Azerbaijan

Reviews

Practice area

IFLR1000 Reviews

Overview

Solicitors governing body: Bar Association of the Republic of Azerbaijan

Competition authority: Antimonopoly Policy and Consumer Rights Protection State Service of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Azerbaijan Republic

Financial regulator: Central Bank of the Republic of Azerbaijan; The Ministry of Finance of the Republic of AzerbaijanState Committee for Securities of the Republic of Azerbaijan

IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:

Energy and infrastructure (published June) – Oil and gas

Financial and corporate (published October) – Financial and corporate

Jurisdiction overview

The Republic of Azerbaijan sits at the centre of the world. Sited on the shores of the Caspian Sea, the Caucasian nation finds itself at the intersection of East and West and counts Russia and Iran as its northern and southern neighbours.

It also sits on top of one of the large hydrocarbon reserves on the planet, with some two-thirds of the country thought to be viable for extraction. It is little surprise, then, that much of the nation’s economy – including the legal market – is focused on the oil and gas industry. Indeed, up to 90% of its exports are thought to relate to that market.

Since gaining independence in 1991 the country has managed to develop its substantial reserves into a robust economy, with the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (Socar) partnering with Western organisations in commercial operations to exploit them.

There are no nationality restrictions on the practice of law, other than that the founders of a practice have to be Azerbaijani-qualified lawyers, and so within the market there is a strong mix of local and international firms operation in the same space. 

The structure of the domestic market is much as you’d expect to see in a resource-rich expanding market. There is little in the way of complex financing work as most projects will be either directly funded by the state or by the major corporations operating here. Most of the large-scale projects will be incorporated with a holding company in another jurisdiction, usually formed under English law, so much of the practice of the domestic offices involves advising on local and municipal matters alongside either their partner offices or an international firm without a presence on the ground. There is a fair amount of regulatory and disputes work as well, not to mention transactional deals, so a strong knowledge of the local law and business environment is key to success here, according to clients.

As a major exporting country Azerbaijan has a lot of strong links regionally. A member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, it maintains solid links with its Central Asian neighbours. With pipelines being built to Europe, Turkey has become an increasingly important partner, while the major oil and gas players that operate in-country means the market itself is a pretty mixed bag.

Lawyers on the ground will tend to have a fairly broad knowledge base, given the overall size and diversity of the market, and will mostly be noted for their local expertise. All the major firms are based in and operate from the nation’s capital, Baku.

Jonathan Moore – Journalist EMEA

Financial and corporate
Adrem Attorneys

Adrem Attorneys offers a boutique service and is known for its strong banking and M&A offering. 

The firm regularly represents local and foreign acquirers and sellers in major M&A transactions in the financial services, pharmaceuticals and real estate sectors. A recent highlight saw the firm set up a trade finance scheme for a large IT distributor in Azerbaijan. 

Recent Deal Data highlights

  • Gulfstream Distribution financing 
Allied Legal Partners

Allied Legal Partners works on a mix of financial and corporate and projects work in Azerbaijan. 

The firm’s transactional work has been primarily within M&A, where it assisted clients on the sale and purchase of ground support and security control equipment. 

The firm has also participated on public procurement tenders in the project development space. 

A notable staffing change saw the arrival of corporate specialist Samir Hadjiyev as managing partner from PwC Legal. 

Client feedback

"Very professional and experienced team." – Project development

Altay Mustafayev Law & Tax

Set up in January 2018, Altay Mustafayev Law & Tax has a focus on cross-border transactional matters and regularly works for borrowers and lenders on deals within the financial services and oil and gas sectors. 

During the research period, the firm worked on some of the largest bank and non-bank restructurings in Azerbaijani history as the country looks to clean up its financial services industry.  

The firm has also been very active in M&A, notably assisting international clients in exiting joint ventures, and local banks with acquisitions of loan portfolios. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • AccessBank $100 million financial restructuring
  • FINCA Azerbaijan restructuring
  • Zenith Energy Merkur Market IPO 
Azem & Partners

Azem & Partners is active in the Azerbaijani legal market on financial and corporate matters. 

