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Georgia

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Georgia is a market with an abundance of hydropower and natural resources. The country held parliamentary elections in October 2016, improving political stability and increasing the market’s attractiveness to international investors. Notably, the Georgian Parliament approved the implementation of the Estonian tax model in May 2016, which came into force in January 2017. Law firms noticed an increase in both the quantity and quality of inbound investment as large international companies seek to consolidate their presence in a potentially more accommodating Georgia, a change in demeanour which has led to the resuscitation of capital markets deals. Other growing sources of work are labour and competition law, which in turn have increased the volume of arbitrations taking place.

A number of high-quality local firms compete on an equal footing with international firms such as Ernst & Young LLC and DLA Piper Georgia LP, which have an established presence in Tbilisi along with more recent arrival Dechert Georgia LLC, which is diversifying its workload to add more private sector work to its government-related mandates. Recently, the firm worked with the government to create a special commercial court similar to the one in Delaware to make the economy more attractive to foreign investment.

BGI Legal is ‘exceptional’ in M&A, financing and real estate, and is especially prominent in the energy sector. Lasha Gogiberidze, whom clients regard as ‘the top lawyer in Georgia for banking, finance and capital markets transactions’, and Sandro Bibilashvili handled a number of innovative regional energy projects and joint ventures, such as the Adjaristsqali hydropower project. The firm also acted on behalf of government officials, such as defending former president Saakashvili, in certain high-profile dispute resolution cases. Other notable clients include BP, Apple Inc and BNP Paribas. Legal director Unana Gogokhia is also a key contact.

Known for its expertise in capital markets, dispute resolution and M&A, BLC Law Office routinely advises heavyweight international clients such as Credit Suisse, General Electric and IBM. Ketti Kvartskhava acted for Anaklia Development Consortium LLC on the investment agreement for the Anaklia deep sea port project, co-founded by Conti International and TBC Holding. Kvartskhava and Alexander Bolkvadze acted for Georgian Manganese, the world’s top producer and supplier of silicomanganese, in an extensive tax dispute involving tax accounting and transfer pricing issues. The firm also represented Metro Atlas Georgia in the development of the Metro City and Atlas Twins mixed-use projects, covering several hotels, residential apartments, gambling facilities and shopping malls. Giorgi Batlidze acted for a heavyweight client in the energy sector and is also a key contact.

DLA Piper Georgia LP has shown that its ‘industry knowledge and understanding of cross-border capital raising transactions and applicable taxes is excellent’. The firm also adeptly handles dispute resolution, corporate and M&A, and competition law matters for clients such as BP, Georgia Petroleum and sanofi. Litigation practice head Otar Kipshidze is ‘an outstanding, top-notch lawyer’ and is acting for BP in administrative and regulatory disputes in connection with the expansion of the £28bn Shah Deniz offshore gas field project. Avto Svanidze has been working on a potential M&A transaction governed by English law involving several sellers, reorganisation of the target entity and refinancing of the target entity’s debt. Of counsel Ted Jonas represented Russian energy company, Inter RAO Group, in selling a Dutch holding company owning thermal power plants to Georgian Industrial Group.

BDO Legal handles litigation, commercial work, M&A and other corporate transactions. The firm recently assisted Incofin Investment Management and Development World Markets with its acquisition of a majority stake in Crystal, the second largest microfinance organisation in Georgia. David Gelashvili represented Wissol Petroleum in a competition law case regarding allegations of price fixing and parallel activity. The firm advised Georgian Green Power on environmental regulations and negotiations with the Georgian Ministry of Energy in the context of the development of Tsablari 2 HPP hydropower plant. Other notable clients include FAO, Georgian Credit and Georgian Investment Group Energy.

BLB (Business Legal Bureau) has an impressive client roster including Microsoft, World Business Capital and OPIC. Managing and founding partner Kakha Sharabidze acted as local counsel for Rustavi Azot regarding a potential extension of an existing £175m financing from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Maya Mtsariashvili is assisting Eltransit, a privately held Georgian company developing the first electric transmission line between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

Headed by Archil Giorgadze, Dechert Georgia LLC’s Tbilisi office advises on corporate law, M&A and dispute resolution. Nicola Mariani assisted a subsidiary of the Georgian Co-Investment Fund with the $83m acquisition of Axis Towers, a property development in central Tbilisi. Other clients include the EBRD and Global Pharma Intelligence

Providing ‘high-quality services and a customer-oriented approach’, GLCC Law Firm works on civil and administrative law in a wide array of practice areas. Irakli Gaprindashvili, who manages the three-partner team, represented Irao Magnat in successfully annulling a fine by the Georgian revenue service. Aleksandre Kamushadze and Grigol Mumladze are ‘highly qualified professionals’ who provide ‘high-quality services and adopt a customer-tailored approach’. The firm is also assisting the Georgian Construction Consortium with the Neskra hydropower plant project. Notable new clients include Green Project Ukraine, Retail Group Georgia and Iberia Construction.

Gvinadze & Partners LLC provides support in tax, regulation and litigation matters to clients such as Monster Energy, Nestlé and MasterCard. Managing partner Nick Gvinadze and senior associate Sophie Panjikidze also provided the full scope of legal support to EnerMech, a UK-based company which has been providing mechanical engineering to all three major oil and gas pipeline projects transiting Georgia. The firm also represented Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton in anti-counterfeiting efforts and is acting for British American Tobacco in a high-profile litigation matter in collaboration with Hogan Lovells International LLP.

Now 20 years old, Mgaloblishvili, Kipiani, Dzidziguri Law Firm is ‘among the few firms with a truly international practice in Georgia’ and is praised as being very proactive. David Dzidziguri heads the five-partner team, which is prominent in corporate matters – notably franchising work – and litigation. ‘Strong professional’ Victor Kipiani acted as local counsel to the EBRD in connection with its first public bond issuance on the Georgian Stock Exchange totalling $49m. Other clients include Société Générale, Red Bull and AccorHotels.

Clients describe Nodia, Urumashvili & Partners as providing ‘the most efficient and effective assistance’, as well as ‘tailor-made solutions’. Led by managing partner Lasha Nodia, the team advises clients such as Georgian Water and Power, Blackmoon Investment and Schuchmann Wines. Associate Tamar Rogava is ‘always ready to cooperate and confident in the face of unexpected turns’.

Ernst & Young LLC handles contentious and non-contentious matters in competition law, corporate transactions, real estate and intellectual property. George Svanadze heads the practice, which acts for a mix of domestic and international clients, including recently conducting due diligence to determine a sizeable project’s compliance with competition legislation.

The two-partner team at Archil Mchedlidze’s Law Practice LLC advises various domestic and international clients, notably in the pharmaceuticals, property and telecoms sectors. Managing partner Archil Mchedlidze specialises in litigation and corporate law and heads the firm alongside Valeri Bendianishvili.

J&T Consulting LLC is best known for its ‘expertise in protecting clients in litigation with an international element’. Managing partner Giorgi Tsertsvadze shows ‘creativity and style in dealing with very sensitive legal issues, which guarantees the best outcome’. The firm is representing one of the main fuel importers in Georgia in litigation against the state’s competition agency, and conducted a full due diligence on one of Georgia’s largest wine producers.

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