IFLR Middle East Awards 2022: winners announced
IFLR is delighted to reveal the winning deals, teams, law firms and individuals for the 2022 edition of its Middle East awards
It was a pleasure to be back at Dubai’s Mandarin Oriental on October 12 to celebrate the winners of this year’s IFLR Middle East Awards. Many of the region’s top law firms, banks and corporates were in attendance, and it was great to see so many familiar faces, as well as welcome several new ones.
Clifford Chance was one of the night’s standouts, scooping a number of awards including the prestigious International Law Firm of the Year. Allen & Overy and Latham & Watkins also enjoyed strong performances, with regular appearances across both winning and shortlisted deals.
On the in-house side, ADNOC, HSBC, First Abu Dhabi bank and Bahrain Islamic Bank all received awards, in recognition of going above and beyond in their work on innovative deals.
In terms of individual awards, Ibrahim Mubaydeen of Allen & Overy was given this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, reflecting his impressive track record and reputation in the region. King & Spalding’s Jawad Ali was named Managing Partner of the Year, and Nicola Reader from Clifford Chance was the latest inductee into IFLR's Women Dealmakers Hall of Fame.
IFLR added several new categories to the awards this year, including for Loan deal and team, a Net-zero Transition Award and In-house Market Makers. Norton Rose Fulbright was named the first Loan team of the year, while Standard Chartered picked up the Net-zero Transition award in recognition of its work towards energy transition.
The ceremony caps off months of research into the Middle East’s legal market, drawing on written submissions, and wide-ranging interviews with clients and counsel across the region. The awards showcase the most legally innovative cross-border transactions from across the GCC over the past 12 months, as well as the teams and individuals behind the deals. All transactions had to have reached financial close between July 1 2021 and June 30 2022.
IFLR would like to thank everyone who took the time to contribute to this year’s awards through submissions and interviews. The calibre of work showcased this year made the judging process extremely challenging, and our congratulations go to all those shortlisted and, of course, the winners. The full list is below.
You can view the event photos here
INTERNATIONAL LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR
Winner: Clifford Chance
Clifford Chance has enjoyed an exceptional year in the Middle East, taking a key role on a truly impressive number of the region’s most innovative and impactful cross-border deals during the review period. It stood out across a variety of practice areas, attesting to the breadth of its capabilities. A variety of sources acknowledge the firm as among the most impressive in the region, and its partners, counsel and associates were all regularly singled out for their contributions over the review period. The teams' experience, collaborative approach and seamless service were all noted as particular strengths.
Among this year’s highlights is the firm’s work for the Federal Government of the UAE on its debut sovereign bond issuance and its treasury bonds programme. The former was this year’s Debt and equity-linked Deal of the Year, while the latter is a major step forward for the Middle East’s capital markets.
Other standouts include the historic NMC Healthcare restructuring, the Fertiglobe IPO and the merger of Masraf Al Rayan and Al Khaliji Commercial Bank. All three deals were named Deal of the Year in their respective categories, reflecting the market-leading innovation that was needed to get them over the line.
Lifetime achievement award
Winner: Ibrahim Mubaydeen, Allen & Overy
IFLR's Lifetime Achievement Award recognises candidates whose careers have made a significant impact on market practice, shaped standards, influenced the market legal framework, and mentored the next generation of lawyers. This year’s winner, Ibrahim Mubaydeen, stood out in all regards.
Mubaydeen is managing partner of Allen & Overy’s Abu Dhabi office and is recognised as a leading authority on corporate and project transactions, particularly those involving government entities. He is perhaps best known for his work with the Mubadala Investment Company, who he has advised on numerous deals over the years, including on the Yahsat IPO, which is included in this year’s Equity Deal of the Year shortlist.
Mubaydeen joined Allen & Overy from Simmons & Simmons in 2007 and is considered to have been instrumental to the firm’s success in Abu Dhabi. Indeed, one source told IFLR that he “is Allen & Overy in Abu Dhabi.” Mubaydeen is highly respected in the legal community and is described as a “very sensible head in the room with local regulators” and acknowledged for his work in guiding regulations and in helping to improve market practice.