The firm has a focus on restructuring and insolvency matters, and often works on queries regarding bankruptcy and business restructuring.

BDO Law

BDO Law is the Azerbaijani legal branch of the wider BDO network, which provides accountancy and other business services. The firm is active across the financial and corporate space. 

While most of the firm’s work concerned tax and legal support services, some transactional mandates saw the firm act for clients on restructuring and share transfers. 

In the project development area the firm worked for its clients on FIDIC contracts in relation to construction projects. 

Client feedback

"Open and responsive lawyers, with great communication skills. Provided good advice on legal matters." – Banking

BM Morrison Partners

BM Morrison Partners is recognised as one of the leading projects firms in Azerbaijan and is particularly experienced in oil and gas financing work. The firm also has a strong corporate offering which regularly acts for international financial institutions. 

The firm has been active in the banking and M&A in sectors such as food and beverage, technology and transport. 

Among other recent projects deal highlights, the firm is involved in cross-border project financing mandates for several of Europe’s largest gas pipelines, assisting regional and commercial lenders. Notably, it assisted the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in a rare deal (a financing) for the client in Azerbaijan.  

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Neptune Oil & Gas $3.9 billion acquisition of majority stake in Engie exploration and production business
  • Trans Adriatic Pipeline
  • Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline

Client feedback

"The team were excellent. Their advice was prompt, detailed and sensitive to the commercial realities." – Banking

"Very responsive, and has a very good working service." – Banking

"Very patient, polite and hard-working." – Project development

Capital Legal Services

Capital Legal Services is recognised for its financial and corporate work and is active in the projects space.  

Within the projects and banking areas the firm has regularly represented international banks on loans to oil and gas companies for the construction of petrochemical complexes in Azerbaijan, often backed by a state guarantee. 

Caspian Legal Center

Caspian Legal Center is active across the financial and corporate space. 

The firm’s M&A team often acts on buy-side transactions within the real estate and tourism sectors, representing luxury hotels. Another common role for the firm sees it involved in representing distressed clients as they undertake financial restructurings or liquidations.  

The firm’s projects team acted on a number of engineering services agreements during the research period.

Client feedback

"They are customer-oriented and take steps to fulfill our requirements." – Banking

"A highly professional and very responsive legal team, who have deep knowledge of the legislation." – Project development

"Everything was performed at a high level. We were very pleased." – Project development

"They are a professional team of lawyers who have comprehensive knowledge in their field." – Project development

"They emphasized the key points." – Project development

Orkhan Beydiyev

"Excellent local knowledge in terms of the market and legal system. He has good international experience."

Farid Nabili

"A very professional lawyer who has deep knowledge of the legislation. He is especially professional in contract and tax law."

"Accurate, responsible, proactive."

"Customer-oriented. Helps fulfill our requirements."

"He is very co-operative and has a comprehensive approach to legal matters. He always consults us from different aspects of the deals."

Deloitte

The legal team of Deloitte in Azerbaijan provides advice on matters across the financial and corporate spectrum.  

The firm offers transactional support services to its client, assisting them on due diligence, structuring and various other pre-acquisition and post-acquisition matters. The firm has recently assisted acquirers on mandates within the technology and telecommunications sectors.

Dentons

Dentons is a leading performer in Azerbaijan across the financial and corporate space, with further strength in power and oil and gas projects. The only international firm in Azerbaijan, it often attracts large, cross-border lending and restructuring mandates. It has experience on deals in sectors including banking, financial services and real estate. 

