Olek­siy Fe­liv: Re­new­able en­ergy sup­porter proud to make real changes in coun­try

Kyiv Post Legal Quarterly - - CONTENTS - By Natalia Datskevych [email protected]­post.com

Even when Olek­siy Fe­liv was very young, ev­ery­one around him said he had a clear tal­ent – he was an ex­cel­lent talker. So when the ques­tion of Fe­liv’s fu­ture pro­fes­sion arose, it was nat­u­ral that they all sug­gested he be­come a lawyer.

Years later, that’s just what he has be­come – Fe­liv is now the man­ag­ing part­ner at In­tegrites, an in­ter­na­tional law firm with of­fices in Ukraine, Rus­sia, Kaza­khstan and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of­fices in Lon­don, Am­s­ter­dam and Mu­nich.

Named among the Top 100 Lawyers in Ukraine in 2018, Fe­liv is es­pe­cially well known for im­ple­ment­ing huge projects in the re­new­able en­ergy sec­tor, which has ex­pe­ri­enced rapid growth over the past few years in Ukraine.

In fact, this area is Fe­liv’s fa­vorite area, as the pos­i­tive ef­fects are clear to see.

“Very of­ten lawyers are in such a sit­u­a­tion when they work, work, work and the re­sult is

just a piece of pa­per,” Fe­liv says.

“But when you work in re­new­ables the re­sult is a tan­gi­ble re­al­ity. For ex­am­ple, wind tur­bines that spin and pro­duce elec­tric­ity.”

Fe­liv says In­tegrites is cur­rently the mar­ket leader in terms of the size of wind power projects it has con­sulted on, as well as trans­ac­tion amounts that it closed.

“We close the largest deals in Ukraine – $400 mil­lion plus," he says.

Fa­vorite project

His fa­vorite project, that of NBT, a Nor­we­gian com­pany that is build­ing a large 250-me­gawatt wind power plant in Kher­son Oblast near the Sy­vash Lake, would be quite or­di­nary in Europe, but is unique for Ukraine, Fe­liv says.

In­tegrites is a le­gal ad­vi­sor for NBT. The site of the project at Sy­vash Lake – a chain of shal­low la­goons lo­cated to the west of the Azov Sea, be­tween Ukraine’s Kher­son Oblast and Crimea, which is cur­rently un­der Rus­sian oc­cu­pa­tion – ob­vi­ously adds to its chal­lenges, and risks.

NBT’S to­tal in­vest­ment in the project has reached 370 mil­lion eu­ros so far.

How­ever, the project’s main fea­ture is not its lo­ca­tion, nor its value – In­tegrites has par­tic­i­pated in larger projects – but the way it is be­ing fi­nanced. It is a first in his­tory in the sphere of project fi­nanc­ing in Ukraine.

“This case, which we took from scratch, de­vel­oped very quickly, and we were able to get project fi­nanc­ing there – it in­volves seven banks, some­thing that makes (the project) truly unique. It’s also lo­cated close to (Rus­sian-oc­cu­pied) Crimea,” said Fe­liv.

An­other re­new­ables project yet to be dis­closed by In­tegrites is of a higher value, but no project fi­nanc­ing has been se­cured yet – it has po­lit­i­cal sup­port and fund­ing

from the im­ple­ment­ing com­pany’s coun­try of ori­gin.

Clients’ hot top­ics

Over the past four years the is­sue most con­cern­ing clients have changed, partly be­cause many le­gal ar­eas in Ukraine have seen im­prove­ments, but mainly be­cause the sit­u­a­tion, un­for­tu­nately, has taken a turn for the worse, due to rev­o­lu­tion and war.

Af­ter the ini­tial wave of prob­lems, in 20142016, when Rus­sia had just started its war on Ukraine in the east, clients were mostly con­cerned about court fees, debt re­struc­tur­ing, and dis­putes with cred­i­tors and banks due to the de­val­u­a­tion of the na­tional cur­rency, with busi­nesses un­able to meet loan re­pay­ments.

Now, the sit­u­a­tion is much bet­ter. Start­ing from 2016-2017, most busi­nesses have re­cov­ered and re­struc­tured. And most im­por­tantly, a new for­eign in­vest­ments have started to come to Ukraine.

“This is very pos­i­tive, and it’s some­thing we haven’t seen since 2008,” says Fe­liv.

