Kuwait

IFLR1000 Reviews

Overview

Solicitors governing body: Kuwait Bar Association

Competition authority: The Competition Protection Board (CPB)

Financial regulator: Central Bank of Kuwait

IFLR1000 ranking categories:

Financial and corporate (published October) - Financial and corporate

Jurisdiction overview

Generally regarded as one of the more egalitarian countries in the Gulf, Kuwait is a constitutional emirate. It has a semi-democratic, parliamentary government. Head of state, the Emir, chooses the prime minister, who decides, with the Emir’s approval, which 16 MPs will form the cabinet. These 16, along with 50 elected officials, are the country’s legislature, The National Assembly. Under law, political parties are banned in Kuwait so blocs, often divided by tribal and sectarian affiliations, typically form in parliamentary voting. 

The country has a civil law legal system, influenced by the Egyptian and French models. Islam is the official religion and shariah law is the main, but not only, source of legislation. In recent years, some MPs have pushed for amendments to the constitution so shariah law is its sole source.  

As Kuwait sought to diversify the economy away from its dependence on oil and gas revenues, it has, since the early 2000s, taken a fairly liberal view on foreign investment. Tax breaks of up to ten years and the low cost of labour are some of the incentives. In certain sectors the government is seeking to develop, 100% ownership of Kuwaiti businesses by foreigners is permitted. The legal profession does not fall into this category. 

International firms operating in Kuwait may only do so if working in association with a domestic firm. Lawyers of Arab nationality, with at least 10 years’ experience, are eligible to register to practice in Kuwait but only Kuwaiti nationals can qualify to advise on domestic law. Non-Arab foreign lawyers practice in Kuwait as consultants on international law, although, according the International Bar Association, this practice is unregulated. 

With Kuwait’s relatively strict provisions on the practice of foreign firms and lawyers, the number of international firms present in the country is, not surprisingly, low. DLA Piper and regional firm Al Tamimi & Co are the only international firms with offices in the country and last year DLA’s office head left to launch his own practice. In 2013, there were double the amount of international firms. That year, however, both Dentons and Curtis Mallet-Prevost Colt & Mosle decided to close.

In truth, for the big international outfits, the size of the market, which has had its economic difficulties in the last five years, is more of a deterrent than the restrictions on law firms. The magic circle and white shoe firms are active in Kuwait however, generally choosing to serve clients through offices in the UAE or Saudi Arabia. 

The local legal market for high-end commercial work is small. Two domestic firms, ASAR - Al Ruwayeh & Partners and Bader Saud Al-Bader & Partners, tend to dominate the mandates, although Al Tamimi is involved in significant finance work.  

Currently, Kuwait is generating plenty of instructions for lawyers in in the project area as the government looks to develop a range of social infrastructure. The government has an extensive multi-billion PPP (public-private partnership) programme in place with around $155 billion allocated for infrastructure projects in the next five years. 

Ben Naylor - EMEA Editor

Financial and corporate
Abdullah Kh Al-Ayoub & Associates

Abdullah KH Al-Ayoub & Associates has offered a range of regulatory advice during the research period, particularly in energy, food, delivery, healthcare and consumer goods sectors. 

ASAR - Al Ruwayeh & Partners

ASAR – Al Ruwayeh & Partners is renowned for transactional work in Kuwait. 

In banking work during the research period the firm acted for the lenders in several project financing transactions. 

In the capital markets area the firm has been busy on the debt side, acting for issuers and managers on several bond issues.  

The firm secured a number of notable M&A mandates. It advised Ahli United Bank Kuwait KSCP and Ahli United Bank Bahrain in the sale of their entire shares in Kuwait Middle East Financial Investment (KMEFIC) to Warda Bank and represented the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) in relation to the privatisation of Boursa Kuwait. 

In the project development area the firm had a role in PPP work across power, petrochemical, aviation, wastewater treatment and solid waste treatment sectors. 

Recent Deal Data highlights 

•Atheer Telecom Iraq $269 million financing 

•Kuwait Food Company and Adeptio $1.3 billion refinancing  

•National Investment Company / First Investment Company / Arzan Financial Group / Athens Stock Exchange $65.4 million acquisition of 44% in Kuwait Stock Exchange 

•Union National Bank / Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank merger 

Client feedback 

“ASAR is my go-to firm in Kuwait. The firm's quality is excellent. They are proactive in resolving solutions and don't just give you the law. I have found the personnel to be a pleasure to deal with and they have always met my client's timing expectations. There is no other firm in Kuwait with the depth of knowledge and understanding of how to manage and close large international transactions.” - Project finance 

Meysan Partners

Meysan Partners focuses on banking and finance, capital markets, and M&A work.  