IFLR Women Dealmakers Hall of Fame
Winner: Nicola Reader, Clifford Chance
Clifford Chance partner Nicola Reader is popular with both clients and counsel alike, and is increasingly prominent in the region as a restructuring specialist. Reader’s leading role on the historic NMC Healthcare restructuring was key to cementing her induction to the IFLR Women Dealmakers Hall of Fame this year. The deal incorporated a number of firsts and was a true landmark for the region.
She has also advised on some notable sustainability-linked loans for Etihad and Aldar. She was singled out during research for her key role in Etihad’s loan in particular, which included a complex interest rebate mechanism. Extensive work was also required to ensure that the KPI metrics it was linked to were measurable and watertight. These KPIs included the reduction of carbon emissions, an integrity score indicator, and the increase in employment and upskilling of Emirati women in the aviation sector, with the indicator measuring both female participation and ongoing training and development.
Managing partner of the year
Winner: Jawad Ali – King & Spalding
Jawad Ali is the outgoing managing partner of King & Spalding Middle East. After 23 years at the firm, including twelve years as managing partner, Ali announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down.
He is recognised in the market for his work in driving King & Spalding’s Middle East business forward, and is credited with having “truly transformed” the firm in the region. During his tenure, he presided over a number of changes, including the establishment of a single transactional practice group, which houses all of the Firm’s transactional lawyers. He leaves at the end of a successful year for the firm’s Middle East practices.
The firm’s work for iKcon Restaurant in relation to its sale to REEF Technology and advice to the Saudi Power Procurement Company on its purchase by the Government of Saudi Arabia both feature on the 2022 Deal of the Year shortlists.
Rising stars lawyers of the year
Sultan AlFayez, Abuhimed Alsheikh Alhagbani Law Firm in cooperation with Clifford Chance
Mariam Alrashed, International Counsel Bureau
Nathalia Elhage, Pinsent Masons
Ross Whibley, Latham & Watkins
Sultan AlFayez of Abuhimed Alsheikh Alhagbani Law Firm in cooperation with Clifford Chance, Mariam Alrashed from International Counsel Bureau, Pinsent Masons’ Nathalia Elhage and Ross Whibley of Latham & Watkins are this year’s Rising Stars. Sources were full of praise for AlFayez’s performance on stc’s follow-on offering, and Alrashed was singled out as a ‘future star’ with a measured approach to deal work. Pinsent Masons was credited with taking a prominent role on the NMC Healthcare restructuring, and Elhage was highlighted within that team as impressing with her work. Whibley, who is a recent addition to Latham & Watkins’ ranks, has been making a name for himself over the past few years and was noted for his ability to respond to the unique needs of each deal he works on.
In-house Market Makers
Zeina Abi-Chahine Craven, Agility
Richard Franklin, stc
Richard Franklin of stc and Zeina Abi-Chahine Craven from Agility were given the inaugural In-house Market Maker awards, in acknowledgement of their impressive work on key deals. Franklin led the charge on stc’s recent secondary offering, a first of its kind in the Saudi Arabia market, while Abi-Chahine Craven was lauded for her extraordinary effort in steering the acquisition of Agility’s Global Integrated Logistics business by DSV Panalpina.
DEALS OF THE YEAR
Deal of the Year: Debt and equity-linked
Winner: Federal Government of the UAE debut bond offering
This year’s shortlist includes the first AT1 issuance out of Jordan. This deal is a major step forward for the country, and required approval from the Jordan Securities Commission, the Central Bank of Jordan and the Dubai Financial Services Authority. Infracorp’s sukuk is another standout deal. In addition to being the first green sukuk issuance from Bahrain, this is also a rare corporate hybrid issuance and an exchangeable instrument. Meanwhile, the Federal Government of the UAE’s treasury bond programme is the first of its kind in the Middle East, and is expected to have a wide-ranging implications for the country’s economy.
The winning deal was also issued by the Federal Government of the UAE, and marks its inaugural sovereign bond offering. While individual Emirates have issued debt in the past, this was a first from the Federal Government and was made possible by a recent change to the country’s legal framework. The bond was quadruple listed in Abu Dhabi, the UAE, Taiwan and London, which required extensive work with four sets of regulators. Law firms had to ensure that all the parts came together in parallel under a brand-new legal framework, working to balance the requirements of a significant number of stakeholders. On the bank side, legal teams at Citi and HSBC took leading roles and were recognised for playing an instrumental part. This deal has paved the way for further issuances from the federal government and was followed by a US dollar-denominated bond offering earlier this year.
