Kazakhstan > Legal market overview
Index of tables
Legal market overview
- Akhmetzhan Abdullayev – GRATA Law Firm
Olga Chentsova –
- Marat Ibragimov – White & Case Kazakhstan LLP
Aigoul Kenjebayeva –
- Azamat Kuatbekov – Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited
- Curtis Masters – Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited
Khairat Serikpayev –
- Aset Shyngyssov – Morgan Lewis
- Maxim Telemtayev – White & Case Kazakhstan LLP
Marla Valdez –
Sergei Vataev –
- Vitaliy Vodolazkin – Sayat Zholshy & Partners
Gregory Vojack –
- Michael Wilson – Michael Wilson & Partners
Almas Zhaiylgan –
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.
Described as ‘excellent’ and even ‘impeccable’, Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited acts for top financial institutions, manufacturers and commodity traders, and its experience includes debt restructuring, M&A and corporate law, real estate transactions, labour law advice, and commercial disputes. Recent clients include BNP Paribas, Benetton Real Estate Kazakhstan, GlaxoSmithKline, and Lukoil. Managing partner Azamat Kuatbekov and Curtis Masters are recommended.
Michael Wilson & Partners is ‘one of the leaders for legal services in Kazakhstan’ and, according to one major client, ‘provides the best commercial-based review and understanding in the region’. The practice spans corporate law, banking and finance, IP and disputes across many industry sectors. The team advises Rio Tinto on its operations and opportunities in Kazakhstan and Central Asia; advised Hambledon Mining plc on its acquisition of Akmola Gold; BHP Billiton and other companies on potential mine acquisitions; and Falck Group on deals in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. It provides general corporate and tax support to MasterCard Europe, Visa and Dell, and advised clients including AXA and TotalFinaElf on labour law or employee incentive schemes. It has been advising cement manufacturers on a potential bond issue. Other clients include Credit Suisse, HSBC and Eurasian Bank. Michael Wilson and associate Richard Chudzynski are well regarded.
Morgan Lewis inherited its ‘very strong’ practice following the demise of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP. The team acts on corporate, commercial, financing and project instructions, and was involved in several large strategic share purchases and acquisitions in 2012. While the oil and gas and energy sectors remain key, other areas of activity include mining, manufacturing, transport infrastructure and telecoms. The firm is advising Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC) on its acquisition from Roxi Petroleum of stakes in the BNG and Galaz petroleum blocks. It is also advising MOL on acquiring a non-operating interest in the North Karpovskiy oilfield and proposed joint venture with JSC KazMunaiGas Exploration Production. In mining, it is advising ARMZ Uranium Holding Co on a joint venture with KazZinc and Stepnogorsk Mining & Chemical Complex. Other clients include China National Petroleum Corporation and ExxonMobil. Managing partner Aset Shyngyssov is recommended along with Klara Nurgazieva, who was promoted to the partnership in 2012, as was Vladimir Shuster. Senior figures Brian Zimbler and Jon Hines support the team from Moscow and London.
The following entry reflects historical text for SNR Denton, which merged into Dentons: Dentons is full service but is particularly expert in financial, infrastructure, energy and natural resources matters, and has ‘a very strong oil and gas team’. It advised ENRC on acquiring coal assets, and represents several financial institutions including Deutsche Bank and HSBC. Joel Benjamin, regional managing partner Marla Valdez, Victoria Simonova and Almas Zhaiylgan are recommended.
The following entry reflects historical text for Salans LLP, which merged into Dentons: Dentons is ‘excellent’ for corporate, finance, tax and dispute resolution. Its ‘very strong oil and gas team’ handles high-end corporate, contractual, M&A and disputes instructions for clients including Chevron, Halliburton, Kazakhmys, Shell, and North Caspian Operating Company. Other corporate mandates include advising cement producers on forming an industry association, and advising Timwe Telecommunication on regulatory requirements pertaining to an SMS promotional campaign. Abai Shaikenov heads the banking practice, which provides lender and investor advice to EBRD, RBS and Société Générale, and also acts for large borrowers such as Kazakhmys. Managing partner Aigoul Kenjebayeva is superb. Kanat Skakov is also recommended.
