Al Tamimi & Co is a regional firm with offices across the Middle East and North Africa but based in the United Arab Emirates. The firm is the leading local law firm for transactional advice in the emirates, and is especially strong in M&A, banking, and equity capital markets.
In capital markets the firm has worked on the equity side and debt side for corporates seeking capital. A notable transaction the firm worked on was advising Aster DM Healthcare on a cross border shares offering to India and US institutional investors, and the listing of shares on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India.
In M&A the firm advised General Electric on the sale of its water division business to Suez. More broadly, it advised clients on a mix of mergers, joint ventures, acquisitions, and sales.
In project development the firm worked in the energy sector, including renewables. For example, the firm advised Marubeni Corporation and Jinko Solar on the Sweihan 350MW solar power project.
Staffing changes saw Ahmed Ibrahim, a partner in capital markets, leave the firm. In the firm’s M&A team there was also turnover, with the arrival of Alex Ghazi as head of the Abu Dabi office from Arabtec, and the departure of Marcus Wallman.
Other noteworthy clients of the firm include Emaar Development, ABB, and Yinchuan Tonglian Capital Investment Operation Co.
"Jody, Mark and their team provide very responsive and effective service. They know their market well and are efficient in delivering quality UAE advice." – Banking, project finance
"On local UAE companies law matters, the firm has a better knowledge than most. I would not hesitate to use the firm on local law advisory matters. The senior partners at managerial level are all great with their client service. A special mention goes to Alex Ghazi, Husam Hourani and Margaret Elder, all of whom have provided us with great service over the last few years." – Banking, project finance
"They do exactly what they say they will do. They have strong performance and great client care from partners to associates, specifically Mark Brown." – Banking
"Very knowledgeable and responsive at all hours. The attorneys have good relationships with various Ministries which is very helpful to clients." – Restructuring
"Great all round law firm. Very responsive and provides clear opinions on raised issues." – Banking, restructuring
Allen & Overy’s UAE rankings – unanimously top tier – speak for themselves. The firm has one of the most complete transactional offerings in the emirates and a track record of leading on significant deals in the region from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Banking and oil and gas are among the firm’s sectors of expertise, and the public sector / sovereign work is another area in which the firm works regularly.
In the capital markets area, the firm’s recent equity mandates included three of the most prominent domestic equity deals – an issuer role on Arabtec’s rights issue and underwriter roles on the IPOs of Adnoc and Emaar Development. The firm worked on a host of Islamic debt issues in the research period and some conventional bond programmes. The transactions included sovereign sukuk and regulatory capital issues by banks, and the firm was more often advising the managers.
The firm’s recent M&A highlights feature large deals in the oil and gas, food, and telecoms, and were a mix of strategic and private equity deals. A few of highlights were roles for Abraaj Capital on the sales of its stake in OCI and on its exit from K-Electric to Shanghai Electric Power Company. A buy side example was its work for Aramco on the acquisition of a stake in Maasvlakte Olie Terminal from Gunvor Petroleum.
Key clients of the firm include Abraaj, First Abu Dhabi Bank, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley.
Ashurst has a strong projects practice in the UAE, heavily experienced in advising on the development of large infrastructure.
In project development and finance the firm has worked in the energy sector, including on renewable energy projects in wind and solar. Additionally, the firm has experience representing public entities and advising on PPP. A highlight for the firm from the research period was working for the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority on solar power project.
Other high-profile clients of the firm are Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects, JGC Corporation, and Kuwait Petroleum International.
Bracewell is a US firm with offices in Dubai and London. The firm’s practice in the United Arab Emirates is recognised for energy sector project finance and development work.
In project finance, a notable transaction for the firm was advising Société Générale and BNP Paribas as lenders to Engie in relation to the 300MW Sakaka solar project.
In project development the firm advised on renewable energy projects across the Middle East and North Africa region.
