Investment fund formation and management in United Arab Emirates

Dechert LLP

At Dechert LLP, Phillip Sacks has expertise in handling Shari'ah-compliant fund formations (both Cayman and DIFC-domiciled) involving open-ended and retail funds, as well as restructuring of existing funds - some mandates have involved cross-border passporting issues between the DIFC, ADGM and the UAE outside free zones. A number of matters involve real estate assets and venture capital, as well as less concrete ones such as CLOs. Philip Dowsett joined in April 2019 from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, and Dounia Mansour is a key senior associate.

Practice head(s):

Phillip Sacks

Other key lawyers:

Philip Dowsett; Dounia Mansour


‘Leading firm when it comes to investment funds. Top quality lawyers who are very experienced. Access to global resources for multi-jurisdictional issues’

‘Phillip Sacks brings years of experience in various jurisdictions. He is a leading lawyer when it comes to investment funds. ’

‘The team have a depth of knowledge when it comes to fund structures both in the MENA region and globally, that allows them to provide the best guidance to us from a commercial perspective. They really are great to deal with.’

‘Philip Dowsett is an amazing partner and is responsive, commercial in mindset, understands the ways to get things done in our region, and has been supporting us going above and beyond. We really appreciate his support in all matters related to setting up our new firm and fund.’

‘One of the larger funds dedicated teams in the Middle East, and probably the most active in terms of fund formations.

‘Phillip Sacks has been in the region for well over a decade and has an excellent reputation among the leading players in the funds landscape in the Middle East.’

Key clients

Azimut (DIFC) Limited

Jadwa Investment Company

SEE Capital

AGC Equity Partners Limited

Frontier Investment Management Partners Limited

Nuwa Capital

Wamda Capital

Iris Capital


Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

At Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, Zubair Mir and of counsel Geoffroy Hermanns advise a range of managers, covering both retail and private funds investing in a range of asset classes. The practice is well connected in Saudi Arabia, and many of the funds it advises on are Shari'ah-compliant.  Recent work has involved advising the managers of DIFC, Cayman and Irish-domiciled funds, and the practice is also a key destination for limited partner instructions from some of the region's most influential sovereign wealth funds.

Practice head(s):

Zubair Mir; Geoffroy Hermanns


‘Zubair Mir is the most experienced funds lawyer in the region and gives the HSF team depth and quality beyond its competitors.’

‘Zubair Mir is the most experienced funds lawyer in the region and a pleasure to work with. His experience, knowledge and intellect makes every transaction easier.’

Key clients

Dubai Islamic Bank


Mashreq Capital

Bahrain Mumtalakat

Arqaam Capital

Credit Suisse / Aventicum Capital Management

Emirates NBD Asset Management

SHUAA Capital

Abu Dhabi Financial Group

National Bonds Corporation

Royal Group

International Finance Corporation (World Bank)

EFG Hermes

BR Shetty

Work highlights

  • Advising Abu Dhabi Financial Group as sponsor of the 500 Spaces Fund.
  • Advised Chimera on the establishment of an onshore listed ETF regulated by the UAE Securities and Commodities Authority.
  • Acted as international legal counsel for Emirates NBD on the establishment of Emirates NBD AM SPC, a Cayman Islands umbrella funds platform with various sub-funds that will each invest in a different alternative asset class.

King & Spalding LLP

King & Spalding LLP is particularly active on Saudi-related and Shari'ah compliant structures. James Stull is a key name for private funds, REITs and listed funds, often connecting Saudi capital to assets in both the US and emerging markets alike via the DIFC and Cayman Islands. Venture capital and private equity in Africa are other areas of expertise, and as part of a broader corporate transactional practice, Nabil Issa  is active in listed funds and secondary transactions. Macky O’Sullivan is a notable senior associate.

Practice head(s):

Jawad Ali

Other key lawyers:

James Stull; Nabil Issa; Macky O’Sullivan


‘The team is highly knowledgeable, au fait with all new developments and goes the extra mile to help clients.’