‘A strong competitor’, White & Case Kazakhstan LLP provides ‘a very good level of service’ across various legal disciplines and industry sectors, with a core focus on finance, corporate and especially capital markets. It is advising KazTransOil JSC on the ‘People’s IPO’ programme, through which up to 15% of shares will be listed on the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange, and Kazakhstan Petroleum Industries as borrower on a $3.5bn project financing. It is representing Barclays, HSBC and Kazkommerts Securities as managers of the $800m international note offering by Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (national railway operator). The team shows ‘good business judgement’, and Maxim Telemtayev, Marat Ibragimov and Kairat Baizakov are recommended. Michael Rayson left the firm.
One of the top local firms, Aequitas has a full-service practice, and has ‘excellent knowledge’ as well as ‘absolute integrity, compliance and competence’. Its client base spans oil and gas, mining, financial services, manufacturing and IT. It advised Schneider Electric on a corporate investment, has been assisting Allianz with several matters, advised Chevron on customs law, and is advising a syndicate of ten European banks on new-money financing. Managing partner Olga Chentsova is ‘expert and knowledgeable’. Semion Issyk, Nurlan Sholanov and Yuliya Chumachenko are also ‘good lawyers’, as is Nataliya Braynina, who is ‘an acknowledged expert in all issues relating to subsoil use contracts and environmental legislation’.
BMF Group LLP, which was established when McGuireWoods LLP exited Kazakhstan, is heavily focused on representing foreign clients. This full-service firm is particularly notable for its ‘very powerful IP team’, headed by Yuri Bolotov, which acts on everything from patent or trade mark disputes or registrations to franchising arrangements. Other work includes financing, corporate and litigation support. Sector focuses include FMCG, mining, pharmaceuticals, financial services, and the tobacco industry. Clients include Toyota Motor Kazakhstan and JSC Kazkommertsbank. Vladimir Furman is ‘straightforward, confident and experienced’, Vsevolod Markov is ‘commercially minded and practical’, and Yuliya Petrenko is also recommended.
Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP has earned some impressive instructions from the government and state-owned enterprises. Askar Moukhitdinov heads this small team, which is supported by colleagues in New York. The main elements of the practice are corporate, commercial and tax support, especially for oil and gas clients. International arbitration is another strength. The firm achieved a notable first, advising JSC Development Bank of Kazakhstan on the first sukuk to be issued in states formerly in the Soviet Union. It also advised the government on the settlement of disputes relating to exploitation of the Kashagan oil field.
Dechert LLP entered Kazakhstan in May 2012 when it picked up Chadbourne & Parke LLP’s Almaty team, following the latter’s market exit. The team’s core practices are oil and gas, general corporate support and financing. It has been advising Caspian Pipeline Consortium and Trans-Asia Gas Pipeline Co on oil and gas pipelines respectively. Bank clients include EBRD, HSBC and Alfa-Bank. Managing partner Kenneth Mack, Sergei Vataev and Victor Mokrousov are the key figures for corporate and commercial work. Vataev and Mukhit Yeleuov handle litigation and arbitration.
17-partner Grata Law Firm is ‘cost-effective’ and retains ‘a strong local team’ in Kazakhstan despite Colibri Law Firm’s breakaway in other markets, although its network across Central Asia and the Caucasus was reduced by the split. This ‘very professional’ team mainly acts for foreign clients and is able to handle sizeable and complex corporate, financial, mining, energy and natural resources transactions. It is local counsel for the renovation of Ekibastuz HPP 2 power plant, advised EuroChem on negotiations for the construction of a new fertiliser factory, and advised MIE Holdings on its acquisition of Emir-Oil from BMB Munai Inc. It acted for the underwriters on the IPO of a large telecoms corporation, and advised Sberbank on a $2bn loan to Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation plc. In addition the firm has expertise in IP, litigation and tax. Notable wins included representing a subsoil user in its successful appeal to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan over the Tax Authority’s refusal to refund VAT. Other clients include EBRD, the IFC, and Lufthansa. Shakhrukh Usmanov has ‘good knowledge and is always responsive, collaborative and disciplined’. Samat Daumov, tax expert Assel Ilyassova and managing partner Rashid Gaissin are also recommended. Akhmetzhan Abdullayev, Tlek Baigabulov, and Aidar Sarymsakov are the other senior partners. Counsel Maksim Grekov joined from White & Case Kazakhstan LLP in October 2011.