The firm hired Adrian Creed as a partner in projects from Clyde & Co in July 2017. Clint Steyn, also a partner working in projects, moved to Alcazar Energy Partners, a client of the firm, in May 2017.
Alcazar Energy Partners is a key client of the firm, with other notable clients of the firm including Neptune Energy Group Holdings, a member of the Carlyle and CVC Capital portfolio, Africa Renewable Energy Holdings, and Eni.
BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates is a regional firm with offices in various countries in the Middle East. The firm’s United Arab Emirates office works in banking and M&A. The firm’s recent work has mostly been based around providing due diligence and regulatory advice to its clients, such as a due diligence analysis it provided for the Dubai Land Department.
Other clients of the firm are Align Technology, Gulf Line Food Services Company, and John Taylor.
Top tier across the board, Clifford Chance has breadth in quality in the UAE. The firm secures high-end mandates both domestically and across the MENA region through Dubai and has broad industry expertise encompassing banking, infrastructure, and oil and gas.
In banking the firm’s recent notable work includes a large debtor-side debt restructuring, a large borrower side acquisition and real estate financings.
Recent project finance highlights for the firm were mostly lender sider roles on rail, solar power plants, hospital, and real estate developments.
The capital markets practice had issuer roles on a number of Saudi IPOs and a few by UAE corporates which are in the planning stages. On the debt side the team has worked on large conventional and Islamic issues. A few highlights were representing Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank on a Reg S bond, advising Emirates REIT on its debut sukuk, and representing the joint lead managers on Albaraka’s Tier 1 sukuk.
The M&A team has been involved in large, mostly cross border deals in sectors including banking, chemicals, retail, oil and gas, and infrastructure. The deals were a mix of strategic and private equity, and public and private deals.
Notable project development work for the firm in the research period includes representing Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) on PPP contracts relating to developments at five of its international airports, and work for sponsors on wind, solar, and utilities projects. A few of these latter deals were domestic, most were in the wider region.
Dubai World, First Abu Dhabi Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, Sabic, and Zain are some of the firm’s key clients.
"Good law firm with solid lawyers and good legal advice. On occasion, the firm has raised red flag a little too late in a transaction, but there has always been a solution." - M&A, Project development, Project finance
"I do not believe the corporate team has any weaknesses. I have worked closely with James McCarthy and his team for a number of years, and I find their services second to none. James and his team take a very commercial approach to negotiations and display exceptional expert knowledge. I would not use any other firm for corporate and M&A work in the UAE. James McCarthy is the Dubai World relationship partner and has been since before I arrived. He does an exceptional job from both legal advisory and relationship perspective. We have also been particularly impressed with Deniz Tas, one of CC's corporate senior associates. He is definitely one to watch. In my previous role at a large financial institution, I also worked extensively with Clifford Chance's banking and finance practice as well as their capital markets practice, and I found them to be very good. It is also worth noting the excellence of Robin Abraham, Debbie Walker and Stuart Ure." – Banking, capital markets, project finance
"The team of Deborah Walker and Jeremy Barker is outstanding. My team consistently fight over using them and even try to push our non UAE deals to them if feasible. They are fully immersed in the legal issues and local requirements but excellent at balancing this with risks and the client's needs, to give holistic, balanced and informed advice. They are extremely fees conscious and manage themselves and client requests to ensure efficient use of their time and keeping within the fees cap. They're willing to send weekly fees updates if requested, whereas other firms struggle to send any updates. I find them to be extremely personable and an absolute pleasure for the bank and our customers that they are negotiating against. It always feels that client, bank and CC are on the same side and working towards the same goal, which makes the transaction management and client interaction quite pleasurable." - Banking
"Top tier firm with clear legal and commercial advice, operating across a breadth of practice areas with strong market reputation." – Banking, capital markets, project finance
"Strong team led by partner who can be relied upon to deliver good advice in a timely manner." – Banking, capital markets
CMS in the UAE, is recognised in M&A. Recently the firm mostly worked on the sell side but still saw substantial work advising acquirers. An example of the firm’s work during the research period was advising Union Properties on the sale of its 50% stake in Emicool to Dubai Investments, which owned the other 50% of the company.
