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As Brazil cools Latam heat – Garrigues moves into Colombia; SJB primes Saudi move

With Brazil’s economy continuing to disappoint during 2013, there is increasing focus on other economies across Latin America. Moving to meet that demand Iberian giant Garrigues has announced that it is to acquire Colombian outfit Zarama y Asociados.

Garrigues has secured the signatures of Zarama y Asociados sole partners, Fernando Zarama and Camilo Zarama, along with the rest of the fee earners at the firm. The deal allows Garrigues to make a significant play in one of the fastest growing and most touted of Latin America’s economies, combining the practice with the Spanish firm’s Bogota branch.

Zarama is a tax boutique led by Fernando Zarama, former director of the Colombian Director of Taxers and National Customs Duties (DIAN) and secretary of the district tax authorities. Camilo Zarama is dual qualified in Colombian and Spanish law and spent six years at Garrigues in Madrid before joining the Colombian law firm.

This is the first stage of the 1,700-lawyer firm’s plan to set up a full service office in Colombia. The team is led by Latin America chief Javier Ybañez and his team of 20 fee earners includes specialists in corporate, finance, capital markets, public law, competition, employment and dispute resolution.

Garrigues – one of the largest law firms in Continental Europe – earlier this year abandoned its strategy of tapping into the highly coveted Latin American market through a referral network, dubbed Affinitas, in favour of opening its own offices.

Garrigues managing partner, Fernando Vives commented: ‘These outstanding signings bring the initial stage of our launch in Colombia, a country with excellent economic prospects, to a close. Our goal is to maximise our commitment to clients on the ground, as borne out by these new incorporations.’

Once plagued by crime and social problems, Colombia has seen substantial investment in infrastructure and energy as well as modernisation of its industries in recent years, thanks in part to a trade agreement with the US last year. Garrigues joins the likes of Baker & McKenzie and Norton Rose Fulbright who are active in the country.

Garrigues’ move into relatively untapped markets comes as SJ Berwin confirms that it is to open a new office in Riyadh through an alliance with a local firm, which has not yet been disclosed. A spokeswoman for SJ Berwin – which on Friday (1 November) officially integrates with Asia Pacific giant King & Wood Mallesons – said that the firm will have the office in place by Q1 next year.

Click here for our in-depth report on Latin America.