Interview with: Mariam Rouissi / Mohieddine El Amari, Partners

El Amari & Rouissi | View firm profile

What do you see as the main points that differentiate El Amari & Rouissi from other local law firms?

The main points that differentiate us from other local law firms would be

  • A unique combination of experience and technical skills not found in other local firms: two key partners with a long and successful experience in major international law firms
  • Highly regarded professional reputation / international standards legal services to our clients making us an alternative to international law firms
  • Multi-specialist firm positionning: M&A, Banking & Finance, Projects and public law, real estate, tourism, litigation, distribution law, labour law and IP. Our renowned M&A and Banking/Finance practice with impressive credentials, matched only by Casablanca-based international law firms and no other independent firm;
  • A prestigious client portfolio and a track record composed of many of the major financial, corporate and project deals of the last 15 years in Morocco.

We believe that our firm is one of the very rare law firms representing a true and reliable alternative to international law firms, based on a proved competitiveness in terms of depth of expertise, track record and scope of intervention, while offering the benefits of responsiveness, proximity and flexibility.

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that? Could you tell us your expertise in those sectors

 As far as we are concerned, we believe that the following businesses are on the rise:

 

  • Mergers & Acquisitions : M&A transactions in the health, education and IT sectors; locally and internationally, towards Africa, whether by Moroccan economic operators or multinational corporations who have set up their African hub in Morocco.
    • The health and education sectors are currently experiencing a large restructuring as the founders of private schools and clinics have reached the retirement age and are willing to sale to private equity funds who are looking for high return investments.

We have been involved in different key M&A transactions in the health and education sectors and have developed a real knowledge in dealing with the specifics of the sale/acquisition of these family owned businesses, which require certain skills to successfully structure transactions between sellers averse to the risks associated with the guarantee undertakings and corporate buyers accustomed to very organized contractual guarantees.

    • Structuring of tax friendly Private Investment Funds: following the promulgation of a new law organising Private Investment Funds (Société de placement collectif en capital), which are designed to encourage the financing of Moroccan companies by private investors (with major tax incentives), we believe that these legal vehicles will become very popular in the coming months as we have already been involved in the structuring of 2 large SPCCs during 2019.

 

  •  Banking & Finance (Banking Regulatory / ISDA / Repurchase transactions / Public offering rules)
    • Real Estate Investment Trust (Organismes de Placement Collectif Immobilier): thanks to the promulgation of a new law, several entities are considering raising funds through the outsourcing their real estate assets through the creation of real estate investment funds (OPCI, Real Estate Investment Trusts);
    • finance restructuring
    • International financing is also boosted thanks to the friendly foreign exchange regulations
    • New regulations relating to derivatives transactions was implemented in 2018 making possible for Moroccan counterparties to conclude a wide range of derivative transactions. Our firm advises regularly major international banks in connection with various banking and financial regulatory issues relating notably to the conclusion of derivative/repurchase transactions, public offering rules, and more generally regulatory issues relating to cross-border activities involving Morocco.

In Banking & Finance, the founding partners of the firm totalize what may be one of the strongest financing deals record in Morocco, having been involved in the major financing transactions relating to telecom, energy, ports and other infrastructure projects, advising both lenders and borrowers. Our firm is renowned for its expertise in structuring international financing and work closely with international financing institutions such as European Investment Bank.

 

  • Public law

Morocco is currently engaged in a major overhaul of the management structures of major public services (including waste collection/treatment/valorisation, digitalisation of administrative services, outsourcing of public roads management, restructuring of airports management). We believe that our firm will be part of this process as many of our clients are either providers of such services or public entities willing to outsource part of their activities to private players.

 

  • Real Estate

The real estate sector is currently suffering from an excess supply crisis which has led to major financial strains for all major real estate builders/promoters/companies. We believe that the debt restructuring process which have been engaged in recent years will be resumed with further major transactions organizing the transfer of real estate assets to banks in exchange for debt cancellation (dation en paiement). These real estate assets will have to be soon offered to the market through different schemes (sales, transfer to Real Estate Investment Funds, leases) in which our firm may intervene as advisor for the banks of for other investors.

What is your medium term vision for the firm?

 In the medium term, we strongly believe that our firm will act more and more in Africa and our ambition is decribed below:

    •  Geography: from Morocco to Africa, mainly in North and West Africa, by seizing the opportunity of Casablanca Finance City and the developing footprint of our own existing clients in Africa
    •  Turn our firm into a platform serving the region : Assist current clients across the borders towards Africa, including banks, investment companies, insurance and real estate companies
    •  Duplicate in Africa our experience acquired in Morocco (in particular, in terms of M&A and project finance : energy, port, telecoms, construction, real estate, insurance, etc.)
    • Position the firm on the China-Africa investment corridor: 50+ Chinese companies with African ambitions located in Morocco operating in banking, construction, energy, aeronautic and telecom

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business? Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms?

 One practical example is our recent structuring of an SPCC (Société de placement collectif en capital) for a client (family office) for the purpose of acquiring a large stake in a leading media company. This will allow our client to domiciliate all future acquisitions in this fund and benefit from a tax exemption when the related shares will be sold after the expiry of the investment period. We are amongst the first firms that have been able to structure this new strategic type of funds thanks to our expertise and our proximity with the regulator and skilled fund managers.