indeed, the members of the negotiating teams did not beam at us from newspapers or television.

In the last few months, they all must have rarely felt like laughing. These days it is not easy to sell a bank, says Peter Winkler, Hypo Alpe Adria's lawyer, laconically. "The buyers haven't exactly been beating down our doors. And at the same time there was a sales order from Brussels. The pressure didn't make it any easier for us." On the part of Hypo, deal manager Elisabeth Hackl prepared the transaction. The head of the Merger & Acquisitions department and her team have been busy preparing an EU-compliant sales process since 2010. Already in 2011, they were on the lookout for interested parties. There were none. That is why the decision was made to spin off the bank from the parent company, "in order to make the company attractive and digestible for an investor," says Hackl. The demerger took place in the summer of 2012. In autumn, the sales process started anew. Klaus Requat from TJP Advisory and investment bankers from J.P. Morgan helped.

An exciting task for Hackl. She has already managed many transactions, most recently the sale of the Croatian aluminium companies Alu-Flex-Pack and TLM-TVP, Hypo Alpe Adria's largest industrial holding. But the business economist has never sold a bank. The biggest challenge, she says, was to ensure that everything that was confidential remained confidential. " For the other side, it did not inspire confidence that negative reports about a healthy bank were constantly being spread in politics and the media," she says.

"We were challenged"

In fact, his clients were always unsure that their offer might only be used to drive up the price, says Christian Hoenig. Together with his colleagues Richard Wolf, Martin Abram, Andrea Gritsch and Philipp Trefil, the lawyer represented the Briton in the acquisition of his first bank in Europe. He was impressed by the professionalism of the British medical practitioner. But Hoenig was even more impressed by another man, Murli Khemka. The chief negotiator for the Kanoria family (and Senior Vice President at Srei Infrastructure Finance) spent many weeks in Vienna. Medially, he remained in the background. However, at every round of negotiations he sat at the table and set the direction. "He also challenged us," Hoenig smiles. Khemka was not used to taking breaks. Usually he could only be persuaded to have a vegetarian working lunch and tea after a 14-hour day.

A lawyer not only has to be a professional, but also very flexible in terms of time, says Hackl. She and her team were flexible, too. There were no more weekends or holidays in the last core phase. Not even for Winkler. He only averaged four hours of sleep and 100 hours of work per week. And his colleague, Gregor Petric, also "worked himself to death". Since the contract was signed, things have been a little quieter. At any rate, he has been able to sleep it off for once. The others, he hopes, too.


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