From arbitration to the IP regime, and prospects in medical tourism and health tech, Cyprus has continuously refined its offering and attractiveness to foreign markets, says Yiannos Georgiades.
Could you give an overview of your firm’s key services and future growth strategy?
Established in 1992, with offices in Greece and the UK, our law firm deals with corporate matters and IP law, as well as corporate litigation through our specialised litigation department. Our clients include some well-known and reputable companies from Cyprus, continental Europe, Russia, China, and many other regions, and we act as advisors and legal consultants for them on Cyprus and EU laws. We also represent law firms from the UK and other countries for matters that need to be dealt with in Cyprus, and have associate offices in Greece and the UK. We are a member of the International Association of Law Firms, offering us a presence in around 60 countries. In coordination with the European Centre for Arbitration and Mediation, we have created the Cyprus chapter in partnership with the UCLan (University of Central Lancashire-Cyprus), with the view of developing an Eastern Mediterranean Centre for Mediation and Arbitration in Cyprus, which would be attached to the European Court of Arbitration for commercial disputes and mediation. The fruit of this cooperation will give more opportunities to expand and establish a regional branch in Cyprus.
What is the benefit of developing Cyprus as an arbitration centre?
Cyprus is a key regional and international business centre and would be an ideal location to solve cross-border disputes between businesses from, for example, unstable regions in our neighbourhood. Cyprus could offer the safety and speed of our straightforward procedures to resolve disputes, and the benefit of being tried by specialised arbitrators. We already have highly qualified consultants and arbitrators and it is now a matter of promoting these services beyond our shores. This could lead to the development of a solid commercial arbitration hub in Cyprus, similar to that of London, albeit smaller in scale.
What niche investment opportunities do you see in Cyprus at the moment?
At the moment, I am involved in setting up a specialised incubator entity, with the involvement of high-profile and reputable professionals from the US, which will focus on the funding of small companies and start-ups registered in Cyprus – the key here is that these ventures must be registered only in Cyprus. I think the time is right for these types of initiatives with the way things are evolving in Cyprus. We need more foreign investments to fund new ideas and innovative projects, and to create a more specialised niche for start-ups and small-scale companies. Areas that could fall into this category would be tourism, renewables, new technologies and the health sector. Having investments and funding in place, we could attract more specialised talent, experts and researchers to innovate in these areas. In addition, Cyprus has good incentives and tax breaks for new ventures, which is an added benefit in developing this type of business.
Which countries are showing interest in the Cyprus economy?
There has been a lot more worldwide interest in Cyprus over the last few years. We are witnessing major investments from the US, more airlines are also considering opening routes to Cyprus, and many UK customers are using Cyprus as their jurisdiction of choice for operating multimillion operations and businesses. Iran is also a new and interesting market, especially in the experienced professional and high-net-worth-individual sphere, which would be the ideal demographic for us. Of course, Cyprus has long standing business relations with both Russia and Ukraine, but what we are witnessing increasingly – and largely due to internal issues within those countries – is more business of substance coming to Cyprus and the setting up of fully fledged operations on the island. This is a good development as this is exactly the type of reputable and solid business we want to attract.
Cyprus’ citizenship and residency scheme has attracted investment from across the world. What target markets are showing the most interest in the programme?
An important market for this programme continues to be China. According to recent reports, around 64% of Chinese millionaires have emigrated or are preparing to do so. Most of them are looking for clean air, safe food, better welfare or a good education for the next generation, and the wealthy and well-educated Chinese are actively looking at ideal locations to meet their needs – and Cyprus is well placed to cater to all these aspects. China’s booming economy has enriched many individuals and made investment immigration more affordable. Analysts say the immigration boom will continue and Cyprus has and will continue to benefit from it. Although we have already seen much success in attracting investors interested in acquiring citizenship, we still have some challenges to overcome, as the amount of red tape can prove burdensome for many to deal with.
Which sectors show the most potential for growth in Cyprus at the moment?
Medical tourism and research offer great opportunities and could also bring multiple benefits to Cyprus. Combined with our intellectual property box scheme, Cyprus provides fertile ground for medical innovation, especially in the pharmaceutical field. There are also possibilities to register and patent innovative treatments, an aspect that could be interesting for medical researchers in Europe and worldwide. We already have very experienced and world-class practitioners and researchers in Cyprus and their projects are attractive to foreign investors. Developing this niche would be a great way to create a strong brand for Cyprus as a location where experts can protect their intellectual property. Medical tourism to Cyprus could also be boosted by building our reputation as a destination with ground-breaking research and treatments, as well as top-level medical professionals.
The renewable energy sector also offers opportunities, and we are seeing more interest, especially in solar energy projects. However, there have been challenges for foreign investors, with very few available investment options in energy when only 5-10MW production options were available, but now things are slowly improving and we need to build up more certainty and efficiency in this area in order to attract projects and companies to Cyprus. Businesses today do not want and cannot afford to waste their time, so we must be more accommodating, transparent and decisive about our opportunities and procedures.
A lot of investment has also recently gone into setting up gaming companies in Cyprus and we need to protect and promote them more, as OPAP has a monopoly in Cyprus. We should open up the playing field and encourage more entrants to Cyprus, as these companies could bring a lot of good business and new revenue streams to the country. The private sector spends a lot of its own time and funds promoting Cyprus as a jurisdiction, and the government must also step up its game and help better support and facilitate new foreign business and investors, as well as improve our infrastructure to maintain the country’s attractiveness. Providing a better framework for the gaming industry would allow it to grow and bring more competitiveness to the sector, as well as higher income in bank guarantees and taxes.
How do you see Cyprus developing in the next two to five years?
Cyprus is already a very prosperous country, despite the troubles we encountered following the 2013 banking crisis, but there is always room for improvement. We must keep building on the successes we have already achieved and crystallise the true advantages of Cyprus that benefit foreign business. We should always move forward and keep the pace of the momentum we have gained in developing and restructuring Cyprus. Keeping tabs on the offering and trends in other similar jurisdictions is also key, so that we can stay on par or exceed the needs of international investors looking for new opportunities. Expanding the list of incentives for business and actively promoting what we can offer to companies worldwide would help upgrade the attractiveness of Cyprus, as there are still many regions and markets that are not aware of the benefits we offer.
Yiannos Georgiades is the Managing Director and founder of law firm Y. Georgiades & Associates LLC, established in 1992 in Nicosia, Cyprus. He has over 25 years of experience in litigation, corporate and commercial law, international tax planning, international trade, cross-border disputes, private international law, real estate, investments, alternative dispute resolution, medical negligence, intellectual property law, Internet and media law. In 1995, he also worked as a visiting attorney at Corboy & Demetrio in Chicago and Baker & Hostetler in Washington, D.C. Throughout his career, he has been successful in a number of high-calibre cases. He is a member of the Athens Bar Association, Cyprus Bar Association, Bar of England and Wales (Honourable Society of Gray's Inn), the International Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Society for Computers and Law, the International Technology Law Association, President of the Cyprus Branch of the European Court of Arbitration, executive member of the Court and an online mediator for commercial disputes for the Chamber of Commerce of Milan, as well as the Vice-President of AEA International Lawyers Network.