Holding steady – A turbulent Middle East market separates the committed from the faint-hearted

The Middle East has lost some of its lustre, but many are hanging on for expected rewards

Emerging markets are by nature volatile, frequently impacted by events such as political instability, civil unrest, corruption and other economic forces. The extremes of growth and decline could hardly be more apparent than in the Middle East, where the collapse in oil prices has prompted a great deal of soul searching.

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Running on empty – how to survive in the Middle East in the era of cheap oil

Falling oil prices have hit the Middle East and forced advisers to radically reshape strategies in the region.

Oil price volatility is a fact of life in the Middle East. At below or around $40 a barrel, the region has been dealt a hard dose of realism. Developing economic models that rely less on oil and gas revenues is now the order of the day, while national governments have had to rein in notoriously lavish spending programmes.

Law firms that rushed into the Middle East as it became a significant driver of global economic activity amid soaring oil prices a decade ago, now have to review their strategies.

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The Middle East: After the gold rush

No longer a boom economy, advisers have shifted their tactics to covering the region even as oil prices fall. Is Dubai reasserting itself as the key hub?

Latham & Watkins doesn’t make strategic missteps. Or at least that appeared to be the case until March, when the firm announced that it will close both its Abu Dhabi and Qatar offices later this year, relocating staff to its Dubai operation. Bill Voge, chair and managing partner of the firm that has been by most yardsticks the standout success story of the last 20 years, said the firm had been wrong in assuming there were four distinct hubs that the firm needed to service clients in the Middle East – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – and so after seven years in the region, the firm was consolidating its Middle East presence into Dubai and Riyadh.

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Behind the veil – Can Islamic finance live up to the sales pitch?

Dismissed as a fad in some quarters, Islamic finance flourished during the downturn and has emerged as a significant practice for both Middle East and international firms. How sustainable is the workflow and what lies ahead for the key players?

‘You can’t be a credible financial centre without having a credible Islamic finance programme,’ says Qudeer Latif, head of Clifford Chance’s global Islamic practice. With studies expecting the Muslim population to grow twice as fast as the non-Muslim demographic over the next 20 years global financial institutions and governments are falling over themselves to offer Islamic finance products.

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Gulf stream – the heat returns to the Middle East markets

The heat is returning to key Middle East markets as the effects of the Arab Spring dissipate. Legal Business reports on recent activity among international and domestic firms in the region

Post-banking crisis, the world has generally divided fairly neatly into two camps with their clear economic narratives. On one hand there are the Western economies burdened by slow growth and creaking public finances. On the other, are emerging powers in Asia, Latin America and Africa – which have mostly surged ahead while Europe staggered.

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Middle East: New order

To what extent has the change heralded by the Arab Spring translated into opportunities for the Middle East’s law firms?

There is something momentous unfolding in the Gulf. The wave of protests and general revolutionary feeling that has swept through the Middle East since December 2010, otherwise known as the Arab Spring, has seen governments ousted in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, while civil unrest has even battered the traditionally stable reputations of financial centres such as Bahrain and Kuwait.

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Qatari Diar Panel – The In Crowd

Property company Qatari Diar has just undergone its first panel review. LB finds out which fortunate firms made the cut

Qatari Diar is a trophy client for any firm with property or Middle East pretensions: being in the property company’s good books means working on some of the most prestigious real estate and finance deals across the world. Since it began life seven years ago, The Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company (known to panel firms simply as ‘QD’) has battled with the Candy brothers, financed London’s newest skyscraper the ‘Shard’ and even purchased the US Embassy’s old building in Mayfair. It now has 49 projects with a combined value of $35bn under development or planning in 20 countries around the world.

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Middle East – New ball game

Project finance in the Middle East is already reaching record levels, and the decision to award Qatar the World Cup is set to send regional infrastructure budgets soaring

On 2 December 2010 FIFA, the international governing body of football, officially announced that a desert state would be hosting the 2022 World Cup. Qatar, a country with a population of only 1.6 million people, endures average daytime temperatures in excess of 40°C in June and July. How will the players cope? Continue reading “Middle East – New ball game”

Middle East – Still standing

As the Arab Spring spreads across the Middle East, investors are flocking to safe ground. LB discovers which states will prosper and which have the most to lose.

It is late April and tanks are being deployed by security forces in Syria following the government’s inability to quell civil resistance protests. Of the long list of countries affected by political unrest recently, those that have hit the headlines most emphatically include Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. But does this turmoil have the lawyers in the region’s main financial centres worried?

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Changing tack

Amid leaner times in the Gulf and a flat economy in Dubai, international clients are moving their focus to other key Gulf states. LB canvasses the leading domestic and international firms and asks, what next?

In early 2012, the sailing dhows off the coast of Abu Dhabi will have some serious competition on their hands. The emirate is due to play host to the yachts of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, in another sign of its growing profile and confidence on the world stage.

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