Kazakhstan

Reviews

Practice area

IFLR1000 Reviews

Overview

Solicitors governing body: Republican Collegium of Advocates of Kazakhstan 

Competition authority: Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan for Civil Service and Anti-Corruption 

Financial regulator: The National Bank of Kazakhstan 

IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:

Financial and corporate (published October) – Financial and corporate, Project Development

Jurisdiction overview 

Kazakhstan’s legal system is influenced by the traditions of Islamic and Roman law, particularly the theory and practice of Soviet law and socialist principles. The legal profession is divided into commercial lawyers and advocates. 

Commercial lawyers are subject to general civil, tax and business legislation and can handle general legal issues and civil cases, but cannot act in court, which is the sole preserve of advocates regulated by the law on advocates requiring a licence from the Ministry of Justice. Graduates normally start off as legal assistants and paralegals before gaining enough experience to become lawyers. They require no licence to practice, and in April 2012 the Kazakhstan Bar Association (KazBar)—with voluntary membership—was established to improve the quality of the country’s legal services, and establish a legal framework for regulation of the profession.

The legal market itself is relatively small and undeveloped, with around 10000 lawyers and 15 full-service corporate law firms made up of 20-30 lawyers. Relaxed regulation means that foreign law firms can set up in Kazakhstan and start providing legal services with a minimum of fuss, and can employ experienced domestic lawyers to plug the language and cultural gap.

The attraction of Kazakhstan as a destination for global law firms is obvious; the country is a leading energy producer in the CIS with abundant reserves in oil, gas, coal, and uranium ore. Global firms such as Dentons, White & Case, Baker & McKenzie, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Dechert, Norton Rose Fulbright and Kinstellar have an established base in the commercial hub of Almaty. However, a more recent trend has seen firms such as Dentons open up in the country’s capital, Astana, while White & Case opened its second office there.

Almaty might be the major financial hub, but Astana hosts the state bodies, and a growing number of oil and gas companies are establishing headquarters in the city. It is easy to see why a firm might want to open up an office there, especially in the world's largest landlocked country, where the distance between Almaty and Astana is 1288 km.

Turning attention to the local firms, the growing interest of UK investors in Kazakhstan—and the need for Kazakh legal advice—has encouraged a number of domestic firms to open in London such as Sayat Zholshy & Partner, Grata and Linkage & Mind.

Adam Majeed - Asia-Pacific Editor

IFLR1000 2019: Kazakhstan market trends and developments

Financial and corporate
AGZ / Zan Hub

AGZ/Zan Hub is a strong performer across the financial and corporate area, and is best known for its banking, capital markets and M&A capability. The firm has grown in stature in recent years, and now works on several of Kazakhstan’s landmark transactions. 

The firm often represents lenders in the banking space, where it regularly assists international banks finance projects in Kazakhstan.  

In the capital markets area the firm has experience on large debt and equity mandates. During the research period the firm notably acted on the dual listing of a Kazakh company on the LSE and the newly established Astana International Exchange (AIX) as the issuer’s local counsel. It became the first IPO of a Kazak state-owned company and the first IPO on the AIX. A further notable mandate saw the firm act for the state on its first issue of euro-denominated bonds, which also became the first bonds listed on the AIX.  

In the projects space the firm has experience on PPPs, and most recently assisted an international development bank on a street lighting project in East Kazakhstan. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Kazatomprom Astana International Exchange / LSE IPO
  • Pavlodar street lighting PPP
  • Republic of Kazakhstan €1.1 billion dual tranche (1.55% and 2.375%) bond issue 

Client feedback

"An excellent firm." – Banking

"The firm's primary strength is its outstanding expertise in Kazakhstan law." – Capital markets: Equity

"Experienced, practical lawyers with a deep knowledge of the Kazakh market." – M&A

Baker McKenzie

Baker McKenzie has a strong offering in the financial and corporate space, with expertise in banking and capital markets. The firm’s global network means it picks up some of the largest work in the region. As one of the best firms in the aviation space the team generally acts on a number of cross-border aircraft leases. 