‘Nabil Issa is charismatic, passionate about his work, helpful and excellent company which makes meetings a pleasure. Macky O’Sullivan is also committed and knowledgeable.’

‘Superb knowledge of the funds regime in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia’

‘James Stull has a wealth of knowledge and is commercial. Macky O’Sullivan has a unique skillset on Africa investing, making him a formidable advisor’

‘Great knowledge of the industry, relevant regulations and how firms comply with various regulatory requirements in practice.’

‘Available to answer questions and willing to discuss practical solutions for our business rather than purely relaying restrictions and regulations.’

Key clients

Riyad Capital

Ashmore Investment Management Limited

Oman Investment Authority

Kuwait Finance House / KFH Capital

Emirates NBD

Franklin Templeton

Social Development Bank

Saudi Aramco Investment Management Company

KAMCO Invest

Work highlights

  • Advised ITFC on a joint venture with Federated Investors to launch ITFC Sovereign Energy Fund, a $500M energy trade finance fund which invests in a diversified portfolio of emerging market government-related Shari’ah-compliant transactions.
  • Advised The Entrepreneur’s Investment Office to establish the first open real estate fund established in the DIFC and regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority.
  • Advised Waha Capital on establishing a Shari’ah-compliant fund investing in sukuks, equities and equity-related securities.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Limited partner commitments and other more bespoke investment arrangements for Middle Eastern and CIS sovereign wealth funds and institutional investors is a key area for William Nash and his team at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. Nash, Ayman Khaleq, Alishia Sullivan and Victoria Mesquita Wlazlo handle a range of matters concerning Shari'ah-compliant structures, including ones resembling debt funds.

Practice head(s):

Ayman Khaleq; William Nash

Other key lawyers:

Victoria Mesquita; Alishia Sullivan


‘The team is strongly led by William Nash, who understands the nature of cross-border legal issues well, and engages with clients in a cost effective manner. ’

‘What makes this team unique is how consistently they have been together in this market, the consistency and quality of work that they have shown to a very select group of clients, thereby making them an essential part of the investment landscape in Abu Dhabi.’


Key clients

Greenstone Equity Partners

Invesense Asset Management Limited

Liwa Capital Advisors Ltd.

NBK Capital Partners

SICO Trucial US Real Estate Fund GP

StonePine Capital Partners Limited

TVM Capital Healthcare Partners Limited

VPS Healthcare

Wafra Capital

Yield Investments

Al Tamimi & Company

Jody Waugh heads an Al Tamimi & Company banking practice that also has expertise in a range of funds mandates including REITs, ETFs, credit and venture capital funds. Rafiq Jaffer works with the firm's Bahrain office on a number of regulatory matters and Divya Abrol Gambhir, who has key connections with Indian banks, has expertise in the formation and management of funds domiciled in the ADGM. Senior associate Dennis Ryan is able to utilise previous experience gained in the offshore space.

Practice head(s):

Jody Waugh

Other key lawyers:

Rafiq Jaffer; Divya Abrol Bhamhir; Dennis Ryan

Allen & Overy LLP

At Allen & Overy LLP, Nick Smith advises local names such as Mubadala as both LP and GP, as well as advising all manner of international asset managers. In recent work, Smith and Andrew Schoorlemmer's advised PwC as liquidators of Abraaj Holdings on the restructuring and liquidation of the funds. Jodi Norman's financial services regulatory practice includes a number of regulatory matters concerning both the DFSA and the ADGM's regulator, the FSRA. Kamar Jaffer is a notable counsel in the practice.

Practice head(s):

Nick Smith; Jodi Norman

Other key lawyers:

Andrew Schoorlemmer; Kamar Jaffer


‘Deep knowledge of fund structures for various fund raising and investment types across a variety of jurisdictions globally.’

‘I think Nick Smith is an excellent example of a lawyer who is not only technically very strong in his areas of expertise particularly funds, but is able to combine this with insightful ideas for clients and innovate solutions to give his clients the best possible chance of success. He is also a very good communicator which is essential for clients to be able to relate and understand his views and suggestions.’

