Commercial, corporate and M&A in United Arab Emirates
Allen & Overy LLP
Allen & Overy LLP has 'exceptional knowledge of both UAE and international law, and is able to drive negotiations and provide quick solutions at the table'. David Foster advised Varkey Group on its sale of a minority stake in Gems Education to Khazanah Nasional, and in a separate deal assisted Thuraya with the sale of the company to a subsidiary of Yahsat. Andrew Schoorlemmer, on top of public M&A deals, advised Saudi Aramco on purchasing a 16.67% stake in the Maasvlakte Olie Terminal near Rotterdam. Duncan Macnab is 'an authority on private company transactions in the UAE - he can quickly grasp the commercials and point out the hurdles clients face early in the transaction before the documents get started'; among other work, he assists Kamal Osman Jamjoom with franchising matters including entering the Moroccan market. Turning to Abu Dhabi, office managing partner Ibrahim Mubayadeen and Khalid Garousha are key names - they advise government-backed investors from across the Middle East. Tom Butcher advised Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi on an outsourcing contract with IBM, among other work. Google is another client, as is the High Committee for Hosting the Special Olympics in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which is responsible for organising the 2019 summer games for athletes with intellectual disabilities. Zeid Qursha is a notable senior associate. Alee Hadaya and Elliott Eames, formerly senior associates with the firm, are now in-house at Amazon.
Clifford Chance handles a range of M&A work, including top-drawer investments by Middle Eastern clients looking overseas. Mohammed Al-Shukairy is a key contact - he handles significant deals for government-linked companies, as well as leading private sector names. Jason Mendens is another key partner in Dubai; his key clients include leading Japanese industrial names. James McCarthy handles M&A deals in the infrastructure sector; Mike Taylor advises major international companies on cross-border deals, which involves investing in the Middle East; Edmund Boyo has notable African expertise; and Rupert Harper in the Abu Dhabi office acts for major clients with origins in the Emirate.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which has a track record of handling private equity deals for top houses and agenda-setting M&A deals in the region, is for many 'the best in the MENA region by an embarrassingly large margin - if the other side has already instructed them you start of with a hefty disadvantage'. Pervez Akhtar is 'excellent: a consummate professional who takes everything in his stride', and Michael Hilton and Rob Cant are other notable partners in the team.
Al Tamimi & Company
Al Tamimi & Company has a reputation for handling the technical points of onshore UAE law and is frequently sought out to handle this aspect of agenda-setting global deals. James MacCallum spearheaded a multi-office team made up of practitioners from across the the region, working with Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, to advise on General Electric's sale of its global water business; MacCullum also assisted the same referring law firm and lay client with the sale of its industrial solutions business to ABB. Other work for MacCallum included acting as main transaction counsel to Star Satellite Telecommunications, a subsidiary of Yahsat, on purchasing satellite phone business Thuraya. Alex Saleh advised Shuaa Capital on a part-purchase of Amwal Investment. Dubai office managing partner Husam Hourani acted for Emaar on the spin-off of its development arm, which was subsequently listed on the Dubai Financial Market. Izabella Szadkowska, who is qualified in New Zealand, is a key contact for restructuring mandates. Samer Qudah is the firm's head of corporate structuring. Other key contacts include corporate and commercial head Gary Watts and Ali Bachrouch, who heads the firm's Northern Emirates corporate practice from Sharjah. The firm also has an office in Ras Al Khaimah. Abdullah Mutawi is a new hire from Baker Botts L.L.P..
Clyde & Co LLP
Clyde & Co LLP provides 'very understandable explanations in a timely manner'. The firm handles a range of matters across sectors, including M&A deals and corporate structuring exercises. Abhimanyu Jalan advised Global Fashion Group on purchasing a majority stake in Emaar Malls for $151m. Naji Hawayek, who has expertise in health and education deals,assisted Babilou with merging with another group of nurseries. Ross Barfoot heads the firm's global education practice - he advised the University of South Wales on creating an aviation engineering campus in partnership with Dubai Aviation City Corporation. Benjamin Smith's work includes major corporate restructurings. Jonathan Silver advised Mitsubishi Corporation on purchasing a minority stake in Al Islami Foods. Philip O’Riordan is another key name for cross-border deals.
