Solicitors governing body: Georgian Bar Association
Competition authority: Competition Agency
Financial regulator: National Bank of Georgia
IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:
Energy and infrastructure (published June) - Energy and infrastructure
Financial and corporate (published October) – Financial and corporate
Since achieving independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia has effectively rebuilt its entire legal system, replacing Soviet era laws with new ones created with the assistance of Western European legal experts.
As with other countries with a civil law model, Georgia has a constitution and civil code at the core of its legal system. In the case of the former, the country adopted its current constitution in 1995, but various amends have been made since, including a flurry between 2004 and 2006 which recast the respective powers of government, parliament and president.
One interesting talking point from a regulatory perspective is the future of financial regulation in the country. While this has traditionally been overseen by the National Bank of Georgia (NBG), 2015 saw the latest attempt to transfer regulatory oversight to a separate financial regulatory body.
Though there are no explicit restrictions on foreign firms practicing in the country, only Georgian citizens licensed by the Georgian Bar Association can practice as local advocates. Equally there are no restrictions on foreign law firms hiring local Georgian lawyers.
The legal market is made up primarily of local Georgian firms, but a handful of foreign firms have opened offices including Dechert, DLA Piper and the legal branches of accountancy firms Deloitte, EY and PwC. These offices are generally staffed by local Georgian advocates.
As with most countries in the CEE (Central and Eastern Europe), lawyers in Georgia are not specialised in just one area of practice and generally act on a range of matters that fall under the broader umbrella of business or corporate law.
Sam Duke - Editor
Like most firms in Georgia’s energy market, BDO Legal’s recent experience is in the hydropower sector where the firm has been active on project development matters including regulatory advice, the securing of permits and construction matters.
Key projects in the research period include work for Hydro Development Company on the development of the Kintrishi hydropower plant; advice provided to Georgian Green Power on the development of the Tsablari Hydropower plant; work for Sanalia as a consultant on the development of the Skurdid hydropower plant including arranging the tender; and advice to KEPCO Plant and Service Engineering Co on matters related to the operation and maintenance agreement related to the Gardabani thermal power plant.
BGI is one of Georgia’s leading firms in all areas of corporate law and in energy and infrastructure has acted on key projects in the energy, oil and gas and transport infrastructure areas.
An oil and gas sector client describes the firm as: “very knowledgeable, they get the job done on time and on budget”.
Lasha Gogiberidze is described as “prompt and quick to point out problems and pitfalls”.
While the firm’s key projects are all confidential it can be said that it has been active on hydro power plant development; gas pipeline construction; oil and gas production and work on a significant port infrastructure project.
Like the other leading Georgian firms in energy and infrastructure BLC has been very active in the hydropower sector in the last few years, though this practice has been complimented by work in the oil and gas sector and on significant infrastructure projects.
An energy client who worked with the team says: “We have been working with the law firm for more than four years. All the personnel are high educated, experienced, and acknowledge their responsibility towards the law. They are very accurate with the work they do and always inform the company about new legislation and regulations.”
“Teamwork is one of the first commandments for a successful company and BLC have it. They can handle cross border elements (Turkey) effectively as well.”
Anri Khonelidze is cited by one client: “Hard working, very educated and - as we are in Georgia - we should also mention that knowledge of English language is excellent.”
Key projects include work for Georgian Urban Energy on the development of the Paravani hydropower plant including amendments to the power purchase agreement and the construction of new transmission lines; Adjaristkali Georgia on the development of the Shuakhevi hydropower plant; Dariali Energy on the development of the Dariali hydropower plant; work for Calik Energy on the construction of the Gardabani power plant; and Achar Energy-2007 on the development of the Chorokhi hydropower plant.
As the only international firm in Georgia DLA is clearly well placed to act for clients coming from Western Europe or the US. Alongside work in the hydropower sector, common to all Georgian firms, the firm has also been active on oil and gas sector work in the past few years.
Key projects include work for BP on a variety of matters related to its oil and gas pipeline projects in Georgia including regulatory advice and disputes related to the pipelines bringing gas from the Shah Deniz fields. The firm also advised SOCAR Georgia Petroleum on competition matters. The firm has also been advising on licensing issues, disputes and M&A in the energy sector.
Mgaloblishvili Kipiani Dzidziguri, like its contemporaries in the market, is active in the hydropower sector and has in the past year been mainly involved in negotiations around electricity purchase contracts.
