Banking and finance in United Arab Emirates
Allen & Overy LLP
Allen & Overy LLP has a track record in both corporate lending and project finance, acting for a number of leading banks and some heavyweight borrowers. In corporate lending, Michael Diosi advised Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, among other lenders, on financing facilities lent to Tecom Investments and Dubai Properties Group, channelled through both ijara and non-Islamic structures. Working with the firm's offices in Saudi Arabia, Ian Ingram-Johnson and senior associate Kyle Nevin assisted a syndicate of banks with lending SAR6.68bn, mostly via commodity murabaha, to Ma'aden Aluminium to refinance project finance facilities used to construct an aluminium smelter. Peter Timchur acted for the mandated lead arrangers (including HSBC and First Abu Dhabi Bank) of a 13 bank syndicate on lending $6bn to Adnoc; in addition, Christian Saunders advised the mandated lead arrangers of a $2.25bn facility lent to Adnoc Distribution pertaining to an IPO. Timchur's expertise also includes real estate finance. Turning to borrower work, Bimal Desai assisted the Department of Finance for the Government of Dubai among other sponsors with creating Airport Financing FZE, a company set up to fund the expansion of Dubai's two airports. Other clients include Standard Chartered.
At Clifford Chance, Debbie Walker in Dubai handles billion-dollar deals for syndicates of well-known banks, with Graham Brewer also having expertise in syndicated deals. Peter Avery's practice includes heavyweight restructuring matters. Qudeer Latif handles work using shari’ah-compliant structures, including real estate finance. Edmund Boyo has a track record of Africa-related deals. Anthony Single in Abu Dhabi has aviation finance expertise. Clients include businesses in the maritime and real estate sectors, as well as European and Middle Eastern banks.
Linklaters advises major banks and lenders on project, corporate and real estate finance. Kieron Zaman advised Mizuho Bank as arranger of a $16bn syndicated loan, featuring both conventional and Islamic tranches, to the Saudi government (other members of the syndicate include Standard Chartered, BNP Paribas, ICBC and Goldman Sachs). Borrower clients include Gems Education, which he assisted with lending $1.25bn in conventional, murabaha and ijara tranches. In restructuring, Zaman advises DP World on restructuring the debts of Drydocks World, which it purchased in in 2017. Abu Dhabi-based Andrew Jennens advised Emirates NBD Bank on lending $142.7m to City Land Real Estate, and First Abu Dhabi Bank and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank on an AED1bn financing of the Mirdif Hills development in Dubai. Other bank clients include Bank of America Merrill Lynch and HSBC. Reem Al Sayegh, who has financial services regulatory expertise, is a key managing associate.
White & Case LLP handles work including project finance and bank lending for highly prestigious regional clients. Clare Matheson Kirton advised a consortium of lenders led by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and Standard Chartered on a $300m loan to Meydan Group for financing its Meydan One project, in a transaction insured by Italy's export credit agency Sace. On the borrower side, she also advised Etihad Airways on borrowing $300m from Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and Emirates NBD via a commodity murabaha. Antoine Cousin also has project finance expertise, and is advising Saudi National Commercial Bank on a proposed financing of a PPP-procured airport project surrounding Ta'if Regional Airport in Saudi Arabia, located 70km from Mecca. Other clients include Nomura and, on the borrower side, Emaar. Matthew Wood is now at Ashurst LLP.
Al Tamimi & Company
Al Tamimi & Company has a particular strength in the UAE law elements of deals, lending itself to deals with more challenging security elements. Jody Waugh handles project-related work, and also advised Citibank on the UAE elements of its global sale of its prepaid card business to Wirecard. Mamoon Khan (who is qualified in Pakistan and as an English barrister) assisted Bank Alfalah, the fifth-largest bank in Pakistan, with its entry to the UAE via the creation of a wholesale branch. Khan also advised the State Bank of India on providing Emirates National Oil Company with term loans. Senior associate Mark Brown advised Cityland Real Estate on borrowing $142m to develop a mall in Dubai. Other clients include Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, as well as some Chinese lenders.
At Dentons, Qasim Aslam advised Mashreqbank, among a syndicate of banks, on lending an acquisition finance facility to Iqtan Investments to allow it to purchase Byrne Equipment Rental, and assisted Citibank with a structured murabaha lent to Qatar Islamic Bank for liquidity requirement purposes. Abu Dhabi managing partner Paul Jarvis also handles finance work for banks; he acted for Boubyan Bank on a $200m loan to Zain. Udayan Mukherjee is also notable.