Aircraft finance and restructuring were the most common mandates worked on by the banking team during the research period.  

The firm’s capital markets team worked on equity and debt matters, and notably acted for an international development bank on a bond issue, and for an underwriter of the first IPO of a Kazakh state-owned company. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Kazatomprom Astana International Exchange / LSE IPO
Centil Law Firm

Centil Law Firm has offices across Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in addition to Kazakhstan. The firm has a strong financial and corporate offering across the board, especially within the banking and M&A areas. 

Most of the firm’s transactional work takes place within the oil and gas and mining sectors, as well as in the telecoms industry. The firm often acts for regional banks on project finance matters and companies on their restructurings.

Dechert

Dechert is recognised for its strengths within the M&A and capital markets areas, where it assists state-owned and private corporations in Kazakhstan on debt and equity offerings. 

In the banking space the firm has recently been active on a mix of project and shipping finance matters, acting for both borrowers and lenders.  

Recent highlights within the capital markets area included representing development banks on their tenge denominated issues and local corporates on large eurobond issues.  

In the M&A space the firm has acted for clients on a mix of acquisitions, mergers and joint ventures, and often works on deals with a cross-border element. In recent times the firm has been representing technology and telecommunications firms on deals. 

The firm has also been active in the project development area where it has represented developers on nationally significant infrastructure projects. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Development Bank of Kazakhstan KZT100 billion 8.95% bond issue
  • KazMunayGas $3.25 billion eurobond issue
  • Kazakhstan Temir Zholy CHF170 million 3.25% bond issue 
Deloitte

The legal team of Deloitte in Kazakhstan is mostly active in M&A and project development. 

In the project development space the firm often provides support to developers on a mix of mining and oil and gas matters. During the research period the firm also assisted on the early stages of construction in a PPP project. 

Dentons

Dentons is one of the best firms in the country for financial, corporate and project work. The firm’s global network attracts mandates from international clients in areas including banking and finance and M&A. 

The firm regularly acts on a range of banking work for the lenders, regularly representing the largest international investment banks and development banks. Though many of the firm’s recent deals are confidential, it has been involved in acquisition, project and general corporate financings.  

In the M&A space the firm has worked predominantly for acquirers across sectors such as energy, natural resources and oil and gas. 

The firm’s projects team acts on several nationally prominent mandates in the infrastructure space. Recent highlights include work for an international developer on the building of solar and wind power stations, and advising a city municipality on a PPP project concerning the development of light rail transport. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Almaty Light Rail PPP
  • European Bank for Reconstruction and Development KZT20 billion 1% bond issue 
  • Zhenis oil and gas exploration 
Egen Gregory

Egen Gregory has a developing financial and corporate practice in Kazakhstan, especially within the M&A area. 

The firm often represents Kazakh clients on international and domestic investments, and has worked closely with the likes of Kazyna Capital Management and Lancaster Group on multiple transactions.  

In recent times it has assisted investors in financing a US biometric technology company, a Hollywood motion picture and on the creation of a Dutch private equity fund. 

The firm is also active in the project development area, with a recent highlight being advice to an oil and gas freight group concerning the construction of a new railway terminal. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Kazyna Capital Management $10 million investment in Central-Asian Power Energy Company
  • Lancaster Group $11.6 million film investment 

Client feedback

"Highly qualified, competent, proactive and responsible." – M&A

Eterna Law

Eterna Law often works on banking and M&A mandates. A transactional highlight during the research period saw the firm act for a Swiss investment fund on the provision of trade financing to a Kazakh grain company.

Client feedback

"Flexible, professional." – M&A

GRATA International

Grata International has a wide network domestically and offices across Central Asia and Eastern Europe. The firm’s regional branches means that the Kazakh offering is able to attract cross-border financial and corporate mandates, especially within banking and M&A. 

The firm often represents lenders in the banking area, where it assists on project finance work within the Kazakh energy and infrastructure space. 

In the M&A area the firm has worked as the local counsel on cross-border transactions recently, usually representing the acquirer. 