Hadef & Partners LLC
Hadef & Partners LLC 'understands clients' needs and enquiries and acts in a professional way to fulfill these objectives - it comes up with unique structures that understand business needs'. A homegrown Emirati firm registered as advocates, its particular strength is acting as co-counsel with international firms on the UAE law elements of global deals and restructurings, as well as dealing with more hands-on regulatory matters. Sameer Huda, who heads the practice, handles work including management buy-outs and cross-border restructurings across the Arab world and beyond. Victoria Woods, who heads the commercial team, is notable for franchising and distribution agreement work, including for new entrants to the market. Ahmad Sergieh heads the firm's restructuring practice. The UAE Ministry of Finance is a client - in Abu Dhabi, office managing partner Faraj Ahnish and Yasser Omar advised it on drafting new template contracts for public procurements run by the UAE's federal government. Ahmed Nasser was recently promoted to the partnership and Patrick Tweedale was hired as partner from Dentons, where he was a senior associate. Tim Watkins is now at Coffin Mew LLP in England.
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP handles deals in sectors including infrastructure, health, education and financial services, with considerable work coming from leading names in private equity. Zubair Mir advised BMA International on the sale of its pan-GCC hypermarket business, which operates under the Géant brand, to Majid Al Futtaim, via auction, without selling the franchise itself; the stores will be rebranded as Carrefour. Mir and Haitham Hawashin assisted Engie with its successful bid to purchase a 40% stake in Tabreed from Mubadala, which required the activation of Mubadala's convertible bonds, with the shares being purchased by Engie. Hawashin also advised Amanat Holdings on its purchase of Middlesex University's joint venture partner from an Abraaj Group entity. Work for private equity houses includes advising Asma Capital Partners on purchasing a stake in Saudi Tabreed; Gulf Capital, Shuaa Capital and NBK Capital Partners are other private equity clients. Other clients include Abu Dhabi Financial Group, which Hawashin is advising on a bid for Abraaj's investment management business.
With lawyers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, King & Spalding LLP handles a range of work, with a number of cross-border deals demonstrating strength in work crossing into Saudi Arabia. Jawad Ali in Dubai and Simon Rahimzada in Abu Dhabi advised Dalma Energy on the merger of its Omani and Saudi operations with KCA Deutag, which will adopt the latter's name and become the second-largest drilling contractor in the region. James Stull and Nabil Issa assisted BlueApple Healthcare Services with, among other projects, a joint venture with Emirati and Austrian parties to develop a hospital in Abu Dhabi. Issa also advised NMC on a number of acquisitions in Saudi Arabia. Osama Audi acted for Delivery Hero on the purchase of similar businesses from the Middle East: Hungerstation, Ifood, Carriage, Talabat and Yemeksepeti. In other work, Issa advised iPic on forming a joint venture with a royal family-backed company to develop cinemas in Saudi Arabia in the wake of their legalisation in late 2017. The firm also acts for Saudi Aramco Investment Management Company and Gulf Investment Corporation; Rahimzada and Issa advised the latter on an acquisition of a 30% interest in Sudair Pharma.
Linklaters 'stands out from the crowd because of its ability to consistently deliver bespoke services that cover all forms of risk involved in M&A deals - its success is founded upon its strategy of making every client feel it is its most important'. Scott Campbell is 'highly regarded by his clients because he understands their corporate and strategic goals, and works hard to support corporate counsel to deliver in-house advice seamlessly with his on the same deals'; he advised Emaar on a restructuring prior to the IPO of Emaar Development, and acted for Majid Al Futtaim on its purchase of Retail Arabia, the operator of Géant hypermarkets in the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait, which were subsequently rebranded to Carrefour. Nicholas Edwards is a new partner promotion in Abu Dhabi - he advised DP World on its purchase of Dubai Maritime City, and TasHeel Group on selling its Middle Eastern visa facility management business to VFS Global, a portfolio company of EQT. David Martin is now based in the firm's London office.
Shearman & Sterling LLP handles a mixture of work, and in particular has close relationships with government-backed clients in Abu Dhabi. Matthew Powell advised Adnoc Distribution on forming a joint venture with Urban Foods to open a number of Géant-branded food stores in its petrol stations across the UAE. Marwan Elaraby, working with members of the firm's team in London, advised EFG-Hermes on its purchase of a 50% stake in Frontier Investment Management. Elaraby also assisted NMC Healthcare with forming a joint venture with Hassana Investment to enter the Saudi health market. Another member of the team is Rodney Cannon, who was previously group general counsel of Mubadala.