The firm hired legal director Rob Flaws from DLA Piper in September 2017.
Other clients of the firm are HP, Arjun Infrastructure Partners, and Dhow Precious Metals.
"A very technically strong firm with major focus on responsiveness and meeting the needs and demands of its clients." – M&A
"CMS Dubai partner, Mohammed Majid, has been very helpful to the development and building of our business. I have been pleased with the service so far." – Banking
"Excellent overall. Key strengths include the amount of senior/partner level attention and practical advice. We also appreciate the value for money, as there is never any mission creep with work taken on by a partner himself." – M&A
"The team led by Mohammed Majid has been extraordinary. They have a very strong knowledge of the sectors we were focusing on, and we had a very complex fund with other affiliations. Between the fund, the fund management and setting up local companies, his team always found the best solutions and sacrificed their own personal plans (holidays) so that we could launch our fund in a timely manner. They have a very commerical mind and always have alternative options in case plan A do not work out. I would more than highly recommend this team and have nothing negative to add." – M&A
Eversheds Sutherland is recognised in project finance and project development in the UAE
The firm’s project development work revolved around energy, primarily solar power, advising Voltalia on the development of a 32MW solar plant in Egypt, for example. This ties into the firm’s project finance work as on many of the firm’s project development transactions it acted on both development and financing aspects of the deal.
The research period saw notable changes to the firm’s staffing in the project development team. Three new partners joined. Karim Mahmud and Iwan Walters transferred from the UK office in July and April 2018 respectively, and Paul Taylor joined in December 2018 from Reed Smith. Simultaneously, Tim Armsby and Gurmet Kaur left the firm for Pinsent Masons in April 2018.
Other noteworthy clients of the firm are Gulf Capital, Mitsui, and Dubai Investments.
"Excellent understanding of the law and good negotiating capabilities with other parties. Detailed work and utmost assistance can be expected from the law firm.” – M&A
"Good technical work, responsive partners and very good value for money." - Banking
"The firm contacts I am familiar with are Zeid Hanania and Hani Nassef. Zeid Hanania is a class act who provides excellent legal service. In corporate M&A matters, he is extremely knowledgeable and negotiates a great deal for his clients. With Zeid, you are getting Magic Circle quality and experience at a far more competitive price which is great value for the client. Hani Nassef is great because he is very strong in corporate matters and equally as strong in both Arabic and English. This is particularly useful in Middle Eastern transactions. There are very few lawyers in the region who can actually do deals in Arabic, and that is what helps Hani stand out from other corporate partners. He is very responsive and goes out of his way to assist clients whilst also delivering top class quality." – M&A
"Broad range of specialist knowledge available to call upon to supplement core banking legal skills." – Banking
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is among the market leaders in M&A in the UAE, and recognised for lending advice.
In banking, the firm has a strong record in acquisition finance recently, representing financial institutions on loan facilities and various corporate clients as borrowers. An example of the firm’s work in the area was advising Omantel on the financing of its acquisition of a minority stake in Mobile Telecommunications Company.
Within M& the firm worked on a number of notable deals, working for both buyers and sellers. An example of its work was advising Shree Cement on the acquisition of 100% of Union Cement Company, listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, ultimately delisting the target company.
Other high-profile clients of the firm are Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation, Abraaj, and Goldman Sachs.
"The firm's strength lies in its good negotiation skills and practical advice weighted by risk." – M&A
"The best corporate/M&A firm in the MENA region by some margin, mainly down to the superb Pervez Akhtar and the excellent Rob Cant. Both are first class, and when the deal is business critical, no one else comes close." – M&A
"I would rate Freshfields very highly. They are responsive, efficient, thoughtful, commercial and practical. I can't point to many weaknesses other than a fully priced offering but that is balanced by high quality." – M&A
Herbert Smith Freehills has an active presence in the UAE legal market. In the jurisdiction, the firm broadly active in transactional work but arguably strongest on finance and project work.