Latham & Watkins
Deal of the Year: Domestic
Winner: Masraf Al Rayan – Al Khaliji Commercial Bank
A range of innovative domestic deals feature on this year’s shortlist. Abu Dhabi Ports’ direct listing was a first in kind for the market, while the Bedaya Mortgage Finance Co ABS was the first securitisation to be backed by mortgage loans in Egypt. The shortlist also includes the first reverse acquisition of a public company in Qatar. This followed a recent law change and required legal advisers to work closely with regulators to craft the process and close the deal.
Staying in Qatar, the winning deal combined an Islamic bank and a conventional bank, transforming the landscape for Islamic banking in Qatar. Conventional bank Al Khaliji Commercial Bank was dissolved, leaving Masraf Al Rayan as the surviving entity.
Merging a conventional and Islamic institution is not a straightforward process, and legal teams had to navigate inconsistencies and conflict in legal documents and work with a number of different regulators to find a way through. The transaction also required some conventional products to be converted to Islamic products, which demanded close cooperation with the Sharia board. Further, the deal incorporated a creative and untested solution to facilitate the wholesale movement of securities across banks in a consolidation. The transaction has implications beyond Qatar, as it has additionally led to the entry of a regional Islamic bank into the French market.
Law firms :
Spitz Poulle Kannan
Sultan Al-Abdulla & Partners
Deal of the Year: Equity
Winner: Fertiglobe IPO
The strength of this year’s shortlist is testament to a standout year in the Middle East’s equity capital markets. There were landmark IPOs by both ACWA Power and DEWA, while ADC Acquisition Corp launched the UAE’s first SPAC. stc’s secondary offering was a pathfinder deal, marking the first secondary offering from Saudi Arabia to be marketed both inside and outside of the Kingdom. The deal required the creation of an entirely new legal framework, and legal teams had to work in tandem with the Capital Market Authority to develop a model that would allow the transaction to take place. The deal is expected to form the basis for similar offerings in future.
The Fertiglobe IPO marks the first listing by an ADGM company on a UAE stock exchange. A number of unique challenges arose during the course of the deal as a result of the untested regulatory framework. As an ADGM company, Fertiglobe was English-law governed, and work was needed to reconcile this with the requirements of the ADX. The deal also led to novel discussions around the regulatory interface between ADGM, SCA and ADX and corporate governance application. Legal advisors also had to work closely with a number of different banks to clarify their position in relation to ADGM law.
This pioneering deal has paved the way for similar listings to take place – including the Borouge IPO, which also features on this year’s shortlist.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
Hadef & Partners
Ibrahim & Partners
Shearman & Sterling
Deal of the Year: Loan
Winner: Nogaholding ESG-linked facility
Loan Deal of the Year is a new category for the IFLR Middle East Awards this year, and the first ever loan shortlist showcases a number of eye-catching deals.
The Yahsat term loan financing utilised an innovative structure to allow the company to keep its existing project financing in place. To do this, it used the term loan itself to become a lender in the underlying project financing, meaning that framework of the existing project financing was unaffected. Egypt’s Ministry of Finance financing interwove green and Sharia tranches, in a deal which represents the first sustainable financing for the government from commercial banks. Meanwhile, the financing of Shuaa Capital’s leveraged buy-out of Allianz Marine used SOFR as benchmark pricing in a first for the offshore industry.
This year’s winning deal brought together three of the market’s key trends: Libor transition, ESG and the new AAOIFI Standard 59 regarding the Sale of Debt. The new Standard 59 means that a Murabaha cannot be directly refinanced by another Murabaha, which meant that nogaholding required a new and separate purchase undertaking in order to refinance. This in itself is not straightforward, but was complicated further by the introduction of new SOFR benchmarks.
The Nogaholding facility used SOFR in arrears, which added a further layer of difficulty. As this is a backward-looking mechanism, a borrower has no certainty over a profit payment amount prior to the end of the period. This goes against principles of Islamic finance and was therefore difficult to reconcile. Legal teams had to collaborate closely with Sharia boards to ensure compliance. Applying ESG principles to a state-owned oil and gas company also required some creative thinking in developing suitable KPIs, while getting the margin ratchet and Sharia tranche to line up also posed a challenge.
