Solicitors governing body: Bahrain Bar Society
Competition authority: Ministry of Industry and Commerce
Financial regulator: Central Bank of Bahrain
IFLR1000 ranking categories in this jurisdiction:
Financial and corporate (published October) - Banking, M&A, Project finance
Essentially, Bahrain has two legal markets - the local and the international. Unlike some jurisdictions in the Middle East, the Gulf state has no foreign ownership requirements for law firms so it is not essential for international advisors to assimilate with a local sponsor or employ partners who are Bahraini nationals. This means the two types of firm remain relatively autonomous, working together on transactions but competing for different roles on mandates, one advising on international (usually US or English) law, the other on Bahraini.
Among the international firms present in the country, the most dominant are those with the longest tenures: Baker & McKenzie, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Trowers & Hamlins. Foreign firms tend to maintain a relatively small permanent presence in Bahrain and often employ fluid teams, where partners are focussed on several jurisdictions in the Gulf or wider region. This structure makes perfect sense for a country like Bahrain where the level of activity does not necessitate having a large dedicated team on the ground at all times. It is also a natural model to use as the vast majority of the significant deals with a Bahrain element are cross-border.
The contingent of domestic firms active on the market’s more significant deals is fairly consistent. Three firms typically compete for the local roles on larger deals: Hassan Radhi & Associates, Haya Rashed Al Khalifa and Zu'bi & Partners. A far smaller firm and younger firm, Jalila Sayed Attorneys & Legal Consultants, is the preferred local counsel of some foreign firms.
A recent new addition to Bahrain’s legal market was regional firm Al Tamimi & Co, which established a branch in Manama in 2014.
Banking and finance is the mainstay for firms focussing on transactional work in Bahrain. Manama has one of the Middle East’s oldest financial centres, established as the country sought to diversify the economy away from a dependence on oil. In part, it was the development of this sector that attracted international firms to Bahrain and, despite the increased competition from other hubs in Dubai and Doha, the local banks remain active. Projects – utilities, natural resources and infrastructure - are other reliable source of instructions for firms. Capital markets work does generate mandates, but is generally limited to sovereign issues or those of financial institutions.
Ben Naylor - Journalist - EMEA
Al Tamimi & Co provides Bahraini law advice through its Manama office and is recognised for finance – bank lending and project finance - work.
The firm’s recent deal highlights have predominantly been financing transactions, with borrower and lender side roles on corporate loans.
Key clients include Credit Suisse, Majid Al Futtaim and Mueller Middle East.
Baker McKenzie’s strength in Bahrain finance work including both conventional and Islamic general lending and project finance advice. The firm often works for the state and state-owned corporations and the country’s largest banks.
The firm’s recent work highlights have been in the banking and finance area, with work for borrowers and lenders. Among the highlights were several large project financings for real estate, energy and manufacturing developments, including a $515 million facility for Bahrain National Gas Company to finance a gas processing plant, and a number of large corporate loans.
Banking and financial services, energy, natural resources and the public sector are areas where the firm’s is notably active.
Key clients include the Arab Banking Corporation, Bahrain’s Ministry of Finance and The Bahrain National Gas Company.
“Good staff and good experience producing good quality of work.” – Banking and finance
Charles Russell Speechlys is recognised for lending and project development advice.
The firm’s recent notable transactions included two large financings and advice to company in the process of issuing a sukuk.
Real estate and construction are sectors where the firm is experience.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is one of the leading firms in Bahrain for large scale project development and PPP advice. The firm is regularly mandated by the government when it plans to build new infrastructure.
The firm’s recent highlights included a number of large social infrastructure, utilities and technology projects.
The office has sector expertise in energy, social infrastructure, transport and utilities.
Among the firm’s key clients are the Bahrain Petroleum Company, Government of Bahrain, and Mumtalakat.
Hassan Radhi & Associates is one of the leading firms in Bahrain for domestic transactional law advice, and is experienced in lending and project finance, capital markets, and M&A.
Recent deal highlights for the firm included advising the joint lead managers on recent bond and sukuk issues by Bahrain, representing the lenders on financing the development of Bahrain’s LNG import terminal, and several public M&A deals.
Banking, energy, financial services, and oil and gas are sectors in which the firm has expertise.
Arab Banking Corporation, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse Securities, JP Morgan Securities, and Standard Chartered Bank are some of the firm’s clients.