‘Solution oriented with a practical approach to resolving obstacles. Complementary team members providing breadth of knowledge needed to tackle complex problems.’

‘Fast response time, diligence, attention to detail. Examples that come to mind: Kamar Jaffer.’

‘The team has strong technical capabilities and the ability to work in different jurisdictions and multicultural backgrounds’

‘Always innovative in terms of solutions proposed, excellent spirit’

‘Nick Smith and his team have an excellent knowledge of Fund establishment and extensive knowledge of numerous jurisdictions appropriate for what a client is trying to achieve.’

‘Nick Smith is very knowledgeable but also with a sound commercial understanding of what makes successful setup for PE funds and operations.’

‘A specialist team which has few peers in the regional market.’

‘They are market leading experts, with a wealth of historic local experience.’

‘Exceptionally practical and well networked lawyers used to translating the business practice of the local market into international terms.’

‘Andrew Schoorlemmer is very client centric; very commercial and approachable.’

‘Nick and Kamar are both fantastic at managing a new fund launch from start to finish, providing a high quality service you would expect to receive from a Tier 1 magic circle firm. ’

Key clients

PwC, official liquidators of Abraaj Holdings

Mubadala Investment Company

Al Abbar

InvestAD Brookfield Managers Limited

Softbank Investment Advisors

Abu Dhabi Investment Office

CDC International Capital and Kingdom Holiday Company

Havenvest Private Equity Middle East Limited

Five Capital Advisors (DIFC) Limited

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank PJSC

Work highlights

  • Advising PwC as liquidators of Abraaj Holdings on the restructuring and liquidation of is private equity funds with an AUM of $15bn.
  • Advising Abu Dhabi Investment Office on fund establishment and investment matters, including the establishment of its AED535 million Ventures Fund, which seeks to make local venture capital investments.
  • Advising Mubadala on the establishment of investment funds and on the investment into investment funds.

Gibson Dunn

Chézard Ameer and associate James Visick are the key lawyers in a Gibson Dunn team that, in addition to advising the likes of AnaCap on private fund formation, also handles work for institutional investors on their private equity commitments and assists investment banks active in this space.

Practice head(s):

Chézard Ameer

Other key lawyers:

James Visick

Key clients

AnaCap Financial Partners LLP

Jadwa Investment

Delta Partners

Fajr Capital

Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company

GoldPoint Partners LLC (alternative assets arm of New York Life)

Gulf Capital

Gulf Related

Investcorp Bank B.S.C.

Abu Dhabi Retirement Pensions & Benefits Fund

Kazyna Capital Management JSC

Kuwait Financial Centre K.P.S.C. “Markaz”

Kuwait Investment Authority

PineBridge Investments Middle East B.S.C.

Work highlights

  • Advised AnaCap on forming AnaCap Credit Opportunities Fund IV, a Luxembourg RAIF structure which exceeded its €750m target.
  • Advised Jadwa Investment, a Saudi manager, on establishing various structures.

Simmons & Simmons Middle East

Simmons & Simmons Middle East' broader practice includes a range of investment funds expertise, with James Coleman from the corporate practice and financial services regulatory specialist Muneer Khan active on matters ranging from advice on ETF platforms through to the creation of private equity structures with investment strategies in emerging markets, on top of sensitive regulatory matters involving the DFSA and ESCA's supervision of asset managers.

Practice head(s):

Muneer Khan; James Coleman


‘James Coleman is an absolute pleasure to work with. Always available, responsive and commercial with his advice.’

Key clients

Abu Dhabi Financial Group (ADFG)

Orion Resources


Work highlights

  • Advised Abu Dhabi Financial Group on its Goldilocks Investment Fund, the first fund to be domiciled in the ADGM.
  • Advising Orion Resource Partners on its private equity investment into Allied Gold Corp which involved a particularly complex transaction comprising four different financing arrangements.