Norton Rose Fulbright
Newton Legal Group
Deal of the Year: M&A
Winner: DSV Panalpina / Agility’s Global Integrated Logistics Business
This year’s shortlist showcases a range of noteworthy, cross-border deals. REEF Technology’s acquisition of iKcon Restaurant employed a novel drag mechanism, while Azentio Software’s purchase of certain assets from Path Solutions necessitated some complex carve outs and led to the business being redomiciled from Kuwait to the UAE.
BlackRock Real Assets and Hassana’s acquisition of a 49% stake in Saudi Aramco’s gas pipeline network represents another of the year’s landmark deals. The transaction had to overcome various regulatory hurdles, and involved a number of workstreams which had to be brought together in a seamless fashion.
The winner is the sale of Kuwait-based Agility’s Global Integrated Logistics business to Denmark’s DSV Panalpina in a deal that entailed private M&A and public capital markets considerations in Kuwait, and public M&A processes in Denmark. This was an all-share transaction and resulted in Agility becoming DSV’s second largest shareholder. As a result, extensive discussions were required with regulators and stock exchanges in both countries. Furthermore, this highly complex transaction required the restructuring of assets in over 30 countries and was subject to regulatory filings in a number of jurisdictions. This was also the first deal to be subject to Kuwait’s new competition laws and is thought to have set the model for future competition clearances in the country.
Al Tamimi & Company
De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek
Latham & Watkins
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom
Deal of the Year: Project Finance
Winner: Canal Sugar syndicated financing
This year’s shortlist encompasses a broad range of projects from across a variety of sectors. Total Solar is the first financing of a private sector portfolio of solar projects from the region and creates a template for this type of deal. The Sweihan PV Power Company green project bond is also noteworthy as the first ever certified Green Project Bond transaction out of the MENA region. The bond refinanced an earlier loan, and extensive work was required to move from lender finance to bond finance. Away from renewables projects, the J3 Investment PPP was the first combination of a syndicate PPP project finance that included both Islamic and conventional financing, and answered questions around the ability of an Islamic lender to act as a security and collateral agents for conventional banks.
The winner is the Canal Sugar syndicated project financing. The financing was structuring with four different credit lines, which all had to be coordinated, and combined ECA, DFI and commercial bank debt in a first in Egyptian project loan market. One tranche was financed by a German ECA-backed financing advanced to Afreximbank and the National Bank of Egypt, who then on-lent to Canal Sugar in a back-to back arrangement. In light of this, a novel structure was created in order to project the interests of both the German banks and the on-lenders, ensuring that they would avoid exposure in a cross-default scenario. This on-lending mechanism is a structural first in the Egyptian market, and is expected to be replicated in further project financings.
Latham & Watkins
Matouk Bassiouny & Hennawy
Norton Rose Fulbright
Zaki Hashem & Partners
Zulficar & Partners
Deal of the Year: Restructuring
Winner: NMC Healthcare restructuring
This year’s shortlist features the Imperial Avenue financing, which was a landmark deal and utilised a highly novel and creative approach, involving multiple creditors and requiring the collaboration of many key stakeholders. The Jabal Omar Development Company’s Makkah project used a complex, Sharia-compliant structure and included scope for a step-down in profit rate based on progress, as well as a sculpted amortisation schedule based on the cash flows of the underlying projects. Both deals have implications for real estate developments in the region.
As always, there can be only one winner and this year that accolade goes to the NMC Healthcare restructuring. Nearly two years after being placed into administration, the company completed its restructuring in March 2022. The deal involved a number of firsts, including the first migration of onshore UAE entities into the ADGM, the first administration funding facility under the ADGM’s priority financing regime, the first administrations of ADGM entities, and the first deeds of company arrangement in respect of ADGM entities. It also incorporated both conventional and Islamic structuring elements, which created further complexity. Both facilities were documented under an umbrella common terms agreement which has "equity-like" features to allow creditors to participate in a potential upside in the future.
