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GAR 100 - 10th Edition

Zulficar & Partners

02 March 2017

The Egyptian firm is increasingly visible in big-ticket cases

People in Who’s Who Legal 1
Pending cases as counsel 81
Value of pending counsel work US$699 million
Treaty cases 5
Current arbitrator appointments 20 (of which 8 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator 1

Founded in 2009, this Cairo-based firm’s international arbitration practice works on oil and gas, telecoms, finance and banking and IT disputes.

The practice is headed by partners Mohamed S Abdel Wahab and Ingy Badawy. As an Egyptian firm, naturally much of its work involves disputes at the Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (CRCICA). But it also has a number of SIAC, ICC and ad hoc cases on its books too and has done work at ICSID.

Abdel Wahab, who also heads the firm’s project management practice, has the biggest international profile of the group for arbitration. He is a member of the CIETAC panel of arbitrators and the LCIA Board and a vocal proponent of the use of arbitration for resolving Islamic finance disputes.

Who uses it?

Clients include Cemex, Bechtel, Crédit Agricole, Dragon Oil, Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Total, Egyptian General Petroleum Company, Alghanim Industries, Arab African International Bank and APM Terminals.

Egyptian mobile operator Mobinil (part of Orange) has been using Zulficar for a pair of cases, including a US$1.8 billion dispute with state-owned fixed-line operator Telecom Egypt over interconnection fees. That case has already seen a partial award, with a final damages award pending.

Track record

The firm has had a number of successes for Egyptian General Petroleum Company (EGPC). In one London-seated case, the client only got the firm involved 18 months into the proceedings, having failed to retain external counsel before that point. Zulficar nevertheless turned things around and won an award with costs in EGPC’s favour.

It also helped EGPC settle a US$200 million claim brought by Egyptian oil company PICO, shortly after filing a statement of defence.

The firm acted for an Egyptian developer, SODIC, in a US$1.6 billion dispute with Lebanese developer Solidere; a favourable decision on jurisdiction was delivered in 2013, which led to the dispute being settled the following year.

It defended a subsidiary of Orascom in a US$390 million gas pricing dispute with two Egyptian state companies, EGAS and Gasco, at the Cairo Centre. Another result was making sure Arab African International Bank was excluded from a US$62 million banking claim by Kuwaiti investment company Osoul Holding Group.

Recent events

Together with Clifford Chance, Zulficar helped Bawabet Al Kuwait Holding Company – part of the business empire of Kuwait’s wealthy Al-Kharafi family – settle a five-year-old ICSID claim against Egypt in October 2016. The claim, worth more than US$400 million plus interest, concerned gas pricing and tax measures affecting a petrochemicals investment. The terms of the settlement have not been disclosed.

In the Egyptian courts, the firm helped the production company of Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef overturn a US$14 million award in favour of Cairo TV network CBC.

Abdel Wahab was part of an ICC task force that produced a report on the suitability of arbitration for banking and finance disputes, providing input on Islamic finance. He’s also teaching a new Chartered Institute of Arbitrators diploma on Islamic banking and finance in London, together with Nayla Comair-Obeid of GAR 100 firm Obeid in Beirut. 

Client comment

Egyptian energy distribution company Taqa used the firm in a US$9 million dispute over the termination of a power purchase agreement. It says the firm’s “distinguished” performance was evident at all phases of the dispute. Abdel Wahab demonstrated “professionalism, sharpness, hands-on knowledge, strategic thinking, and unparalleled expertise”. it says.

Mobinil’s legal director Ayman Essam says Zulficar is “one of the best firms we have dealt with worldwide”, praising its management of expectations, responsiveness and industry knowledge. Abdel Wahab’s methodology and construction of arguments was “truly remarkable”, the client adds.

Orascom’s contracts and claims director Engy Serag praises the firm’s “swift action” in responding to inquiries and its “credible and knowledgeable” answers. Abdel Wahab displays “profound expertise,” he says.

 

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