Index of tables
Legal market overview
Joel Benjamin -
- Olga Chentsova - Aequitas
- Marat Ibragimov - White & Case Kazakhstan LLP
Aigoul Kenjebayeva -
- Azamat Kuatbekov - Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited
- Kenneth Mack - Dechert LLP
- Curtis Masters - Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited
- Aset Shyngyssov - Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP
- Maxim Telemtayev - White & Case Kazakhstan LLP
- Sergei Vataev - Dechert LLP
- Vitaliy Vodolazkin - Sayat Zholshy & Partners
- Michael Wilson - Michael Wilson & Partners
- Joel Benjamin -
A number of international law firms operate in Kazakhstan, attracted by high-end work for powerful clients, most notably in subsurface use industries. Several high-quality local firms constitute robust alternatives.
The ranking is based on quality and scope of service. Therefore, narrowly focused practices may be ranked lower in the table than a quality competitor with a broader base but may still be considered outstanding in its chosen discipline.
Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited’s 13-lawyer team provides a full spread of services to international banks, corporations and commodity traders. It represented ArcelorMittal Temirtau JSC in a $50m insurance dispute and is acting for Buzachi Operating Ltd (a Lukoil and CNPC joint venture) in an environmental dispute with authorities. Other clients include Asian Development Bank, Bank of China, HSBC Bank Kazakhstan, and Kazakhtelecom. Managing partner Azamat Kuatbekov is ‘a commercially oriented lawyer with excellent knowledge of law and industrial specificities; he is experienced, has a global mindset and is attentive to clients’. Curtis Masters is ‘particularly good – a seasoned professional who provides straightforward, commercially focused advice and knows Kazakhstan law, customs and practice inside out’.
Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP routinely represents the government or state-owned enterprises in protecting their interests or undertaking high-end transactions, frequently pertaining to subsurface use industries. Recent representations of the Republic of Kazakhstan include several arbitrations, such as in the client’s position as respondent to Ruby Roz Agricol LLP in an investment dispute under UNCITRAL rules. On the non-contentious side, office managing partner Askar Moukhitdinov and colleagues in Dubai advised United Chemical Company on forming a joint venture in the Jebel Ali free economic zone in Dubai. Other clients include KazMunayGas, KazTransOil and Samruk-Kazyna.
Dentons’ ‘extremely good’ team produces ‘well-drafted responses that are timely and accurate’. The firm fields 35 lawyers in Almaty and Astana and runs a full-service model, divided into dedicated practices. ‘Highly experienced, professional lawyer’ Almas Zhaiylgan advised CNPC on its $5bn acquisition of an 8.33% stake in the Kashagan oilfield. Kanat Skakov is leading advice to Diaverum on the buyout of a participating interest in Nefros Asia LLP, which operates nine haemodialysis clinics; recent arrival and recommended of counsel Adam Kaucher has also been acting on the matter, after joining the firm from KPMG Tax and Advisory LLC. Other clients include the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Halliburton, HeidelbergCement, Kazakhmys plc, and Shell. ‘Very responsive and professional’ banking and mining partner Abai Shaikenov advised HSBC on a $100m loan facility granted to KazAgro. Highly experienced managing partner Aigoul Kenjebayeva is also recommended.
Kinstellar LLP is regarded as one of ‘the best in the Kazakhstan market’, particularly on corporate, commercial and capital markets matters. Its highly experienced team ‘shows excellent technical skills, is responsive and commercial with problem-solving expertise, and is well established in the local community’. The firm is acting as local counsel to Halyk Bank on its proposed acquisition of HSBC’s operations in Kazakhstan. Other notable recent work includes advising Deutsche Bank, in its role as sponsor, on the London Stock Exchange premium listing of Nostrum Oil & Gas plc (formerly known as Zhaikmunai). Adlet Yerkinbayev is ‘a brilliant technical lawyer, and very responsive and helpful’. Office managing partner Joel Benjamin ‘knows the legal market and issues very well, and is good at explaining complex Kazakh issues to international clients’. Of counsels Kairat Baizakov, who joined from White & Case Kazakhstan LLP, and Maksim Grekov are also key figures.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP has ‘in-depth expertise and meets very good response times’. Corporate, project and financing mandates in the energy and oil and gas sectors are complemented by work in telecoms, mining and manufacturing. The firm continues to advise Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Finance on its proposed $1bn Rule 144A/Reg S sovereign Eurobond offering. The team recently advised the majority shareholders of Rakhat JSC, a confectionery manufacturer, on Lotte Confectionery’s buyout of a 76% stake in the company. Other clients include Airbus, Credit Suisse, the EBRD, GE and PetroKazakhstan. Managing partner Aset Shyngyssov ‘has so many strengths as a professional – he is a team player and a good negotiator who can correctly analyse a situation and provide necessary recommendations’. Klara Nurgazieva is also recommended along with Bakhytzhan Kadyrov, who is ‘hugely knowledgeable, globally experienced, has great business acumen, and is an excellent facilitator in complex situations’. Leila Madieva joined the firm as of counsel. Associate Aida Akhmetova is ‘a rising star – responsive, intelligent and commercially astute’. Senior figures Brian Zimbler and Jon Hines provide support from Moscow, as does Bruce Johnston in London.
