Index of tables
Legal market overview
Joel Benjamin –
- Olga Chentsova – Aequitas
- Marat Ibragimov – White & Case Kazakhstan LLP
- Aigoul Kenjebayeva – Dentons
- Azamat Kuatbekov – Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited
- Kenneth Mack – Dechert LLP
- Curtis Masters – Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited
Khairat Serikpayev –
- Aset Shyngyssov – Morgan Lewis LLP
- Maxim Telemtayev – White & Case Kazakhstan LLP
- Sergei Vataev – Dechert LLP
- Vitaliy Vodolazkin – Sayat Zholshy & Partners
Gregory Vojack –
- Michael Wilson – Michael Wilson & Partners
- Joel Benjamin –
This 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.
The international law firm dynamic in the market continues to change, with Salans LLP and SNR Denton united as part of the global Dentons merger but with members of the former SNR Denton team now being largely departed, either to new entrant Kinstellar LLP or out of the market entirely, in the case of Marla Valdez, who has relocated to Dentons in Muscat. Reed Smith LLP has been hiring steadily since opening an office in Astana in December 2012 and AstapovLawyers International Law Group recruited Antonina Yaholnyk from Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited.
Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP runs a lean team of nine lawyers in Kazakhstan supported by colleagues in New York. The practice, which is headed by Askar Moukhitdinov, focuses on upper-end mandates for the government or state-owned enterprises. Much of the work pertains to corporate, commercial or tax law, particularly in the oil and gas sector, while international arbitration on behalf of government ministries is another significant element of the practice. It advised the government extensively on the Kashagan oilfield, including guidelines, dispute settlements and an agreement with all Kashagan Consortium companies to sell gas into Taraz special economic zone. Private sector clients include United Chemical.
‘Strong and deep in a variety of areas’, Dentons’ ‘very satisfactory’, full-service practice is staffed by more than 30 lawyers. It has been advising the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector on the market’s first shari’ah-compliant leasing company; and acted on several corporate or asset acquisitions and investments, notably in the food and beverages sectors. Other clients include the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Kazakhmys plc, Louis Vuitton, North Caspian Operating Company, Shell, and Société Générale. Managing partner Aigoul Kenjebayeva has ‘encyclopaedic knowledge of Kazakh law and the commercial or governmental environment, which she combines with good judgement’. Kanat Skakov is ‘client-oriented, diligent and focused’. Abai Shaikenov heads the banking practice, and is also well regarded for mining law. Birzhan Zharasbayev was promoted to the partnership in June 2013 and Adam Kaucher joined from KPMG Tax and Advisory LLC in November 2013.
Kinstellar LLP ‘has an excellent practice in Kazakhstan in corporate and capital markets’. It founded its Almaty office following the hire of a team from Dentons legacy firm, SNR Denton. Consequently, although the firm is a new entrant, its team is highly experienced in Kazakhstan. Adlet Yerkinbayev has ‘excellent knowledge of Kazakh law’, is ‘a technically excellent lawyer and does a very good job of explaining a difficult market’, and managing partner Joel Benjamin ‘knows the market very well and is very practical in his legal advice’. Clients include various international banks and corporations including Deutsche Bank and Rompetrol. Prior to its move to the new firm, last year the team acted as local counsel to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP on Kcell’s IPO and dual listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and Kazakhstan Stock Exchange (KASE). The team was augmented with the addition of counsel Maksim Grekov in October 2013.
Morgan Lewis LLP is ‘excellent and provides consistently outstanding service and support’. Its scope spans corporate, commercial, financing, and project matters, with the core oil and gas and energy work being diversified by instructions in mining, manufacturing and telecoms. The firm advised Kcell on obtaining a $300m syndicated loan from Citibank and RBS; acted for shareholders of confectionery company Rakhat JSC on the divestment of a 76% stake to Lotte Confectionery Co; and is advising Pavlodar Refinery on its upgrade project. Other clients include Alstom, GE, KazMunaiGas, MOL, Statoil and TeliaSonera. Klara Nurgazieva is recommended along with managing partner Aset Shyngyssov, who is ‘very knowledgeable’. Senior figures Brian Zimbler and Jon Hines provide support from Moscow and London. The team is ‘articulate, pragmatic, thinks outside the box, and has very effective transaction execution skills’.
White & Case Kazakhstan LLP is ‘very hands-on and gives very practical advice’. It has recently opened an office in the capital, Astana, to complement its presence in Almaty. Project finance, capital markets, corporate and M&A instructions remain at the core of the practice, particularly in the oil and gas sector. The team advised BTA Bank on its $11.1bn debt restructuring; HSBC Bank plc and J.P. Morgan Securities plc as joint lead managers on KazAgro’s $1bn debut notes offering under its debt issuance programme; and Zhaikmunai on its $560m senior notes issuance. It assisted Beineu Shymkent Gas Pipeline LLP with obtaining $1.8bn in construction financing from China Develop-ment Bank. Leading individual and executive partner Maxim Telemtayev is recommended along with counsels Kairat Baizakov and Marat Ibragimov.