White & Case LLP handles heavyweight deals and in particular is instructed by businesses with connections to several GCC governments. Michael Watson advised Saudi Aramco, a cornerstone client of the firm, on purchasing a 50% stake in a Petronas refinery and petrochemicals business in Johor and assisted Adnoc with a partnership with Baker Hughes, which involved the latter purchasing 5% of Adnoc Drilling for $550m and Adnoc becoming the exclusive user of Baker Hughes' services in the UAE. Sami Al-Louzi, who returned to the firm in 2017 from Latham & Watkins LLP, worked with Ali Shaikley in advising NMC Health on the acquisitions of majority stakes in Cosmesurge and Al Salam Medical Group for $207m. Abdulwahid Alulama is another key contact; he acts for Mubadala and Etisalat, as well as a number of key family-owned businesses. Marcus Booth relocated to Dubai from London in September 2018.
'Very down-to-earth and approachable' firm Afridi & Angell is 'unique in that it can provide international quality services and advice on local law issues'. Bashir Ahmed and associate Abdus Samad advised Gulf Piping Company on its sale to Emirates Business Group for over $100m. Masood K Afridi and Scottish-qualified counsel Danielle Lobo advised Al Kabeer Group on the sale of a majority stake in the frozen food company to Savola Group, which among other businesses owns Saudi Arabia's Panda supermarket chain. James Bowden is 'a very solid individual - responsive, trustworthy and personal while also providing commercially, technically excellent and realistic advice'; he assisted Global Mobility Invest with a majority sale to Kerry Logistics, which involved the disposal of assets in nine CIS countries. In the restructuring space, Bowden advised Kuoni Travel Investments on a restructuring prior to the company's sale to JTB Corporation. In another cross-border deal, the group advised Huda Beauty, the business formed by Dubai-based American beauty vlogger Huda Kattan, on the UAE structuring of a partial sale of the business to a private equity investor. Competition law is another area of expertise.
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, which is centred in Abu Dhabi, is 'very professional, with knowledge superior to its peers'. The firm has very strong links with the Abu Dhabi and UAE federal governments in particular, and acts for a number of entities related to it. Wael Jabsheh handles various commercial matters, with Farah Experiences, which operates Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, a notable client in this space. Jabsheh and Natasha Kohne also advise Image Nation Abu Dhabi. Healthcare and energy are key sectors. Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management is another client. Chadi Salloum joined Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP in November 2019.
Baker Botts L.L.P.
Baker Botts L.L.P. handles a range of corporate work, including in the firm's traditional strength in the oil and gas sectors, among others. Mark Bisch has handled pan-Middle East and Africa restructuring work, while Stephen Matthews is noted for M&A and restructuring deals connected with the energy and defence industries. Special counsel Patrik Daintry assisted Al-Futtaim Group with its purchase of the Marks & Spencer retail business in Hong Kong and Macau. John Lonsberg, who divides his time between Dubai and Saudi Arabia, is another notable name. Abdullah Mutawi is now at Al Tamimi & Company.
Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla acts on a range of cross-border deals, handling regional matters as lead counsel as well as the regional elements of global deals. Working with the firm's teams in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Pietro de Libero advised BRF on purchasing a majority stake in Banvit and on a subsequent joint venture with an arm of a leading sovereign wealth fund; the deal required competition sign-off in several jurisdictions, including one of the first filings under the UAE's competition law. Melissa Forbes-Miranda and de Libero also assisted Frigoglass with selling its glass bottle manufacturing subsidiary to ATG Investments for $12.5m. Special tax counsel Reggie Mezu, who is qualified as both a solicitor and tax practitioner in England, joined from tax practice Cragus Group. Will Seivewright is now with DLA Piper Middle East LLP.
At Dentons, Catherine Beckett led a team from the firm acting as co-counsel with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP's US-based group, which advised KKR on its €6.8bn purchase of Unilever's spreads business (now known as Upfield). In addition, Iain Black assisted RA International Group, a UAE-headquartered construction services company, with corporate matters in preparation for its IPO on the AIM in London. Kelly Tymburski also handles IT outsourcing work and Ghasan Shuhaibar is a name to note for joint ventures. Ziad Saad joined from Vinson & Elkins LLP in February 2018. Commercial agencies are another area of expertise.