The deal also involves a complex asset transfer process, pursuant to which the assets of NMC were transferred to a newly incorporated SPV in the ADGM on completion and post-completion. The transaction will set a number of precedents in the UAE. In legal terms, the restructuring has tested the use of ADGM administrations and deed of company arrangements, as well as onshore recognition regimes and interaction with financial free zones such as the ADGM. Conceptually, it has challenged the way that local creditors deal with distressed businesses and truly set a new precedent for restructurings in the region.
Al Tamimi & Company
Allen & Overy
Kirkland & Ellis
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
TEAMS OF THE YEAR
Debt and equity-linked
Allen & Overy
Norton Rose & Fulbright
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
IN-HOUSE TEAM AND FIRM AWARDS
Pro bono Firm of the Year
Winner: Morgan Lewis & Bockius
This year’s pro bono firm of the year, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, has showcased a wide-ranging portfolio of pro bono work. It has demonstrated a strong commitment to helping economically disadvantaged individuals and families in their communities, in addition to working with non-profit organisations which serve vulnerable people. On a global level, the firm challenges all of its lawyers to devote at minimum of 20 billable hours to pro bono work and the Middle East offices’ rose to this challenge. On average, lawyers in the region contribute an average of more that 50 pro bono hours each.
Rising Star Firm of the Year
Winner: ADSERO – Ragy Soliman & Partners
Founded in 2019, ADSERO – Ragy Soliman & Partners is rapidly making a name for itself in Egypt. The firm is led by a Counsel of Partners comprising of Ragy Soliman, Osman Mowafy, Ahmed Abdelgawad, Mohamed Abdelgawad, Hossam Gramon and Ehab Fedaa. Managing Partner, Soliman, has a long history in the region in both in-house and private practice roles and is well respected for his strength as a transactional lawyer. ADSERO now counts over 100 lawyers in its ranks, which is testament to the speed of its growth, even against the backdrop of the pandemic.
Recent work highlights include acting as local counsel to the Egyptian Ministry of Finance on its first samurai bond issuance and assisting Telecom Egypt in relation to a loan from the European Investment Bank that will be used to expand the country’s 4G network.
In-house Team of the Year: Corporate
Winner: Abu Dhabi National Oil Company
The legal team at the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company has welcomed a number of new faces over the last year, deepening its capabilities in the region. The group has assisted with a number of noteworthy deals during this year’s review period, and has shown itself to be particularly adept at handling ECM work. Perhaps most significant among its recent activity is the Fertiglobe IPO. This deal took the crown as this year’s Equity Deal of the Year, owing to its status as the first ever free zone company to be traded on an onshore stock exchange in the UAE. It also acted on the IPO of ADNOC-subsidiary Borouge. This deal took the Fertiglobe offering as a template, but is presented its own unique challenges and required a complex carve-out of certain joint assets in order to define the IPO perimeter.
Away from equity work, the team has been involved in a range of other mandates, including a USD3 billion financing from JBIC to ADNOC and the financing of a project to establish a subsea high voltage direct current system.
In-house Team of the Year: Investment Bank
HSBC takes the title of Investment Bank in-house team of the year for a second consecutive year. It continues to draw praise for its adaptability and commercial acumen, and stood out from the competition for its roles across a range of innovative, cross-border deals, crossing a number of practice areas.
Among the team’s key deals over the last year were some groundbreaking IPOs for names such as DEWA, ADNOC Drilling, Fertiglobe and Yahsat. Many of these are featured on this year’s Equity deal of the year shortlist, reflecting the innovative approach needed to complete the listings. The group was also lauded for its role on the UAE’s debut bond issuance – the Debt and equity-linked deal of the year. Sources regularly singled out HSBC’s lawyers during research for their hands-on approach on these transactions.
The team’s recent deal work also attests to its commitment to ESG. It has assisted with eye-catching sustainability-linked loans for the likes of Aldar and Etihad, in addition to advising on renewable project financing and sustainability-linked bonds, including first the Sustainable Tier 2 Sukuk issuance in the world.
In-house Team of the Year: Regional Bank
Winner: First Abu Dhabi Bank
Led by Group General Counsel Nimer Basbous, First Abu Dhabi Bank remains one of the region’s major players. Its legal team is integrated within the wider bank, and a key partner in its wider strategic initiatives. This can be seen through its involvement in the recent sale of a stake in Magnati – FAB’s payment business – to Brookfield Partners. This deal required a complex carve out of Magnati from the wider bank, and had to overcome a number of challenges, including around regulatory reforms being introduced to the payment and fintech sphere.