In banking, the firm acted for a mix of borrowers and lenders on a number of Islamic finance facilities recently. In project finance, the firm advised SP Energy on Egypt’s feed-in tariff solar program.
A notable transaction for the firm in project development was advising CEFC China Energy Company in an oil-production venture in Abu Dhabi. Otherwise the firm worked in a mix of sectors.
Bee’ah and Regulation & Supervisory bureau of Abu Dhabi are clients of the firm.
"It is a very good firm. I have dealt with few different people over the years, and they all have been thorough professionals. I really appreciate the work undertaken by HSF; it has been excellent." - Project development
King & Spalding has good finance and M&A practices in the UAE.
In capital markets, the firm advised Emirates NBD, MUFG Securities EMEA, and Rand Merchant Bank as joint lead managers on a sukuk issuance by the Africa Finance Corporation. This is a good representation of the firm’s broader work in Islamic finance and debt capital markets.
In M&A the firm worked on a merger for Dalma Energy, which merged its operations in Oman and Saudi Arabia with KCA Deutag, forming a new business under the KCAD Group.
Other noteworthy clients of the firm include Blueapple Healthcare Services, NMC Healthcare, and Delivery Hero.
"Strengths: Negotiation skills, comprehensive approach to legal documentation, good understanding of transaction legalities particular to the Middle Eastern M&A transactions." – M&A
Latham & Watkins is experienced in all areas of work covered by the rankings but secures its most significant work in project finance, debt capital markets, and Islamic finance.
In the banking area the firm’s recent deal highlights include work for the lenders providing Kuwait Food Company an Islamic facility and on a syndicated loan to Saudi Electricity Company, and advice to Adeem Investment & Weath Management on its debt restructuring.
Notable project finance work by the firm in the region is generally led out of London. Recent headline work includes advice to a borrower of an aluminium project in Bahrain and to a lender financing a refinery in Oman.
The firm’s capital markets highlights were all in the debt area and featured a number of prominent transactions. A few of the highlights were roles for nogaholding on its Reg S bond issue, advice to Saudi Arabi on its recent conventional bond issue, and roles for a number of investments banks as arrangers of sukuk issues by banks in the region.
M&A work for the firm included strategic M&A in the healthcare sector, outbound acquisitions by sovereign and private equity funds, and number of deals involving real estate companies.
The Government of Saudi Arabia, Merrill Lynch International, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, and JP Morgan are among the firm’s the firm’s recent notable clients.
"Leading firm in Islamic finance in the region. The team is strong and capable." – Banking, capital markets
Linklaters’s UAE team is strong in all areas of financial and corporate work but particularly notable for debt capital markets work (conventional and Islamic issues) where it is one of the market leaders. Sovereign work is a specialty of the firm.
In the capital markets area, the firm’s recent transactional highlights were concentrated in the debt area. The notable sovereign work included advising the lead manager on Tunisia’s bond issue and the arrangers on Sharjah’s sukuk. The firm also did a lot of work for banks issuing regulatory capital.
Key clients include Barclays, Batelco, Dubai World, HSBC and QNB.
Pinsent Masons is recognised in project development in the UAE. Recent work in the area for the firm included notable experience in the energy and waste treatment sectors. An example of the firm’s work was advising Pakistan Gas Import on a liquid natural gas import terminal in Karachi.
The firm hired two new partners in May 2018, both from Eversheds Sutherland, Tim Armsby as partner and head of projects and finance, and Gurmeet Kaur as partner, also working in projects.
Other notable clients of the firm include Qatar Ministry of Municipality and Environment, Silk Road Fund, and Tenaga Nasional Berhad.