In the project development area the firm often works on PPPs, construction and subsoil issues. A recent highlight saw the firm act for a developer on the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the modernisation of the Atyrau Refinery, one of the largest in Central Asia. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Atyrau Refinery modernisation
  • Digital Assets acquisition of Intercomp
  • KMF $50 million financing 
Integrites

Integrites is mostly active in banking and finance. The firm regularly works for development banks and international banks across a wide range of banking matters as either the borrower or lender on general corporate and project financings. Recent highlights include acting for a development bank on providing finance for a solar plant, and representing a Kazakh commercial bank as it borrowed funds from an American financial institution to develop local enterprises.  

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation / Kazchrome $375 million financing
  • Tengri Bank $15 million financing 

Client feedback

"Strong expertise in both Kazakh and English law." – Capital markets: Debt

Kinstellar

Kinstellar is one of the market’s leading financial and corporate firms. The firm regularly works on Kazakhstan’s largest banking, capital markets and M&A transactions.  

In financing matters the has been active for international development banks.  

In the capital markets area the firm has acted for global investment banks on large proposed IPOs. 

In M&A the firm is active on advising for large cross-border acquisitions and sales. 

In the project development space the firm works across a range of cross-border issues across the energy, oil and gas and mining sectors. This includes work for developers on engineering procurement contracts, as well as on the construction of power plants. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • CITIC Bank / Shuangwei acquisition of 60% stake in Altyn Bank
  • Softwareone acquisition of Comparex
Linkage & Mind

Linkage & Mind has a credible offering in all areas of transactional work in Kazakhstan. 

The firm often seen on deals involving the energy sector. The team notably assisted on the pre-sale preparation for a wealth fund concerning the privatisation of a national energy company. Another highlight saw the firm provide advice on a financing the developers of the largest ongoing project in the petrochemical field. 

The firm opened an office in the country’s third largest city, Shymkent, during the research period. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

  • AAEngineering Group $44 million financing
  • Atyrau petrochemical complex
  • Samruk-Energy privatisation 

Client feedback

"The firm is a competitive in the local market and has a very flexible team to perform the work." – Banking

"Strong support with good written work." – M&A

"The firm responds quite promptly, and gives clear and concise advice." – M&A

"The lawyers were very efficient and provided not just legal advise but a good business approach." – M&A

Gaukhar Abdigaliyeva

"A great professional, who works in a timely manner and provides valuable advice."

Yerzhan Manasov

"He maintains stable relationships with clients, and provides pragmatic and business-oriented advice."

Madina Sypatayeva

"She is well experienced and skilled in terms of the local activities."

Morgan Lewis & Bockius

Morgan Lewis & Bockius is one of the best firms across the board for financial and corporate work in Kazakhstan’s legal market. The firm has strong experience working on cross-border deals, especially within the banking and M&A areas. 

In the banking and finance area, the firm regularly acts on financings involving the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), appearing either for the bank or domestic borrowers.  

The firm’s M&A team has worked recently on a mix of acquisitions, joint ventures and privatisations, generally within the transport, minerals and oil and gas sectors. 

Along with energy work, the firm has strengths within infrastructure projects and recent mandates include work on gold deposits, silicon plants and zinc factories.  

Recent Deal Data highlights

  • Kazakhtelecom $446 million acquisition of Kcell
  • Kyzyl gold mine expansion
  • Shalkiya zinc and lead mine expansion

Client feedback

"Professional, responsive, and willing to meet clients demand." – M&A

PwC Legal

PwC Legal is active in the financial and corporate space. 

The firm regularly assists international investment and development banks on acquisition financings and corporate loans. In recent times the firm has advised on deals within the energy, mineral resources and oil and gas sectors. 

In the projects space the firm recently assisted developers on the analysis of engineering, procurement and construction contracts. 

A notable staffing change saw the arrival of Yelena Ryzhkova from Deloitte to lead the team. 

Reed Smith

International firm Reed Smith has a credible financial and corporate offering in Kazakhstan. 

The firm has been active in the M&A space recently and advised on a mix of acquisitions and financial investments for Kazakh clients. Notably, the firm acted for a large domestic bank as it sold its shares. 