DLA Piper Middle East LLP is 'very respectible, with technically excellent lawyers that cover a wide range of the practice area, producing Magic Circle-quality work and advice at a fraction of the cost'. Paul McViety's practice includes real estate finance transactions, while Robert Harker (a new hire from Bracewell LLP) also handles project finance and refinance deals. James Iremonger has restructuring and insolvency expertise, including advise to governments on legislative changes in this space. Other clients include the Bank of London and the Middle East, Emirates NBD, Emirates Islamic Bank, Mediclinic, Port Development Company, and several other well-known European and Asian banks. Senior legal consultant Hamed Fathinejad is also notable. Debbie Barbour, who was previously based in the firm's Abu Dhabi office, has retired.
Hogan Lovells (Middle East) LLP's Rustum Shah and senior associate Ahmet Kalafat (who is dual-qualified in both England and Turkey) advised a syndicate of banks including Mashreq Bank and Commerzbank on an $87m and €57m term loan to Burgan Bank's Turkish operations. In a construction finance deal, Shah also advised Dubai Islamic Bank on an AED907m ijara-structured financing of the Construction Workers Residential City project. Rahail Ali has Islamic finance expertise, such as advising banks including Arab Banking Corporation, Emirates NBD Capital and Standard Chartered on a $245m and €60m syndicated murabaha lent to Albaraka Turk Katilim Bankasi. Borrower work includes Anthony Pallett assisting Unatrac Holding with borrowing $275m from Barclays and JPMorgan, and in a separate deal advising Averda on borrowing $120m in its debut syndicated financing, which features both conventional and ijara tranches. Other work concerns sovereign debt. The team is based in Dubai.
Norton Rose Fulbright handles a range of work including project finance, with many deals featuring both Islamic and conventional tranches. Matthew Escritt's work includes cross-border acquisition financing deals, as well as project financings backed by multilateral development finance institutions. Mohammed Paracha has Islamic finance expertise, including significant project finance transactions. Paul Mansouri's practice crosses over between projects and banking. Nicholas Robinson is a notable of counsel.
Afridi & Angell's team has 'a sophisticated attitude combined with real on-the-ground experience of how the UAE legal system works in practice'. Bashir Ahmed advises borrowers on nine-figure dirham work, alongside acting for banks from elsewhere in the Middle East, India and the Northern Emirates. Masood K Afridi also has restructuring expertise. Amjad Ali Khan, now a senior consultant at the firm, advises the International Securities Lending Association, among others.
Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla's Gordon Prestige and Sandeep Puri advised a consortium of borrowers including Gransolar and Acciona on the shari’ah-compliant financing of an 800MW solar plant. Prestige also handles other project finance mandates, some of which are for Middle Eastern banks, while Puri's other deals also include Islamic real estate finance, investment fund finance and export credit agency-backed transactions. In addition to banking M&A, Mazen Boustany assisted IndusInd Bank with a loan to Gulf Petrochem Group. Matthew Shanahan, who joined from Clifford Chance in October 2017, is notable for financial services regulatory work.
Clyde & Co LLP
Clyde & Co LLP handles a range of work concerning corporate lending, retail products and more niche areas of finance. Adrian Low advised RAKBank on borrowing a $350m faciliity (which prior to the deal's close was initially structured $100m smaller), and on the lender side assisted Ahli Bank of Kuwait as mandated lead arranger of a hybrid conventional and Islamic $480m facility for Dubai Aerospace Enterprise; he also has export credit financing expertise. Adil Hussain is the firm's global head of Islamic finance - he is based in Abu Dhabi and handles a range of work concerning corporate lending and retail products. Ian Chung also has vessel finance-related expertise. Sally Sfeir-Tait left to co-found regtech business regulAItion.
Hadef & Partners LLC
Hadef & Partners LLC is 'a very friendly firm that makes clients feel that they are in good hands'. It handles a range of work in banking and finance, with a particular strength in matters centred around onshore UAE law. Alan Rodgers heads the Dubai practice and in particular has restructuring expertise. Valeria Lysenko, who is Russian-qualified, is also a key contact and Constanze Doering is a key senior associate. Fintech is also an area of expertise. James Farn leads the team in Abu Dhabi - his work includes UAE law issues on major projects. Also in Abu Dhabi, Faraj Ahnish has finance-related government relations expertise.
At King & Spalding LLP, a team including James Stull, Nabil Issa and Michael Rainey advised Reem Integrated Healthcare Holdings on securing a package of $100m borrowing to construct a healthcare facility. Zaid Al-Farisi also has expertise in project finance, with Osama Audi also a key contact. In particular, the firm has strong relationships with Saudi Arabia. Asal Saghari is a notable counsel. Robin Bayley is a new hire from Shearman & Sterling LLP.
At Latham & Watkins LLP, counsel Aly Kassam, a new hire from Gibson Dunn, advised The First Group on borrowing AED300m in a shari'ah-compliant refinancing transaction provided by Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank; he also assisted Emirates Hospitals Group with borrowing $300m from, inter alia, Credit Suisse. Harj Rai worked with the firm's London office in advising Citibank on a $2.6bn syndicated, unsecured one-year loan to Saudi Electricity Company, and also acted for Standard Chartered on amending a term loan provided to Emaar. Nomaan Raja has restructuring expertise, and advises Adeem Investment Solutions in this arena.