Aequitas’ 18-lawyer team provides reliable and comprehensive service across oil and gas, mining, financial services, manufacturing, and IT. It has advised regular client Chevron on customs and labour law matters, and recently acted for Eurasian Development Bank. Managing partner Olga Chentsova is highly regarded. Semion Issyk, Nurlan Sholanov, Yuliya Chumachenko and Nataliya Braynina are the other key figures.
BMF Group LLP has ‘a very Western approach to service delivery, but knows the local landscape and culture’. It has the market’s leading intellectual property practice through Yuri Bolotov – ‘the top IP lawyer in Kazakhstan’ – and, in addition, advises clients on financing, corporate and litigation matters. FMCG (including tobacco), mining, pharmaceuticals and financial services are significant industry sectors. Recent work includes advising on enforcement and anti-counterfeiting measures pertaining to Subaru and Toyota trade marks. Vsevolod Markov is ‘very experienced in a broad range of commercial transactions’. Vladimir Furman is ‘one of the best litigators’ in the market and Yuliya Petrenko is ‘a very professional lawyer’.
Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited represents international banks, corporations and commodity traders, providing comprehensive legal advice through its 13-strong team. The group advised Mobile TeleSystems OJSC on certain matters in Uzbekistan and has been providing employment law support to ArcelorMittal. Other clients include BNP Paribas, GlaxoSmithKline and Lukoil, as well as mining giants Rio Tinto plc and Vale. Managing partner Azamat Kuatbekov and Curtis Masters are recommended.
Dechert LLP provides ‘highly professional legal services’, which span financing, general corporate support and dispute resolution. It has been advising JSC Kazakhstan Electricity Grid Operating Company on preparations for its IPO as well as assisting other clients with joint ventures, commercial agreements and operational matters. Other clients include Alfa-Bank, China National Petroleum Corporation, EBRD, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Tengizchevroil, and Total. Sergei Vataev and Victor Mokrousov are the primary corporate and commercial lawyers, while dispute resolution mandates are handled by Vataev and the ‘very dedicated’ Mukhit Yeleuov, who ‘responds to problems very impressively’. Managing partner Kenneth Mack is well regarded.
Grata Law Firm’s sizeable and ‘excellent’ practice focuses on representation of foreign clients locally and on foreign capital markets listings. It also routinely acts on corporate and financing mandates in the energy and natural resources sectors, although IP, litigation and tax are other significant areas of practice. The firm advised the joint bookrunners on Kcell’s IPO through a dual listing on the LSE and KASE. Other work included advising Cammex LLP on the sale of two gold deposits; Nord Gold BV on a $500m notes issuance on the Irish Stock Exchange; and Samsung and KEPCO on negotiation of a legal framework between Kazakhstan and South Korea for the Balkhash independent power project. Samat Daumov, managing partner Rashid Gaissin, tax specialist Assel Ilyassova and Shakhrukh Usmanov are recommended.
Michael Wilson & Partners’ full-service practice advised Falck Group on the takeover and restructuring of a healthcare business in Kazakhstan; Teva Pharmaceuticals and Marsh & McLennan on respective regulatory matters; Hambledon Mining plc on the financing and acquisition of gold and other metal mines; and Rio Tinto plc on mining projects. It was local counsel alongside Linklaters LLP when advising BP on merger filings in relation to the planned divestment of its stake in TNK-BP. Michael Wilson and associate Richard Chudzynski are well regarded. Senior associate Aliya Iztleuova re-joined the firm in February 2013.
Yerzhan Kumarov and Tatiana Muratova head Norton Rose Fulbright’s practice, which spans M&A and other corporate transactions as well as banking and finance mandates including regulatory advice, and often involving subsurface use industries. It advised Glencore plc on its shareholding increase to acquire Kazzinc from Verny Investments, represented Equus Petroleum plc in its purchase of Kumkol Transservice LLP and advised Natixis, Sberbank and Société Générale on a $280m bridging loan to Nord Gold NV.
Olympex Advisers LLP is a strong local practice which provides a ‘prompt and high standard of service’. The 40-lawyer firm has a full-service contentious and non-contentious legal practice with particular expertise in governmental affairs and subsurface use industries, as well as ancillary tax audit and financial services advisory capabilities. It won law panel appointments to Samruk-Kazyna (the National Welfare Fund) and a leading oil and gas operating company. Large local clients include KazTransGas, KazTransOil, Nazarbayev University, Turgai Petroleum, and Zhaikmunai LLP. Managing partners Bolat Toktarov, Diyar Ereshev and Yessen Massalin are recommended.