Linkage & Mind LLP ‘knows the local laws and business environment very well, and provides comprehensive advice in a timely manner’. Its core strengths lie in corporate and tax law, as well as litigation, and it is building a solid record in infrastructure construction matters and mining. It is advising Saudi Bin Laden Group on an urban mixed-use development in Astana, and acting for Sembol Construction on projects including a new shopping mall. It is local counsel to Sumitomo, and other clients include Fortis Mining and Tau-Ken Samruk. The firm, which recently opened a China desk, also advised China Development Bank on a $1.5bn loan to a Kazakh mining entity and is advising HanHong Private Equity on an acquisition. Managing partner Madina Sypatayeva is the main contact. Senior associate Yerzhan Manasov is ‘timely, professional, useful and effective’. Arnur Amirgaliyev left the firm.
Norton Rose Kazakhstan LLP inherited Macleod Dixon ELP’s practice, following the two firms’ global merger at the beginning of 2012. Yerzhan Kumarov and Tatiana Muratova lead the practice, which is notable primarily for banking and finance work including advice on regulatory matters or loans to subsurface industry clients. The team advised Sberbank on due diligence and the acquisition of Troika Dialog Kazakhstan JSC, and acted for Eurasian Development Bank and another financial institution on a $800m construction financing for Ekibastuz GRES-2 power plant’s third generating unit.
Sayat Zholshy & Partners is a full-service firm with core expertise in M&A, antitrust, labour law, and civil litigation. The firm advised Coca-Cola and Philip Morris on antitrust issues. More generally, clients include Halliburton, LG and several Russian banks. The firm is frequently referred work by major international law firms. Managing partner Vitaliy Vodolazkin is highly recommended.
Founded in early 2011 by former Bracewell & Giuliani LLP lawyers, VSB Partners is highly rated for its expertise spanning finance, capital markets and corporate law, especially regarding subsurface use industries. Clients include Frontier Mining, Marubeni, Oman Oil, and Red October Resources. Senior partner Gregory Vojack and managing partner Khairat Serikpayev are recommended.
‘Good, quick and well informed’, Ernst & Young Kazakhstan LLP provides customs, tax and corporate advice to FMCG and luxury goods companies, including employment, franchising, loan, incorporation and operational advice. Practice head Dinara Tanasheva and Aziz Abdukarimov is recommended.
KPMG Tax and Advisory LLC fields 12 lawyers across its offices in Almaty and Astana, and shows ‘excellence and responsiveness’. Tax and customs law compliance is understandably a significant part of the practice, in addition to which it also advises on corporate transactions including due diligence. The firm is advising Samruk Kazyna Real Estate Fund on its acquisition of a large real estate portfolio, and handled multijurisdictional due diligence for Capital Group on the acquisition of Madneuli JSC and Quartzite LLC mining companies in Georgia. Practice head Adam Kaucher is recommended. Valeriy Shatov heads the tax team.
‘A strong local law firm’, Olympex Advisers displays ‘efficiency and a comprehensive approach to problem solving, and concentrates on results’. Its broad practice spans corporate, commercial, regulatory, and litigation support, particularly in relation to governmental affairs and subsurface use industries – it has ‘an excellent reference to the specifics of the Kazakh oil and gas industry’. The firm assisted Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP with advising Samruk-Kazyna fund on its interests in a UK-based company, and is handling a compliance review for JSC KazMunaiGas EP. Other instructions include advising large corporations on due diligence, restructuring and tax disputes. Other clients include KazTransGas, KazTransOil and Zhaikmunai LLP. Managing partners Bolat Toktarov and Diyar Ereshev are ‘leading professionals in their areas – they are highly qualified and have extensive practical experience, coupled with the skills to organise effectively’. Kuanysh Sarsenbayev and the ‘client-focused and efficient’ Yessen Massalin are also recommended.
ORIS is a three-partner corporate and finance firm, which has recently acted for Pilkington plc and EBRD as well as on referrals from a number of international law firms. Managing partner Amir Tussupkhanov and Aituar Madin are the main contacts.
PwC Legal Kazakhstan provides general corporate, licensing, tax, debt, and M&A advice, particularly to oil and gas, banking, pharmaceuticals and agribusiness clients. Practice head Walter Daniel and Aidar Yegeubayev are the key figures.
Signum Law Firm’s greatest expertise lies in oil and gas and natural resources, and is increasingly advising manufacturers and distributors on corporate, commercial and tax law, particularly in the FMCG sector. It advised Amber Petroleum on the disposal of oil exploration rights. Managing partner Sofiya Zhylkaidarova and Abylkhair Nakipov are the key figures.