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Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Leading individuals

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Next generation lawyers

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    • Elnur Eyvazov - Capital Legal Services
    • Ulvia Zeynalova-Bockin - Dentons

Azerbaijan’s economy has been on a growth trajectory every year since 1995 but low oil prices, currency devaluations and political uncertainty have destabilised that growth pattern. World Bank reports predict that final data for 2016 will show a contraction of the economy, which has shown vulnerability due to low oil prices, currency devaluations, and political uncertainty. The national currency – the manat – plummeted in February 2015 after a major devaluation and then again in December 2015 after the central bank transitioned to a floating exchange rate. The moves were intended to enhance the country’s position in the global economy, which had seen oil prices drop to their lowest point in more than a decade.

Potential investors also face political uncertainty in the country, after Azerbaijan voted in September 2016 for a major amendment to its Constitution that will make it a fully presidential republic. The controversial amendments will have a significant impact on the way government operates and, among other changes, introduce a potentially powerful vice presidential position.

FIRMS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

EKVITA

EKVITA is a full-service legal and tax consulting firm. In early 2011, the firm merged with a local tax consulting firm established in 1999, thereby significantly expanding its practice areas, and claiming tax consulting as one of its main areas. EKVITA now brings together 15 years of local expertise and knowledge.

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More positively, the government has increased its efforts to diversify the economy and is attempting to attract investors by promoting free economic zones and industrial parks, and by liberalising burdensome licensing regulations. In particular, Azerbaijan is seeking to benefit from its position as a regional hub by boosting its transport and trade, evidenced by initiatives such as the new Baku International Trade Port, which will create a new free trade zone and improve transport and the Eurasian supply chain via Azerbaijan.

International powerhouse Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited represents foreign and state-owned companies in significant banking, finance and corporate or M&A matters, and features an outstanding dispute resolution team. Financial expert Altay Mustafayev recently advised Credit Suisse on two financing agreements with the state-owned rail company Azerbaijan Railways. He also represented AIG in its sale of 100% of its shares in Chartis Azerbaijan Insurance Company Open Joint Stock Company to AzRe Reinsurance Company. Managing partner and corporate litigation expert Gunduz Karimov has experience in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, while Kamil Valiyev is recommended for IT and telecoms. Major clients include the seismic exploration company Geokinetics, and Azerbaijan Rigs LLC, a joint venture between the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) and the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Dentons has ‘outstanding knowledge of Azerbaijan and its laws and government, and finds workable solutions to business problems’. Managing partner James Hogan and his team provided counsel to Goldman Sachs International on Azerbaijani legal issues regarding the $1.3bn equity financing of SOCAR’s Turkish subsidiary for a refinery project. The ‘friendly and disciplined’ Kamal Mammadzada was assisted by talented senior associate Ulvia Zeynalova-Bockin when the firm advised Denizbank on surety agreements by individual and corporate sureties. The firm hired commercial and contracts expert Farhad Hajizade from PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal.

MGB Law Offices Limited is known for handling complex financial matters as well as major M&A for international clients, and is ‘distinguished by its quality combined with competitive pricing’. Highly active managing partner Ismail Askerov recently represented a leading Turkish textile commodity company on its sale of a local subsidiary and assisted an international financial institution with the enforcement of its security against a local borrower. Meltem Novruzova and Lala Hasanova are recommended by clients, who are ‘very pleased with the quality and timeliness of the deliverables’.

Omni Law Firm represents state and corporate clients on contentious and non-contentious matters, including M&A, project finance and dispute resolution. Co-founder Roman Alloyarov acts for lenders and borrowers on financial transactions, including complex restructurings and project financings. He recently advised Azerbaijan Airlines in connection with an exim bank backed refinancing of two Boeing aircraft and, in a separate matter, assisted the same client with the purchase of an aircraft engine. Co-founder Ismail Zargarli focuses on corporate and securities matters such as joint ventures, share transfers, acquisitions and liquidations. Elchin Mammadov recently assisted SOCAR with a hydrocarbon production project. Key clients include Azerbaijan Railways, Microsoft, Imperial Tobacco and GlaxoSmithKline.