There were some changes to the team last year with the addition of Nino Tsaturova from LPA Law Firm and the departure of associate Ketevan Geleishvili-Mari.
An energy client who worked with the firm says: “I have been working with Nino Kvinikadze since January 2015. I would like to state that Nino is a well organised lawyer who is always focused on the details of the case.”
Key projects in the research period include work for Energo-Aragvi in relation to energy export issues; advice given to Mtkvari hydropower plant on the development of the power plant; and work for China Nuclear Industry 23 Construction Co on a road construction project related to the E-60 Highway Ruisi-Agara-Agara Bypass.
BDO Legal’s work during the research period has been split between corporate and capital markets matters. In the former area highlights include the firm’s work for Incofin Investment Management, Agrif Coopearief and Development World Markets on the acquisition of shares in Microfinance Organization Crystal; the firm also acted for Eventus Corporate Finance and Caucasus Pharma on a due diligence exercise related to its acquisition of GPC; and advised Unidress and Clean Place on the formation of a joint venture.
In the capital markets the team advised ABC Pharmacy on a share issue and acted for Bremel on a securities issue.
Though much of BGI Legal’s work is confidential it can be said that the firm has been active on a US bond issue, a significant finance facility, two separate share placements on the LSE and a number of real estate finance deals.
Public matters during the research period include work for Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan as managers on a note issue by Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation; and work for the IFC, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank on the financing of the Adjaristsqali hydro power plant.
A corporate client who worked with BLC says: “Very competent and extremely knowledgeable.” Another says: “We have found BLC to be very responsive. A personal approach, flexible and attentive and keen to assist, guide and advise.” Yet another client says: “The team is highly professional, supportive, with efficient knowledge and skills.”
There is also praise for Tamta Ivanishvili: “Her performance is flawless, always client oriented, highly professional and diligent,” says one client. Another describes her as “rapid, agile and knowledgeable”.
Work during the research period has been a mix of financings and M&A deals and although much of the firm’s work is confidential public matters include work for Sayali on an $18 million financing facility for the development of a hospital in Tbilisi; work for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on the financing provided to Aversi Pharma; and work for Galmington Holdings on the acquisition of the assets of Marshe following its insolvency.
There was a notable addition to the team at Business Legal Bureau team during the research period with the addition of Tornike Bolkvadze from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.
One finance client describes the firm as “thorough, responsive, excellent service.” Another says: “Excellent and cutting-edge legal advice.” There is also praise for Kakha Sharabidze.
A lot of the firm’s work during the research period is confidential but one public matter saw the team advise OPIC on the provision of loans to both Dunkin’ Donuts and Moxy for the expansion of their respective franchises in Georgia.
Elsewhere on the corporate side the firm also advised World Business Capital in relation to the merger of APM Terminals with subsidiary Georgia Inland Container Terminal.
Transaction highlights during the research period include work for TBC Bank on its reorganisation and admission of shares to the LSE; work for Proparco on a senior loan; work for the European Investment Bank on financing provided to Procredit Bank.
Though much of the firm’s other work is confidential it can be said that the firm acted on acquisitions in the banking, energy and pharmaceutical sectors.
“MKD has always proven efficient in their communication. They are clear and swift; they have worked with us on short deadlines despite time differences, and I am very satisfied with their work,” one corporate client who worked with Mgaloblishvili Kipiani Dzidziguri says.
There is individual praise for Victor Kipiani: “Victor has worked with us on a variety of projects, from helping us set up our entity in Georgia, to managing it thereafter. His grasp of Georgian law is excellent, and his firm is really good about turning over work quickly. He is also most courteous, which is quite enjoyable.”
The firm’s transactional highlights include work for Black Sea Trade and Development Bank on loans provided to TBC Bank, Credo, FINCA Bank and KSB Bank and separately advice on the bank’s bond issue; work for Milano Investments on the sale of shares in a hypermarket.
There was some change in the team at Nodia Urumashvili & Partners during the research period with the addition of one associate and the departure of two others.
The firm acts for the likes of Bank of Georgia, ProCredit Bank, Caucasian Development Bank, British American Tobacco, China Nuclear Industry 23 Construction, Georgian Real Estate Holding and Redix.
A deal highlight during the research period saw the firm advise Turkiye Is Bankasi as it set up banking operations in Georgia including the gaining of a license.