DLA Piper Middle East LLP handles a range of M&A and commercial work across the region. Ben Gillespie is the firm's regional head of corporate - he advised Kerzner International Holdings on a joint venture with private equity firm Dolphin Capital Partners to develop a new resort in Greece, and separately assisted a US-headquartered multinational with a carve-out of some of its business units prior to their sale. Richard Hughes, who was promoted to the partnership in May 2018, led a team acting for GFH Financial Group on its acquisition of mobile discount app company The Entertainer, and also advised Mediclinic Middle East on purchasing City Centre Clinic Deira and City Centre Clinic Me'aisem from Majid Al Futtaim Healthcare. Thérèse Abou-Zeid, who was elected to the partnership in May 2019, also handles health care deals - she assisted Egyptian pharmaceutical manufacturer Orchidia with the sale of the company to the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund. Will Seivewright joined as Middle East head of corporate in May 2019 from Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla.
Hogan Lovells (Middle East) LLP's Imtiaz Shah's recent work includes handling a range of deals concerning buy-outs of joint venture partners, such as advising Jimmy Choo on forming a joint venture with Al Tayer Group, which previously acted as its distributor. Another area of his expertise is banking deals in Afghanistan - he assisted IFC with purchasing a minority stake in Afghanistan International Bank from companies incorporated in Delaware and the Cayman Islands. Charles Fuller advises Mumtalakat as the new owner of McLaren, and also has expertise in energy sector deals. Other clients include Oracle, which Shah assisted with the due diligence aspects in Saudi Arabia and the UAE of its purchase of Aconex in a deal managed by the firm's Menlo Park and Perth offices. Education is another sector strength.
Norton Rose Fulbright's Adjou Ait Ben Idir, who is qualified in France and has a track record of deals in the Maghreb, heads the practice alongside John Boehm Jr., who divides his time across the region. Sectors strengths include cosmetics, pharmaceutical, oilfield services and healthcare. The firm also advises leading European insurers as warranties and indemnities insurers of agenda-setting deals. Corporate structuring using free zones is another area of expertise. Hani Ghattas is a key senior associate.
Pinsent Masons LLP, whose client base includes a range of listed companies, 'gives clients the comfort of personal service that clients can depend on'. Osama Hassan has 'a unique advantage of being proficient in both English and Arabic, with strong personal relationships the various local departments'; he advised the shareholders of QMI Building Metal Products on selling the business to Allegion. Mohammad Tbaishat is 'fantastic: he is able to explain what is required and is very enjoyable to work with'; he assisted National Energy Services Reunited with its purchase of National Petroleum Services for $1.1bn. Other clients include Baker Hughes GE, which Tbaishat advised on a number of corporate transactional matters.
CMS has 'a knowledgeable and approachable team, with a pragmatic approach to finding solutions'. Mohammed Majid advised Union Properties on selling its 50% stake in Emicool to Dubai Investments for AED500m, and the owners of We Cash Any Car on selling the business to OLX Group subsidiary Dubizzle. John O’Connor is 'approachable and provides solutions-focused advice' - he assists HP with local elements of its purchase of Samsung's printer business. The firm also handles other cross-border redomiciliation and acquisitions.
At Eversheds Sutherland LLP, Zeid Hanania and principal associate Hani Nassef advised Gulf Capital on purchasing a majority stake in Accumed, a provider of hospital invoicing services. The pair, working with the firm's other offices, also assisted Stolt-Neilson with separating out its tanker business for a potential future sale. The firm also handles corporate and commercial work for leading technology-based businesses, with Geraldine Ahern a key contact for this work - she also handles other commercial contracts and agency agreements . Other clients include CK Hutchison, which Hanania, along with the firm's Iraqi offices, advised on purchasing a stake in the port of Basra.
Gibson Dunn has a strong record of private equity deal work, and also acts for companies backed by Emirate governments. Hardeep Plahe heads the firm's Dubai office overall - he handles a range of work in sectors including logistics, infrastructure and healthcare. Fraser Dawson, who is qualified in Scotland, was promoted to partner in January 2018. Paul Harter retired.
HFW handles a range of work, with many deals having elements touching on the firm's core industries of shipping and natural resources. Alexander Reid in Dubai handles a range of shareholder relations and joint ventures work. Rula Dajani Abuljebain - who is qualified in both Kuwait and England and Wales - divides her time between Kuwait and Dubai. Key contacts Vince Gordon and Tania de Swart joined the firm's newly opened Abu Dhabi office from Reed Smith.