The ‘overall level of work is high’ at BM Morrison Partners LLC, which advises international corporations on competition law, federal and local regulations, permit processes, labour legislation, tax codes and microfinance. The firm also represents clients before all state bodies and courts. Managing partner Aykhan Asadov acts for a leading Korean electronics manufacturer in nearly all of its legal matters in Azerbaijan. Farhad Mirzayev is an expert in energy, project finance and real estate, whereas Delara Israfilova concentrates on oil and gas, telecoms and general corporate advisory support. ‘Always professional and knowledgeable’ associate Mustafa Salamov focuses on the protection of cross-border investments and IP rights and fellow associate Leyla Safarova is recommended for banking and tax matters.

Established in 2016 with the goal of creating ‘a new local firm that’s equipped to compete with international law firms’, Capital Legal Services is already showing its prowess by representing major clients in M&A and corporate matters, banking and finance, employment, immigration law and litigation. Managing partner Vugar Mammadov, who joined from Deloitte & Touche LLC in May 2016 and has previous experience at PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal, leads a team comprised of lawyers ‘who have international educations and who come from international law firms’. Samir Gurbanov is an expert in contract negotiations and dispute settlement, while tax specialist Mammed Rasul Gaffarli has spent four decades as an accountant at major domestic companies. Elnur Eyvazov, who worked at JPMorgan Chase and British Petroleum prior to joining the firm, is a UStrained lawyer who has worked with Mammadov on international arbitration cases.

Deloitte & Touche LLC advises international and domestic investors on commercial deals and financial transactions such as share purchases and sales agreements. Sarvar Hummatov, who stepped into the office’s management role in May 2016 after his predecessor Vugar Mammadov joined Capital Legal Services, has experience in M&A, restructurings, employment law and day-to-day corporate advisory work. Nuran Kerimov is also recommended.

Ekvita has particular expertise in energy and employment law and frequently represents international clients on transactions and in disputes. Managing partner Ilgar Mehti, who has ‘excellent English language skills and is very responsive’, has been providing legal advice to a Malaysian energy company regarding joint venture agreements, third-party and supply chain risk, and other corporate, labour and immigration needs. Anar Karimov recently advised MasterCard on its review of terms and conditions agreements.

Multinational firm PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal’s Baku office advises clients on contentious and non-contentious matters related to employment, company formation, financial transactions and tax issues; it has notable experience in the telecoms, aviation and energy industries. Tax and legal services co-director Samir Hadjiyev, who joined from Grata Azerbaijan LLC, works alongside fellow co-director Arif Guliyev and partner Movlan Pashayev. Farhad Hajizade moved to Dentons in November 2015.

Baku Law Centre has ‘a wide range of commercial law and litigation experience, especially in terms of their work in the insurance field’, and the team is ‘focused, understands the risks that need to be managed in a contract, and helpful in complex negotiations’. Its lawyers are adept at handling issues related to outsourcing, security breaches, contracts and litigation. Banking and finance expert Mehman Sultanov’s ‘skills, attention to detail, versatility, and knowledge are second to none’. Managing partner Anar Baghirov and Gulnаr Gurbanova are recommended for commercial and construction law and are experienced in dispute resolution. Baghirov is ‘a real specialist in the creation of local and international contracts’. Recommended senior associates include real estate expert Vasif Hasanov, as well as corporate lawyers Gumru Mehdiyeva and Zulfigar Babayev.

Ernst & Young Holdings (CIS) B.V., Branch Office in the Republic of Azerbaijan provides ‘immediate response times and understands businesses and their needs’, including out-of-hours support. The team provides advice to corporate clients regarding tax compliance, accounting, human resources and corporate law. The ‘tax partners in particular are talented and always reassuring’ – these include experienced tax specialist Arzu Hajiyeva. Clients say the firm provides ‘good value for money that is difficult to find in the local market’.

Michael Wilson & Partners advises on matters such as banking and construction law, as well as shareholder disputes. Name partner Michael Wilson, who splits his time between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, advised Citco Group on its corporate health check of the Armenia branch of power and temperature control company Aggreko. Associates Aygun Abbasova and Larissa Orlova are key contacts in Baku.

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