Shearman & Sterling LLP's Iain Goalen, who divides his time between London and Dubai, is a key contact - his work includes shari'ah-compliant real estate finance work. Moyn Uddin is a key counsel. Clients include Dow Chemical, the Islamic Development Bank, JBIC and Mubadala (among other heavyweight entities backed by the Abu Dhabi government). Robin Bayley is now at King & Spalding LLP.
Eversheds Sutherland LLP is 'always up-to-date with the relevant laws and practices in the industry'. The 'highly knowledgeable' Clint Dempsey advised United Engineering Construction on borrowing syndicated construction financing, secured over its bank accounts, to develop a shopping centre in Deira. Borrower-side work includes assistance to Voltalia with a solar project in Egypt. On the banks side, Dempsey advised Alubaf Arab International Bank on loans to both a Turkish bank and a Turkish construction leasing company. Retail banking clients include Bank of Sharjah, which the firm acted for on updating its lending and security documents. Other clients include Standard Chartered and Commercial Bank International; the team advised the latter on a $7m mortgage over a Cypriot-flagged container ship.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
At Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Haris Meyer Hanif and senior associate Mehdi Ali, working with the firm's London office, advised Omantel on financing its $2.2bn purchase of a minority stake in Kuwaiti network Zain. Its lender work includes assisting a syndicate of banks, including Icici Bank, HSBC and Noor Islamic Bank, with a $1.25bn syndicated loan made available to Gems Education. The practice has also advised Goldman Sachs on mandated lead arranger roles. Michael Hilton in Abu Dhabi has restructuring expertise.
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP
At Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Victoria Mesquita Wlazlo advised Al Ahli Holding Group on an AED 1.25bn shari'ah-compliant project finance deal, structured as a wakala and an instisna, for the expansion of the Dubai Outlet Mall among other purposes. She also also assisted Abour Energy Company with the Islamic financing of a 50MW wind farm in Jordan's Tafilah Governorate. Bank-side work includes advising Dubai Islamic Bank on an AED378m fleet of Islamic facilities to Reem Integrated Healthcare Holdings. Ayman Khaleq is also a key contact; his varied practice includes restructuring work.
Winston & Strawn LLP handles a range of project finance deals, with many of them utilising Islamic structures. Shibeer Ahmed advised the mandated lead arrangers of an AED310m facility to Paragon Malls for the construction of a shopping mall in Abu Dhabi. Other deals include acting for Mashreqbank and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank on a project finance facility extended to Tabreed, and assisting Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and Emirates NBD with lending an unsecured $300m murabaha to Etihad.
Addleshaw Goddard's Robin Hickman handles deals for borrowers and banks, including real estate finance. Highlights included advising Standard Chartered on a shari’ah-compliant real estate financing of a new development at the Palm Jumeirah, and assisting Agility Public Warehousing with the debt finance elements for the Reem Mall project in Abu Dhabi. Restructuring is another area of expertise, with Pixel Digital Systems a key client in this space.
Bird & Bird has expertise in regulatory and technological finance matters such as digital payments and cryptocurrencies. In addition, Anders Nilsson, who is based in Abu Dhabi, is advising Emirates on aviation financing issues, including assisting it with the sale and leaseback of three Airbus A380s.
At HFW, Shyamal Jeewoolall advised an aircraft leasing company on the Islamic finance and leasing of 30 Airbus A320s and 20 Airbus A330s to Saudia. He also assisted Crédit Agricole with financing 14 spare CFM turbofan engines to be used by Asia Aviation Capital, AirAsia's leasing arm. Tien Tai has notable maritime experience, such as the financing of commodities and port projects, alongside other work. John Barlow has insurance expertise. Richard Lucas is a new hire from Bird & Bird.
Pinsent Masons LLP's Amir Ahmad advised cornerstone client Dubai Islamic Bank on the refinancing of PNC Investment's debt concerning its real estate joint venture with Meydan Group. His other clients include Indian, European and other Middle Eastern banks, with much work involving financing of deals centring on British real estate. Tim Armsby and Gurmeet Kaur, who were new hires from Eversheds Sutherland LLP, handle projects and their financing.
Stephenson Harwood handles a range of lending work, largely concerning asset finance. Nijoe Joseph advised Gulf Petrochem FZC on borrowing a $150m facility from a syndicate led by Emirates NBD. Joseph also acted for an Iraqi company borrowing $850m, some of which had sovereign guarantees. The firm also advises a number of regional and Chinese banks. Aviation finance is another area of Joseph's expertise. Salem Chalabi advises a number of public sector clients.