In the M&A space during the research period, the firm recently assisted international clients in exiting joint ventures following the oil crisis. The firm, which has been involved in the development of the domestic capital markets framework, has worked on equity and debt capital markets transactions. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • AccessBank $100 million financial restructuring
  • AzInTelecom €222 million acquisition of 51.3% stake in Azercell
  • STAR Rafineri 

Client feedback

"Excellent - timely and efficient." – Banking

"They were very responsive and professional. Made a good impression." – Banking

"Has an excellent reputation advising local and international clients from a wide range of industries, on all types of commercial agreements." – M&A

"They are doing a great job against a very difficult company who seem to believe they are above the law." – M&A

"Excellent support, very good communication." – Project development

"Very proactive communicators. They have a detailed knowledge of situations in the country, and provided numerous options for decisions." – Project development

Ekvita

Ekvita is broadly experienced in commercial and oil and gas work and represents several international oilfield service companies on business in Azerbaijan. Infrastructure and Islamic finance are sectors where the firm has expertise.  

Among the firm’s recent highlights were active on renovation and construction mandates for local public buildings and power plants.  

The firm recruited partner Mushfig Aliyev from KPMG following the departure of Anar Karimov to the government.   

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Azerikimya Production Union ethylene-polyethylene facility
  • Shah Deniz II 

Client feedback

"Highly qualified and client-oriented lawyers." – Banking

"We always receive sufficient and timely feedback on our requests." – Banking

"The firm always approaches our requests diligently, with due care and provides assistance within short time. They provide practical solutions, flexibility and reasonable prices - and these are the most attractive sides we see in the firm." – Capital markets: Debt

"Very professional, innovative, and proactive. They are comfortable using digital solutions." – Project development

EY Law

The legal arm of professional services firm, EY Law, is broadly experienced in matters concerning M&A in Azerbaijan.  

The firm regularly works on transactional support services for a mix of acquisitions, joint ventures and financial investments, when supporting domestic acquirers. Sectors that have been active for the firm during the research period include construction, food services and technology.

Client feedback

"Very professional, with good feedback. Very responsive and friendly in their contact." – Banking

"Pretty dynamic, very responsive, and provides practical solutions." – Capital markets: Equity

"Very professional, knowledgeable, and with a good response." – Restructuring and insolvency

GRATA International

Grata International has a wide regional network of offices across Central Asia. It also has a China desk and relationships with firms in Central and Eastern Europe. Locally it is more recognised for corporate transactional advice. 

During the research period the firm worked on the first PPP project in Azerbaijan, advising the winning bidder. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Baku State University / Azerbaijan State Oil & Industry University PPP  
KPMG

The legal team of professional services firm, KPMG, is best known for its M&A work in Azerbaijan.  

The firm assists on transactional support services for a mix of acquisitions, mergers and partnerships, when supporting domestic acquirers and sellers. Sectors that have been active for the firm during the research period include construction, and oil and gas. 

A notable staffing change saw corporate partner Mushfig Aliyev depart to join Ekvita. 

MGB Law Offices

MGB Law Offices is one of the leading firms in the market and regularly acts on impressive deals. The firm is active in M&A, lending and debt restructuring in sectors including commodities and energy.  

The firm has a strong record in financing mandates, partly because of its longstanding relationship with the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, which it works with to support mid-sized Azerbaijani businesses. The firm also has a strong aviation finance practice, and has recently assisted on bridge and operating financings for the acquisition and lease of aircrafts. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Azerspace-2 
  • Bank Respublika debt restructuring
  • Veyseloglu $5 million financing 
Omni Law Firm

Comfortably among Azerbaijan’s strongest firms, Omni Law Firm is renowned for its banking expertise and capital markets work. The firm has significant breadth and experience in the jurisdiction and has undertaken market-leading work across the board. 

The firm regularly represents the buyers in large-scale M&A mandates and international financial institutions in large restructuring matters. The firm is also notably experienced in the oil and gas sector thanks to its longstanding relationship with SOCAR, which it currently works alongside on the jurisdiction’s largest project financing. 

During the research period the firm hired projects specialist Nigar Jafarova as a partner from the now-defunct LAN Law Chambers. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • AzInTelecom €222 million acquisition of 51.3% stake in Azercell
  • Shah Deniz II
  • VTB Azerbaijan capital increase