PwC Legal Kazakhstan displays ‘very good knowledge of the market, responsive, spot-on advice and good value for money’. It provides general legal support and M&A advice, and can leverage tax law support from colleagues in the accountancy practice, notably Ainash Alpeissova. Work in 2012 included providing due diligence and investment support to CITIC Kazyna and assisting Toyota Tsusho with a joint venture. Director Walter Daniel is able to ‘provide practical and commercially sound advice in tricky situations’. Senior attorney Asem Shaidildinova is the other main contact.
Reed Smith LLP, which opened its Astana office in December 2012, has had a heavy diet of dispute resolution as well as advising the government on participating in a consortium takeover of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation plc. The firm is also representing Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Justice in an ICSID arbitration brought by a shareholder regarding the part-nationalisation of BTA Bank, and is acting for the same client in an investment treaty claim brought by AES Corporation and Tau Power. Belinda Paisley, who led on these matters, heads the practice from London. Of counsel Dinara Jarmukhanova is based in Astana along with senior consultant Azhar Kuzutbayeva, who joined from North Caspian Operating Company. Vladimir Shuster and Arman Tastanbekov joined in 2014 from Morgan Lewis LLP and White & Case Kazakhstan LLP, respectively.
Six-partner Sayat Zholshy & Partners provides comprehensive legal services. Recent work includes advising a uranium-mining client on tax-efficient corporate structuring and assisting National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan with regard to registering a $200m loan from an international lender. Other clients include Halliburton, LG and various banks. Managing partner Vitaliy Vodolazkin is recommended.
VSB Partners primarily focuses on capital markets, acquisitions, restructuring projects, with work in the energy and oil and gas industries to the fore. It advised ATF Bank on taking the place of ATF Capital as issuer of $100m notes. It also acted for railway operator Kazakhstan Temir Zholy both as borrower of a $425m financing from US Ex-Im Bank and on its $800m dual listing of notes on the London and Kazakhstan stock exchanges. Senior partner Gregory Vojack and managing partner Khairat Serikpayev are recommended.
Colibri Kazakhstan LLP is an Almaty-based law firm which emerged from a split following a short-lived merger with Colibri Law Firm. The 14-lawyer practice represents several leading banks and is very active in the natural resources sector. Saniya Tolesheva is the managing partner.
Colibri Law Firm engaged in a short-lived tie-up with a firm now trading as Colibri Kazakhstan LLP to open an Almaty office but, following the cessation of that agreement, Astana is currently the hub of practice. Recent work has included acting on significant real estate projects in the capital and advising on mining sector investments. Other active clients include Talgo and Kimberly-Clark. Azim Usmanov is the resident partner, and Otabek Suleimanov leads the practice while dividing time between Tashkent and Astana.
Operating with ‘good response times, a very professional manner and very good knowledge’, Ernst & Young Kazakhstan LLP provides customs, tax, general corporate and operational legal support to FMCG and luxury goods companies, as well as M&A and litigation representation. Clients include Akamai, Alstom, Avon, Beiersdorf, Estee Lauder, and oil drilling equipment company NOV Downhole Kazakhstan. Dinara Tanasheva heads the 17-lawyer team. Dinara Salikhzyanova is recommended by clients.
Integrites’ ‘excellent’ six-lawyer team displays ‘efficiency and clarity’, and frequently acts in litigation. Recent work includes advising ENI on labour law issues; assisting Alfa-Bank with matters including litigation versus a borrower; and acting for Gazprom Neft – Kazakhstan in an anti-monopoly case. Kurmangazy Talzhanov and Svetlana Shtopol have ‘in-depth knowledge and give good advice’.
KPMG Tax and Advisory LLC has a responsive team spread across offices in Almaty and Astana. Tax and customs law compliance are key elements of the practice, along with some work on corporate transactions including due diligence. Valeriy Shatov heads the tax team and Saltanat Dauletova now heads the legal team after Adam Kaucher moved to Dentons.
Corporate and tax law are the core strengths of Linkage & Mind LLP’s practice, which also covers litigation, construction and mining. The firm has recently acted for China Development Bank, Fortis Mining, Sembol Construction, Sumitomo, and Tau-Ken Samruk. Madina Sypatayeva is the managing partner.
Four-partner Signum Law Firm’s core focus is oil and gas and natural resources, primarily for foreign companies. Dispute resolution constitutes an increasingly significant portion of the practice, while other work includes advising FMCG sector companies on corporate, commercial and tax law. Managing partner Sofiya Zhylkaidarova and Abylkhair Nakipov are the key figures.
Synergy Partners Law Firm LLC’s ‘very professional’ team is recommended for its good corporate practice, which has been involved in numerous significant acquisitions and investments. Alzhan Stamkulov is ‘fast to react, a very good English speaker, and has experience in international deals and deep knowledge of the local environment’.