At Latham & Watkins LLP, Christopher Lester handles work for key institutional investors from the region, including deals crossing over into Saudi Arabia. Villiers Terblanche also has a track record of handling medical-related deals, frequently with infrastructure elements. Eyad Latif is a key associate. Sami Al-Louzi is now at White & Case LLP.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP is 'impressive - clients have a genuine trust-based relationship and partnership with the firm'. Ayman Khaleq is 'the go-to guy: he is very business minded and provides great legal advice'; he advised the founders of VPS Healthcare on purchasing a controlling interest in Amanat Holdings. The team assisted Hedi Mlouka, the owner of Frontier Investment Management, with the sale of 50% of the business to EFG Hermes. Wamda MENA Ventures is a repeat client for venture capital investments. Other clients include FWU, which the firm advised on purchasing a Pakistani business. Philip Dowsett is now with Dechert LLP. Chadi Salloum was a new arrival from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in 2019.
BonelliErede entered the market with its integration of Tribonian Law Advisors. The firm handles a number of deals in the healthcare sector: Rindala Beydoun advised NMC Healthcare on the purchase of the Al Zahra hospital in Sharjah. In addition, she also advised Alpha Lloyds Insurance Brokers on an 80% sale of the business to French brokerage Siaci Saint Honore. Carlo Pianese and Marco de Leo are two local partners of note.
BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP handles a range of work, with a number of mandates coming as local law advice on multi-national deals. Rima Mrad worked with Haynes and Boone, L.L.P. to advise Halliburton on the UAE elements of its purchase of Ingrain. Bertrand Dumon also handles corporate structuring work, as does Michael Kortbawi. Dumon assisted Chantier Naval Couach with negotiating a collaboration agreement with Abu Dhabi Ship Building. Kortbawi also advised Al Masah Capital on the AED80m purchase of a security services company. Polyester manufacturer JBF Group, which the team advised on a restructuring, is another cornerstone client. Lara Barbary is also noted.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
At Simmons & Simmons Middle East, Raza Rizvi advised MTN on a restructuring, consolidating the company into one entity incorporated in the DIFC. James Coleman advised GoCompare on a venture investment into souqalmal.com, a financial services comparison website based in the UAE, in what was GoCompare's first overseas deal. The firm also acts for leading global and regional private equity houses.
At Trowers & Hamlins LLP in Abu Dhabi, Saleem Adam handles commercial contracts work for Adnoc, including advising the client on an outsourcing contract with Oracle; Johannes Eisser also handles M&A deals from the Abu Dhabi office. In Dubai, Bill Jefferies assists with restructuring and small-cap M&A deals. Guy Danalis retired.
Addleshaw Goddard has 'good leadership from the managing and matter partners - the firm gets to know clients and makes them feel important'. Andrew Johnson advised Blossom Nurseries on its merger with Babilou Nurseries. The firm also handles private equity buyouts, such as assisting Volpi Private Equity with its purchase of Digital Barriers. Other clients include Diageo, which the team advised on the transfer of assets from one company into a new branch of Diageo Scotland. Managing associate Owen Richards is 'a very detailed and skilled M&A lawyer who manages transactions well and goes the extra mile on ancillary matters.'
At Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, Jeremy Miocevic and Alastair Holland advised Donna Benton, the company's original founder, and Abraaj on selling 85% of the holding company which owns discount app The Entertainer to GVH Capital. Other deals concern restructurings and cross-border investments.
Galadari, Advocates & Legal Consultants handles a range of commercial work for a number of clients, with strong connections in particular to the UAE authorities and home-grown corporates. Ziad Galadari and Abdulla Galadari are key names. One cornerstone client is the government of Umm Al Quwain, with private sector clients including Taaleem, a part of the Al Tayer Group.
At King & Wood Mallesons, Shawn Davis, who joined from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in December 2017, handles various corporate matters including market entries. He advised Novomet on the regulations of the Hamriyah and Jebel Ali free zones, and assisted SanLucar Fruit with entering into the UAE market, including setting up a branch in the DMCC. Sandeep Dhama is now at Stephenson Harwood .
PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal Middle East LLP handles a number of M&A deals including advising founders of companies on sales to larger corporates. Director Darren Harris and senior manager Ben Sims joined from Addleshaw Goddard - the two advised the founders of Hug Digital on selling a majority stake in the company to Grey Group, necessitating a transfer of shares in India. On the buy side, the duo also assisted Silva International with its purchase of a majority stake in Globe Soccer, which organises the Globe Soccer Awards. Directors Hamad Haider and Alan Wood, who has particular expertise in Saudi Arabia-related work, are also key contacts.