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Offshore Law Firm Blazes Trail In Dubai

by Lorys Charalambous, for, Cyprus

01 December 2005

International law firm, Walkers has announced that it has opened the first fully transactional office for an offshore law firm in the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC).

The office will be staffed jointly with a combination of regional lawyers and leading attorneys from London who specialize in Islamic finance and Middle Eastern issues.

Over the past two years, the equity markets in Dubai have been among the world’s top performers, with a 41 percent increase in the private equity industry since 1998.

Today, private equity investments total around $1 billion. Current estimates call for this trend to accelerate and reach a total of between $2.1 and $2.6 billion by 2007. In addition, more than 80 percent of the investment in the region is currently offshore, increasing the need for the local business community to draw on international expertise.

"As the formation of investment funds, private equity funds, and Sukuks – a type of Islamic bond – continues to soar, the need to provide global counsel has grown too," the firm explained in a statement.

"Walkers recognizes that having counsel in Dubai doing the transactional work in the same time zone and same culture is vitally important to getting the job done. Walkers’ expertise in investment funds, structured finance, and international insolvency matters coupled with a presence in the Cayman Islands, London, the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong and now Dubai, means that the firm can offer worldwide clients an even broader range of products and services," Walkers added.

The Dubai office will be led by managing partner Rod Palmer and partner Robert Varley, who will oversee business development in the Middle East. Mr. Palmer is experienced in Islamic finance and has launched numerous Shariah-compliant funds.

He has also advised on high-profile US IPOs of Cayman companies, as well as private equity, hedge and other investment funds.

According to a recent survey by McKinsey & Company, more than 75 percent of the top 30 global asset managers are now active in Dubai. The MAN Group plc, a leading hedge fund group that has operated in the Gulf Cooperation Council region (GCC) for more than 20 years and was part of the McKinsey survey, reported an upswing of institutional investments in hedge funds.

"Also driving the need for greater offshore legal expertise in Dubai are the international entities who invest in the GCC region through British Virgin Islands companies and regional investment in United Kingdom commercial real estate,” observed Mr Palmer.

“With Walkers’ strong presence and experience in those jurisdictions, we can now provide a complete suite of offshore legal service to our clients in Dubai," he added.

The Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC), a financial free zone that promotes economic development in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has a strong regulatory framework based on best practices of the world’s leading financial centres.

Companies in Dubai recognize multiple benefits from the jurisdiction, including zero tax on income and profits, 100 percent foreign ownership, no restrictions on foreign exchange or capital/profit repatriation, operational support, and business continuity facilities.

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