White & Case Kazakhstan LLP’s ‘very practical’ team is based in Almaty and Astana. It has been heavily involved in banking sector M&A; highlights included advising HSBC on the sale of its local subsidiary to Halyk Bank and assisting Bulat Utemuratov/Verny Investments Holding with the purchase of controlling stakes in Alliance Bank and Temirbank. Corporate and project finance mandates in mining and oil and gas are also core focus areas, with recent work including advising Beineu Shymkent Pipeline LLP on a pipeline construction financing by China Development Bank. Vilen Adjivefayev and Maxim Telemtayev, who has ‘excellent knowledge’, are the key figures along with local partner Pavel Kornilov and counsel Marat Ibragimov.
Aequitas is a reliable and well-regarded local firm with broad experience. The full-service team has been heavily involved in litigation, employment law and compliance advice to various industries, in addition to core practices such as banking and finance and corporate law. Clients include Barclays, Chimpharm, Michelin, UniCredit Bank, and Visa. The pharmaceuticals industry is an area in which the firm has extensive experience. The team includes managing partner Olga Chentsova, Nataliya Braynina, Yuliya Chumachenko, Valikhan Shaikenov and Nurlan Sholanov. Senior associate Askar Abubakirov re-joined the firm from Deloitte TCF LLP.
‘Timely and very good quality’, BMF Group LLP has a market-leading intellectual property practice under Yuri Bolotov, who ‘has very substantial experience in the IP rights area, provides quality legal assessments, and can represent a client’s interest at government level’. Recent IP work includes winning 73 administrative court cases for Toyota. The firm also has corporate and commercial, financing and dispute resolution practices, where recent mandates include advising an Asian bank on a large acquisition financing and assisting a local bank with an asset financing. Vsevolod Markov, Vladimir Furman and Yuliya Petrenko are recommended.
Dechert LLP provides ‘timely and helpful support, and speaks the client’s language’. The firm runs a full-service practice, with experience in financing, corporate and dispute resolution matters, as well as general business support. The team assisted London colleagues with the $200m note issuance by JSC Kazakhstan Engineering National Company at the end of 2013. Other clients include ExxonMobil, Halliburton International, Procter & Gamble, and Total. Sergei Vataev and the highly rated Victor Mokrousov are the primary corporate and commercial lawyers, with dispute resolution work led by Vataev and Mukhit Yeleuov, who is ‘a highly qualified legal professional with a deep knowledge of Kazakhstan legislation’. Managing partner Kenneth Mack is well regarded. Walter Daniel joined from PwC Legal Kazakhstan.
Grata Law Firm is ‘held in high regard’ by foreign clients and international law firms, and its large, full-service team in Kazakhstan is supported by the firm’s network of offices across Central Asia and beyond. Banking and finance instructions included Shaimerden Chikanayev leading local law advice to China Development Bank on the financing of a gas pipeline. Corporate deals included advising Kazatomprom on the sale of a stake in a uranium enrichment plant to a Russia-based joint venture. Assel Ilyassova has ‘a deep knowledge of Kazakhstan tax legislation and provides quality legal advice’. Samat Daumov, managing partner Rashid Gaissin and Shakhrukh Usmanov are also recommended.
Michael Wilson & Partners fields ‘a large, well-trained team of local lawyers who all speak excellent English’. The firm has longstanding experience across many areas of practice, representing clients including lenders, service sector companies, and mining corporations. It provides regulatory advice to Bloomberg and continues to advise Falck Group on matters pertaining to the takeover and restructuring of a healthcare clinic business in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Other clients include Credit Suisse, Dell, Hambledon Mining plc, Marubeni and PayPal. Michael Wilson has ‘an encyclopaedic memory of contacts and precedents in Kazakhstan’. Larissa Orlova, Elena Lee and Valery Chechulin are also recommended. Senior associate Assel Kulisheva joined from Deloitte TCF LLP.
Norton Rose Fulbright provides corporate, commercial, M&A and financial services support to clients, often in subsurface use industries. The firm acted for the lenders (Société Générale, Natixis and Sberbank of Russia) on a bridge loan to Nord Gold NV and advised Sumeru Gold BV on acquiring the remaining 50% stake in Altynalmas Gold from Turquoise Hill Resources, as well as subsequently assisting the buyer with the conditional agreement to re-sell the target to Polymetal International plc. Other clients include International Finance Corporation and Rosneft. Yerzhan Kumarov and Tatiana Muratova are the partners in the office.