A recent project development mandate for the firm saw it advise the client on an infrastructure project concerning roads in the country’s capital, Nur-Sultan.  

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • First Heartland Securities acquisition of Tsesnabank 
Sayat Zholshy & Partners

Sayat Zholshy & Partners is present in financial and M&A work. In recent times the firm has been active in mandates within the insurance, manufacturing and technology sectors. 

Deal highlights within the research period include working on the restructuring of an international materials provider. Other mandates have involved supporting a Kazakh client with equity financing and a partial sale, as well as multiple corporate entry roles. 

In the projects space the firm notably has engaged with developers on contracts regarding the construction of electric power lines. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • North Kazakhstan—Aktobe Region 500kV transmission line 

Client feedback

"Excellent knowledge, experience and skills. Perfect teamwork. Unconventional thinking." – Banking

"Fully satisfied with our long-term relationship and cooperation." – Banking

"The work is done professionally and within a reasonable time." – M&A

"Brilliant legal expertise and knowledge." – Restructuring and insolvency

SIGNUM Law Firm

Signum Law is best known for its corporate and M&A work, where it regularly acts in transactions within the oil and gas sector. 

The firm regularly acts for international investors on project financings, corporate restructurings and on due diligence tasks. The firm recently represented an international mechanical engineering company on the acquisition of a participating interest in a Kazakhstani construction company. 

Among recent highlights in the projects space the firm acted for a Chinese investor on the construction of a solar power plant. 

Client feedback

"Overall good work. Quite quick and responsive." – M&A

"Strengths on subsoil use, due diligence, and corporate governance matters." – M&A

Synergy Partners

Synergy Partners is an active firm in Kazakhstan, with strength in M&A. 

The firm often works on acquisition and consolidation matters within the transactional space. It assists in the negotiations of contracts, handles transactions with Kazakhstan-based assets and acts for both public and private investors and targets. While several of the firm’s recent deals are confidential it has notably assisted with a merger and a privatisation deal for the state. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Aviata / Chocotravel merger
  • National Scientific Medical Center $17 million privatisation

Client feedback

"Their advice is very sharp and on point. Their documents are very easy to read." – Project development

"They have experts in all spheres." – Project development

"They provide sharp advice. They are very efficient and result oriented." – Project development

Unicase Law Firm

Unicase is mostly seen in the banking and M&A areas, and is generally active in the energy and technology sectors. 

In the banking area the firm is particularly active on project finance matters. It has recently worked for lenders on financing the construction of ferrosilicon plants.  

The firm regularly acts for acquirers in the M&A area, and often assists international firms with investments into Kazakhstan. The firm has recently worked on cross border deals involving Chinese, Russian and Swedish clients. 

The firm’s projects work has included advice to developers in sectors such as solar energy, road maintenance and wind farms. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Access Power $6 million acquisition of M-Kat Green 100MW solar photovoltaic power plant
  • Gulshat 40MW solar power plant
  • Karaganda ferroalloy plant

Client feedback

"The firm was very responsive and provided high quality work." – Banking

"Very efficient and switched on professionals. Reliable and commercially astute." – Project development

White & Case

White & Case is one of the best firms across the board in the financial and corporate space, and has expertise in banking, capital markets and M&A. The firm’s global network assists it in picking up some of the largest work in the region. 

The firm regularly assists international banks in financing projects in Kazakhstan.  

In the capital markets area the firm recently advised the underwriters on the dual listing of a Kazakh company on the LSE and the newly established Astana International Exchange (AIX). It became the first-ever IPO of a state-owned company and the first IPO on the AIX.  

In the M&A space the firm was involved in the jurisdiction’s largest recent deal, where it acted for a major telecommunications company on the acquisition of a mobile operator. 

The firm’s has been active on project work in sectors such as energy, mining and natural resources. 

Recent Deal Data highlights  

  • Kazakhtelecom $446 million acquisition of Kcell
  • Kazatomprom Astana International Exchange / LSE IPO
  • Republic of Kazakhstan €1.1 billion dual tranche (1.55% and 2.375%) bond issue