A notable recent finance deal saw the firm advising the National Real Estate Company of Kuwait, as issuer, of a $100 million convertible loan. 

A recent M&A highlight saw the firm advising the acquirers of large stake in the national stock exchange. In other M&A work during the research period the firm advised the Falcon Group in selling shares to Raptor Equity Ventures. It also advised affiliates of the A-Kharafi family on the sale of a 29.5% equity stake in publicly-listed Heavy Engineering Industries & Shipbuilding Co, a major Kuwait construction company. 

In recent projects work the firm was retained by the Government of Kuwait on a landmark project to build a new city Madinat Al Hareer (Silk City). 

Recent Data Deal highlights 

•Madinat Al Hareer (Silk City) 

•Massaleh Real Estate Company $170 million debt restructuring 

•National Investment Company / First Investment Company / Arzan Financial Group / Athens Stock Exchange $65.4 million acquisition of 44% in Kuwait Stock Exchange  

•National Real Estate Company of Kuwait $100 million convertible loan

Client feedback 

“Kuwait's number one law firm which has transformed local law practice” - Capital markets: Debt 

Yaqoub Yousef Al-Munayae - Al Tamimi & Company

Yaqoub Yousef Al-Munayae is the Kuwait branch of the regional firm Al Tamimi & Company, and is recognised for its strong finance (Islamic and conventional), corporate transactional work and projects advice. 

In recent banking and finance work the firm advised Kuwait Oil Tanker Company on an Islamic $460 million syndicated finance deal with three local banks for an oil tanker purchase, and advised National Bank of Kuwait and KFH Capital Investment Company on a syndicated loan facility for the construction of a new airport terminal. The firm also undertook debt restructuring work. 

In the capital markets area the firm was co-counsel to the arrangers of a $3 billion sukuk programme.

In M&A during the research period the firm advised Athens Stock Exchange on the acquisition of a stake in Boursa Kuwait and represented clients in majority share acquisitions in the education and transportation sectors. The firm has represented NCH Ventures, a 50 financial institution consortium, in the sale of almost 400 million shares to KAMCO Investment Company, and it advised BMA International and subsidiary Retail Good on the spin-off and sale of assets to IFA Food.  

Recent Data Deal highlights 

•KAMCO Investment Company $100 million acquisition of NCH Ventures stake  

•Al Aman Investment Company $180 million acquisition of four K-12 schools 

•KIPCO $175 million acquisition of 60% in Jassim Transport & Stevedoring Co 

•Kuwait Oil Tanker Company $460 million financing 

•Kuwait Integrated Petroleum Industries Company $2.3 billion financing  

Client feedback 

“We are generally very happy with Al Tamimi's work in light of the high quality of the work product and the responsiveness of the various partners and associates with whom we deal.” – Banking  

“Excellent response time, thorough reports and advice.” – Project development 

Al Markaz Law Firm

Al Markaz is active on conventional and Islamic finance, investment fund and restructuring and insolvency work. 

During the research period in the banking area the firm has handled debt restructuring work for clients across heath care, energy, technology and engineering sectors.  

In the projects space the firm advised the Public Authority for Housing Welfare on a PPP project involving state-owned land, and advised the client in a separate consortium for other related PPP infrastructure projects. It has also advised a healthcare provider on construction, corporate structuring, public tenders, and foreign direct investment laws.  

It also has advised a multinational conglomerate on the Kuwaiti law elements of their corporate restructuring following a complex company split. 

Client feedback 

“Very professional, very knowledgeable, efficient and effective.” – Financial and corporate 

“Very responsive and practical advice.” – M&A 

“Very prompt response. Considered advice.” – Project development 

“Very professional, good service and technically strong.” – Project development 

“Al Markaz has been our guide through the legal environment in Kuwait. Their staff is very knowledgeable, quick to respond, fairly priced and highly ethical. We appreciate the enormous help that they have provided us in serving our clients.” – Project development 

“Excellent. Responsive, fast and accurate advice provided in a very personable manner.” – Project development 

“Very strong local Kuwaiti laws. Good basic knowledge of project finance, knowledge is focused with one person.” – Project development 

“Firm is very responsive and professional. Ayman Nada in particular has demonstrated strong commercial acumen and flexibility in dealing with the brief.” – Project development 

“They were very good in providing local law interpretation, application and analyses based on provided facts.” – Project development 

“Professional team with exceptional admin support and communication. Very responsive, provides their view within the expected time (usually no later than 48 hours) and they are strong in both advisory and litigation.” – Project development