Olympex Advisers LLP has ‘a highly professional, hardworking and solution-focused team’ that covers the full scope of contentious and non-contentious legal practice, including regulatory work. The firm is highly experienced in projects, energy and subsurface use industry matters. Recent work includes tariff and corporate governance advice as well as general legal support to KazTransOil, handling M&A due diligence for Citic Kazakhstan, and advising the Astana Expo 2017 organisers on legislation. Head of energy and natural resources Diyar Ereshev ‘can solve questions or problems very quickly and effectively; he knows legislation very deeply and can use it perfectly in his work’. Head of corporate Yessen Massalin is ‘a creative and extremely reliable corporate practitioner’. Chairman Bolat Toktarov and Ruslan Mukhamedov are also recommended.
Reed Smith LLP has developed a robust dispute resolution practice and, among various non-contentious instructions, senior consultant Azhar Kuzutbayeva and colleagues advised the Ministry of Finance’s privatisation committee on the consortium takeover of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation. Astana-based of counsel Dinara Jarmukhanova and London-based counsel Chloe Carswell led the firm’s successful representation of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Justice in an ICSID arbitration brought by AES Corporation and its subsidiary Tau Power. London-based Belinda Paisley, who heads the practice, has ‘deep knowledge of the country, is a strong litigator, and a clear and strategic thinker’.
Almaty-based Colibri Kazakhstan LLP is ‘very professional, client-oriented and helps clients to find the best and most practical solution’. The 14-lawyer practice advises lenders, investors and manufacturers on acquisitions and market entry, and provides general corporate support. Managing partner Saniya Tolesheva has ‘a sharp mind and manages projects effectively’. Zhanar Abdullayeva is ‘a good corporate lawyer’, and Raushana Chaltabayev is ‘very responsive and knowledgeable’.
Astana-based Colibri Law Firm has a deep practice in the natural resources sector and advises manufacturers, distributors and construction companies on commercial agreements, tax advice, investments and joint ventures, as well as disputes. Azim Usmanov is the resident partner, while ‘knowledgeable and client-oriented’ practice head Otabek Suleimanov divides his time between Tashkent and Astana. Energy and M&A lawyer Tatyana Lee joined the firm in January 2014.
Deloitte TCF LLP is recommended for corporate, commercial and tax law advice. The firm is assisting Embamunaigas JSC with drafting and review of subsoil use agreements. Recent work includes assisting a bank with loan portfolio due diligence. Agaisha Ibrasheva is ‘excellent – very knowledgeable, but also very pragmatic and able to look at issues from an international perspective’.
Ernst & Young Kazakhstan LLP’s ‘responsive and very proactive’ team provides ‘outstanding service overall, complies with deadlines, and has very good knowledge of the local business market’. The practice spans customs and tax law advice, as well as corporate and IP matters and general business law advisory support across the energy and natural resources, FMCG and luxury goods sectors. The firm also now has dispute resolution capability. Clients include General Electric, Marubeni, Nabors Drilling, and Sembol Construction. Team head Dinara Tanasheva and senior associate Dinara Salikhzyanova are recommended.
Integrites produces ‘high-level performance’ and ‘shows a real concern for the client’s needs and interests, providing good and timely consultations’. The practice spans litigation and non-contentious general business support. Clients include Kazpetrol Group, Kazzinc, Lenovo and SHG Mineral. Kurmangazy Talzhanov and Svetlana Shtopol are ‘extremely reliable, stable and competent legal advisers’. Senior associate Aiman Zhekeyeva is ‘exceptionally reliable and thorough’.
Linkage & Mind LLP represents many high-end oil and gas, energy, manufacturing and financial services sector clients. Recent instructions include advising on the modernisation of Shardara hydropower plant, acting for TYPSA on construction and engineering agreements, and advising state-owned Samruk-Energo JSC on its purchase of a 49% stake in Moynak hydropower plant. Other clients include Elbit Systems, GlaxoSmithKline and PetroKazakhstan Oil Products LLP. Madina Sypatayeva is the managing partner.
Sayat Zholshy & Partners is ‘a client-oriented firm’ with a comprehensive legal practice and ‘a clear strength in regulatory matters’. Managing partner Vitaliy Vodolazkin is recommended, as is head of M&A Arman Berdalin, who is ‘a strong negotiator’.
Signum Law Firm has diversified its focus from subsurface use industries, where it represents various Asian oil and gas companies, to attract work from FMCG multinationals, development banks and investment funds. Managing partner Sofiya Zhylkaidarova and Abylkhair Nakipov are key figures.
Synergy Partners Law Firm LLC provides corporate, tax and finance advice. Recent work includes advising China Development Bank as lender on a $400m energy project financing. Managing partner Alzhan Stamkulov is recommended. Nurzhan Stamkulov heads the tax team.
At VSB Partners, senior partner Gregory Vojack and managing partner Khairat Serikpayev have good records in capital markets and corporate transactions, most notably in the energy and oil and gas industries.
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