Shearman & Sterling’s has one of the UAE’s leading oil and gas practices, which is particularly strong in advising on financing and developing large projects in all areas of the value chain. The team is also experienced in corporate work necessary for oil and gas projects, and in high-end M&A in the sector.
In the banking area the firm most notably advised two oil and gas clients on negotiating large revolving credit facilities.
The firm’s recent project finance highlights include mandates for lenders and borrowers/sponsors on large power and utilities projects in the Middle East and Africa.
The capital markets practice secured some high profile mandates recently, advising Adnoc Distribution on its IPO and representing the arrangers of Acwa Power’s project bond.
In project development area the firm is working for the sponsors of a significant infrastructure project in Saudi Arabia and a large waste-to-energy project in the region, among other deals.
Standard Chartered and Credit Agricole are among the firm’s key clients.
Tribonian Law Advisors is recognised for M&A advice in the UAE. The firm is associated with Rindala Beydoun Legal Consultancy in Dubai and Al-Kheraiji Law Firm in Riyadh and Beirut.
A notable M&A transaction for the firm was advising NMC healthcare on the 100% acquisition of Al Zahra Hospital. Otherwise, the firm advised primarily on sales.
Other clients of the firm are Kaleidi Holdings, Alpha Lloyds Insurance Brokers, and Al Islami International Group.
Watson Farley & Williams is recognised for banking and finance advice in the UAE.
Recent work highlights include advising the lenders on the acquisition financing for the Hapag-Lloyd and United Arab Shipping Company merger. More broadly, the firm has experience advising on various Islamic finance instruments, generally advising banks acting as lenders, but picking up some experience on the borrower side.
Other noteworthy clients of the firm are Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe, Gulf Bank, and DVB Bank.
"They are very practical, resourceful and super-efficient. Domain knowledge is excellent, and they always endeavor to find solutions for their clients." – Banking, project finance
"WFW have a superb financing team with excellent lawyers in project, marine and Islamic financing. They have extremely strong relationships with both ship owners and banks in the middle east, which means that they have worked on both sides of the fence. Our own experience with WFW is that this breath of experience in both their London and Dubai offices tend to make them a little bit more pragmatic and sensible when dealing with financing. Compared to other firms in the GCC region, we find that WFW really understands the risks involved with financing transactions and have an understanding of these risks for both owners and banks, which make them very hard to beat on any financing transaction. Their reputation for quality is even evident in the support staff that includes a number of part time paralegals who are all fully qualified lawyers that have decided to take on a more supporting role. The GCC office is also very competitive on pricing." – Banking, project finance
In the UAE, Winston & Strawn works across banking, project development, and project finance.
A notable transaction the firm advised on in project finance was the Malta LNG to IPP Project, advising Siemens, Socar Trading, and Gem Holdings. The firm’s project development work was similar and often linked to its work in project finance.
The firm hired Chris Skipper as a partner in corporate from Istithmar in May 2017.
Other notable clients of the firm include Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and Mashreq Al Islami.
"Excellent team with professional and strong commercial attributes." – Project development
"Extremely professional, competent, seasoned and able team." - Project finance
"Winston & Strawn has an excellent network across the Middle East and has used that to our benefit in UAE, Kuwait and Kazakhstan. The UAE practice is ambitious and has gone the extra mile to win and develop business with us across several areas. Their knowledge of the US and UK Corporate world is excellent, and they have managed the interaction with our US counsel and internal tax department exceptionally well. The Corporate Partner, Christopher Skipper, has produced innovative ideas to reduce risk and pushed back our internal tax team when he believed the right solution was not being proposed and risk was not being managed. His team have provided excellent service and good workable solutions. In terms of weakness, Winston & Strawn would benefit from expanding its tax knowledge across the region. Although this is not a pre-requisite, many US Corporates are more tax focused when incorporating JV's." – M&A, restructuring