The team was acknowledged during research as being “very good at structuring deals” and is seen as a go-to for its clients in the region. Among its recent work highlights is the Federal Government of the UAE’s debut bond issuance, Etihad’s sustainability-linked loan and IPOs by Fertiglobe, DEWA and Yahsat.
Islamic Bank of the year
Winner: Bahrain Islamic Bank
This award goes to an Islamic bank headquartered in the region for their work on innovative transactions. This year’s winner, Bahrain Islamic Bank, took a role on some notable deals during the review period. The bank’s AT1 sukuk issuance created a new precedent for convertible sukuks and clarified a number of complex grey areas for future transactions.
It also played a part in nogaholding’s ESG facility, which was a challenging deal owing to the interaction of new SOFR benchmarks with principles of Islamic financing. There were a number of nuances involved in the deal, and the team’s ability to deliver impressed during research.
Net-zero Transition Award
Winner: Standard Chartered
This award recognises a firm or in-house team that has taken positive steps towards net-zero transition. The award considers initiatives that materially improve sustainability, work with clients to aid them in decarbonising, or legally innovative deals that are advancing market policy, framework, and regulation in the sustainable corporate finance space.
This year’s winner has a strong track record of deal work, including advising on Riyad Bank’s AT1 Capital Certificates. This was the first sustainable AT1 sukuk and the sustainable finance framework document it used is likely to become a template. Standard Chartered has also acted as sustainability coordinator on a number of deals, and is recognised as leading the way in the region in terms of reviewing sustainability-linked facilities to ensure that they are robust and legitimate.
Standard Chartered has also both led on and participated in a number of internal and external initiatives, aimed at upskilling its own team and developing and promoting work towards net zero. This has included participating in industry working groups to develop and enhance market standard legal clauses, and regular participation in ESG regulatory engagement with the DIFC and ADGM, covering net zero issues and supporting the drive for change.
The Middle East legal team has also worked in collaboration with the wider legal group to create templates, governance and guidance notes from scratch to align with the Bank’s in-house legal documents. It also works to support the execution of LMA documented deals in accordance with the Bank’s Sustainable Finance Governance Framework and helps clients guard against greenwashing.
Tech Innovation Award
Winner: First Abu Dhabi Bank
This award recognises a legal tech solution that is pioneering, particularly creative, or utilises a new or untested product to great effect.
This year’s winner is First Abu Dhabi Bank, recognising the development of its Legal Department chat bot. The tool allows FAB retail branch staff to obtain immediate and accurate answers to the most common legal queries via this chatbot without the need to wait for a lawyer to answer their question. This frees up the legal team to focus on other work. Advice is tailored to FAB branch staff, and the tool has been developed so as to ensure accuracy of advice and avoid any misleading responses. The chatbot provides an agile, integrated solution for the bank’s staff and clients, and its capabilities will be expanded to cover more areas in future.
NATIONAL LAW FIRMS OF THE YEAR
Winner: Hassan Radhi and Associates
Hassan Radhi and Associates has advised on several novel DCM deals during the awards review period. Particularly impressive was its work on the Infracorp sukuk. This deal was the first green sukuk issuance from Bahrain, and also a rare corporate hybrid issuance and an exchangeable instrument. It required substantial advice on local law issues and observers recognised the group as doing an “excellent job,” particularly remarking on its strength in navigating regulatory requirements.
Winner: Helmy Hamza & Partners (Member Firm of Baker McKenzie)
Helmy Hamza & Partners worked on some of the defining deals that closed in Egypt during the review period. It took on a leading role on the Canal Sugar project financing – named this year’s Project Finance deal of the year. The transaction was a first in the Egyptian project loan market and combined ECA, DFI and commercial bank debt. Helmy Hamza & Partners also advised on the Egypt Ministry of Finance’s sustainable financing. The transaction created a new legal structure and require the interweaving of green and Sharia tranches.
