Can you give our Legal Business readers an overview of Matouk Bassiouny’s practice in Algeria?
Matouk Bassiouny in association with SH-Avocats is a full-service Algerian law firm headquartered in Algiers. We offer an integrated and efficient service combining a true on-the-ground knowledge with international standards. Our teams in Algiers work seamlessly with our other offices in the MENA region (Egypt, Sudan, and the UAE) enabling us to build on the expertise of our regional practice groups specialised in specific industries and legal practices.
We provide advisory and transactional services to local and foreign investors in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Our team also provides our clients with comprehensive dispute resolution services in English, French and Arabic before Algerian courts as well as regional arbitral tribunals. Our Algiers litigation team includes attorneys qualified before the Appellate Courts and the Court of Cassation of Algeria.
We are client-centric and results-oriented. Building on our sector-focused approach, we provide ‘actionable advice’. Our role is to act as a business adviser identifying and resolving key issues to achieve our clients’ strategic objectives.
What do you see as the main points that rank Matouk Bassiouny as a leading firm in the Algerian legal business market?
Our team of two dedicated partners and three lawyers are trilingual and licensed to practice in Algeria. As we routinely advise international corporations, we operate in line with international best practices, but are also deeply entrenched in the local market, cultural and political environments. It is to be noted that both partners, Houda Sahri and Jean-Jérôme Khodara, have a vast experience in Algeria. Both have worked in Algeria for many years,have a deep knowledge of the Algerian market and are very familiar with the complications of the legal framework in Algeria.
In addition, our firm maintains good working relationships with key Algerian authorities including, the Algerian Central Bank, the Governmental Agency for Investment Promotion, the Algerian Customs Authorities and the Competition Authority, thus allowing us to fast-track administrative hurdles.
Our Algiers office is also licensed to plead before Algerian courts. This puts us in a unique position in the Algerian market, allowing us to serve our clients in all their legal needs, whether of a cross-border or local nature.
Given the problems created by the Covid-19 pandemic, how is this affecting your firm and the legal business market generally in the Algeria?
Despite the political and health instability over the past year, we have seen enormous interest from foreign investors since the issuance of the new finance law that has alleviated the restrictions on foreign investment and the so called 49/51 rule.
Algeria has chosen a highly cautious approach to the Covid-19 pandemic that has slowed down the economic activity of the country. This has of course impacted the legal business, however, the need to diversify its economy has triggered a reform of the investment framework and we have been advising a lot of clients either to explore new opportunities created by this reform or to help existing clients to navigate the changes. So in terms of activity, we have no complaints.
Can you talk about any trends or changes in the landscape you are seeing emerge in the Algerian legal business market?
Algeria is witnessing large changes in the investment legal framework. It started with the alleviation of the general restriction on foreign investment including the restriction to 49% of foreign ownership and the state’s preemption right over foreign transfer of ownership and continues through a pipeline of pro-investment legislation in different sectors including banking, oil and gas and food industry.
In 2020, Algeria also lifted the prohibition on international financing and it is in the process of becoming a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Such developments are expected to result in a significant growth of project finance in Algeria.
We are witnessing a surge of requests to understand the ongoing modifications to the investment framework in Algeria which reflects the raise of interest in the Algerian Market which was considered for a long time as a closed market.
How is your firm positioned for an anticipated resurgence in activity in the Algerian legal business market?
Our team of two dedicated partners and three lawyers are trilingual and licensed to practice in Algeria. We have also access to a pool of more than 200 lawyers of Matouk Bassiouny regional offices with a regional experience.
We are also planning to build our capabilities by growing our team in our Algiers office. Our goal is to train young Algerian lawyers to operate in line with our international standards and believe we also have our role to play to add to the legal market in Algeria.
With the experience of our leading partners and the support of the team, Matouk Bassiouny in Algeria is the first full fledged independent law firm and we are planning to be one of the big market players within the next few years.
Which sectors are/will be of most interest to foreign investors, and why?
We are seeing two tendencies: first, the existing clients having their activity in the sectors that are witnessing major amendment mainly: importation, pharmaceuticals and automotive. While importation and pharmaceuticals are still subject to the 49/51 rule, Algerian authorities, with the objective of promoting the local car manufacturing industry and preserving the country’s foreign exchange reserves, have passed stringent legislation over the last few years in order to curb the importation of new vehicles. The most recent is the exclusion of foreign investors from the activity of importation and dealing in new cars must be 100% owned by Algerian residents.
The second is the rising interest of international financing organisations in the financing of big projects in banking and renewable energies.
Are there any main changes which you have personally made within the firm that will benefit clients?
There are no major changes, however since the firm is evolving rather fast we are expanding our capabilities and enlarging the team of lawyers by recruiting new young and experienced lawyers to provide the best services to our clients.
What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capacity?
Working on successful M&A operations and recovering debt amounts to our clients over the last two years.
For more information, please contact:
Houda Sahri, managing partner, Algeria, Matouk Bassiouny in association with SH-Avocats
Jean-Jérôme Khodara, partner, head of the Algeria Practice, Matouk Bassiouny in association with SH-Avocats