“In­trgrites is cur­rently ad­vis­ing three fac­to­ries with for­eign in­vest­ments – on pack­ag­ing, wood­work­ing and the assem­bly of cable bun­dles for cars. One of the fac­to­ries is worth 300 mil­lion eu­ros, and this is a huge in­vest­ment,” says Fe­liv.

Among the other ob­vi­ous pos­i­tive changes is the cre­ation of the new Supreme Court, the re­form of the on­line state reg­istries, as well as the sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of land and con­struc­tion doc­u­men­ta­tion and pro­ce­dures.

On the other hand, Fe­liv says the sit­u­a­tion with the law en­force­ment agen­cies and in the pros­e­cu­tor's of­fice is not im­prov­ing, and this is a drag on re­form in the coun­try.

“The Pros­e­cu­tor's Of­fice needs a full restart,” he says. “To­day, very of­ten there are un­war­ranted crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings that im­pose ar­rests or block busi­nesses, and they are be­ing done de­lib­er­ately,” he said.

The anti-cor­rup­tion pro­gram of the Na­tional Po­lice is stut­ter­ing as well, be­cause the courts are block­ing the work they do on in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Fe­liv says.

“As the Ger­mans say, this is the last cas­tle to fall to make Ukraine more suc­cess­ful,” says Fe­liv.

But the hottest topic in the past few weeks is mar­tial law, which was im­posed on Nov. 28 in 10 oblasts of Ukraine af­ter Rus­sia’s at­tack on the Ukrainian navy in the Black Sea on Nov. 25. The move has spooked busi­ness greatly, with some clients fran­ti­cally call­ing Fe­liv, ask­ing him to brief them on the ba­sics of op­er­at­ing un­der mar­tial law.

“For the first two days the phone was ring­ing off the hook,” Fe­liv says.

“But now we can see that it’s more of a po­lit­i­cal in­stru­ment than a real eco­nomic con­straint.”

All the same, the im­po­si­tion of mar­tial law was a neg­a­tive sig­nal to busi­ness, as it was im­me­di­ately per­ceived as a pos­si­ble pre­cur­sor to all-out war. For many com­pa­nies, that per­cep­tion would be enough to scare them away from the mar­ket.

West is best?

Be­cause the east of Ukraine is now so much as­so­ci­ated with in­sta­bil­ity and war, a clear pref­er­ence has emerged among in­vestors for the west of Ukraine, Fe­liv says.

But the en­vi­ron­ment, in terms of cul­ture and cor­rup­tion, is dif­fer­ent as well.

“When in­vestors come to Lviv or IvanoFrankivsk Oblast they are wel­comed there, helped in ev­ery pos­si­ble way, and we don’t see cor­rup­tion there, or the break­down of projects,” Fe­liv says.

In con­trast, the most dif­fi­cult re­gion in which to run a busi­ness, in terms of cor­rup­tion, is not Donetsk or Luhansk oblast, but Dnipropetrivsk Oblast in south-cen­tral Ukraine, ac­cord­ing to Fe­liv.

“There are so many con­flicts of in­ter­ests be­tween groups, as well as cor­rup­tion,” he says.

“For us as a lawyers, this oblast is one of the most dif­fi­cult (to work in).”

Dreams of teach­ing

Hav­ing al­ready had a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in prac­tice as a lawyer, Fe­liv says he wants to pass on some of his knowl­edge to fu­ture lawyers, teach­ing in a Ukrainian univer­sity.

The main thing stand­ing in his way is a sim­ple lack of time.

“I’d have to write up a lot of method­olog­i­cal ma­te­ri­als, and do a lot more pa­per­work be­fore start­ing to teach stu­dents. I sim­ply don’t have the time,” says Fe­liv.

But if he were to be­come a teacher, and was able to choose from all of the uni­ver­si­ties in Ukraine in which to teach, Fe­liv says he would opt for the Univer­sity of Kyiv-mo­hyla Academy in the cap­i­tal.

“I be­lieve that it has the best ed­u­ca­tional level, judg­ing by the stu­dents and em­ploy­ees I have in­ter­viewed," he says.

(Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

Olek­siy Fe­liv speaks with the Kyiv Post on Dec. 5 at his of­fice in Kyiv. Fe­liv, the man­ag­ing part­ner at In­tegrites, says that his law firm has been plac­ing an ac­cent on work­ing with com­pa­nies within the re­new­ables sec­tor

(Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

Ukrainian com­pany UDP Re­new­ables has al­ready in­vested mil­lions of dol­lars into Ukraine's re­new­able en­ergy in­dus­try, and is plan­ning to build more so­lar power plants across the coun­try.

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