Winner: Confluent Law Group
For a second consecutive year, Confluent Law Group is named Iraq firm of the year. It is particularly adept at advising on project financings, and has worked on projects from across a variety of sectors over the awards review period. Among its notable recent mandates is its work on the Umm Qasr Port financing. This transaction represents the first major international project financing in the Iraqi ports sector, and one of the only international financings in Iraq to date outside of the oil and gas sector. Lenders included International Finance Corporation and Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Winner: Khalifeh & Partners
One of Jordan’s leading players, Khalifeh & Partners continues to be recognised as a go-to in the countries. It steered a number of noteworthy deals to a close during the review period, including the Government of Jordan’s sovereign bond. This was a first project bond for the country and set a new legal precedent. A leading highlight for the practice was acting as Jordanian counsel for China Three Gorges in connection with its purchase of Alcazar Energy. The deal was the first sale of a multijurisdictional portfolio of renewable assets in the region and raised a number of regulatory issues. It also required an in-depth understanding of the interaction of the underlying projects.
Winner: Meysan Partners
In 2015, Meysan Partners was named IFLR Rising Star firm of the year. In the proceeding years, the firm has grown substantially, making a name for itself as a leading player in the Kuwait market. Over the past year, it has continued to grow, acquiring Arkan Legal Consultants in early 2022 to further increase its footprint in the country. During the review period, it took on a substantial role in advising Agility in relation to the sale of its global logistics business to DSV Panalpina. The deal was a complex, cross-border transaction, which entailed private M&A and public capital markets considerations in Kuwait, and public M&A processes in Denmark.
Winner: Abou Jaoude & Associates
Abou Jaoude & Associates remains one of the market’s largest players and has advised on a range of noteworthy deals across several practice areas during the awards review period. Its work includes eye-catching M&A, capital markets and projects deals and spans mandates for clients from across a varied range of industry. Recent work highlights include advising IBL Bank on a subordinated bond issuance. This was a first-of-its-kind for the Lebanese banking market, in line with new capital adequacy regulations issued by the Central Bank of Lebanon.
Winner: AMJ – Al Busaidy Mansoor Jamal & Co
AMJ – Al Busaidy Mansoor Jamal & Co remains a formidable force in the Oman market. It continues to demonstrate a varied practice, advising on a range of leading deals crossing multiple practice areas. Recent highlights include advising Octal on its acquisition by Alpek. This was a highly cross-border deal, involving jurisdictions including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Germany and the USA, which gave rise to global regulatory issues. The deal also involved a complex intra-group reorganisation involving recasting of shareholdings in a number of jurisdictions. The group also assisted OmanRe in its 2021 IPO. This required in-depth discussions with the regulator and made OmanRe the first reinsurer to list on the Muscat stock exchange.
Winner: Sharq Law Firm
Sharq Law Firm was named the 2018 IFLR Middle East Awards rising star law firm and has gone from strength to strength in the years since. It has been a busy year in the Qatar market, and the team assisted on several eye-catching deals. Among those was the IHG Elegancia Group reverse acquisition. This was the first transaction of its kind to take place in Qatar and required in-depth work to find a way to close the deal. Sharq Law Firm’s work on the Qatar Energy green bond is also worthy of note, as it was the first sale of green bonds by a natural oil company in the Gulf region.
Winner: Abuhimed Alsheikh Alhagbani Law Firm in cooperation with Clifford Chance
For a second consecutive year, Abuhimed Alsheikh Alhagbani Law Firm in cooperation with Clifford Chance is the Saudi Arabia firm of the year. Its impressive track record over the review period sees it feature across numerous deal shortlists, attesting to the breadth and depth of its expertise. Its work on the SAIB rights issuance impressed. This was the first rights issuance to take place in Saudi Arabia and required a framework to be designed from scratch. It also played key roles on deals such as the stc follow-on offering, ACWA IPO, Red Sea development financing and Saudi Aramco’s revolving credit facility.
United Arab Emirates
Winner: Al Tamimi & Company
Al Tamimi & Company’s reputation in the UAE remains unrivalled and, despite the competitive nature of the nominee list, it is once again named the UAE firm of the year. The firm puts in an impressive showing across this year’s shortlisted and winning deals, which is testament to the breadth and depth of its capabilities. Its work on notable restructurings for NMC Healthcare and on the Imperial Avenue financing stood out, and it is said to be “seriously brilliant” at this type of complex deal. The firm’s roster of innovative transactions also included the Borouge IPO, which required a complex carve-out of certain joint assets in order to define the boundaries of the offering.