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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Zulficar & Partners

18 February 2016

The Egyptian firm is assisting a Kuwaiti investor at ICSID

People in Who’s Who Legal: 1
Pending cases as counsel: 80
Value of pending counsel work: US$10.9 billion
Treaty cases: 2
Current arbitrator appointments: 14 (of which 6 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 1

The Egyptian firm is assisting a Kuwaiti investor at ICSID

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 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 proceedings on its books too. Moreover, it is involved in an ICSID case against Egypt, as co-counsel with Clifford Chance.

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 a recently appointed member of the LCIA Board. He was also nominated at last year’s GAR awards in the category of best speech, for a presentation at the Milan Chamber of Arbitration in November 2013 on “The Domestic Law Basis of International Arbitration”.

Who uses it?

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

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 also defended a subsidiary of Orascom in a US$390 million gas pricing dispute brought by 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

Alongside Clifford Chance, it continues to act as Egyptian counsel to Kuwaiti chemical products investor Bawabet Al Kuwait in a US$750 million ICSID claim against Egypt.

It won a partial final award for Egyptian telecoms operator Mobinil, part of the Orange group, in a US$1.8 billion claim against the country’s state-controlled fixed-line operator, Telecom Egypt. The damages phase of the proceedings is still ongoing. It also scored a partial award for a construction client in ICC proceedings.

It is acting for oil and gas clients in CRCICA and SIAC disputes, and in a number of gas pricing arbitrations. The firm is also providing legal expert services on UAE and Egyptian law in a number of high-value disputes, including one US$3 billion ICC case.

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 and that its memoranda and exhibits were “superb quality and very comprehensive.The firm also provided “honest” advice over amicable dispute resolution.

Abdel Wahab’s “impressive credentials and superb knowledge of winning strategies are simply outstanding and world-class,” Taqa continues. He brings “professionalism, sharpness, hands-on knowledge, strategic thinking, and unparalleled expertise” and enormously impressed the tribunal.

Mobinil’s legal director Ayman Essam praises the firm’s expectations-management, response speed, industry knowledge and easily-understood opinions and advice and calls it “one of the best firms we have dealt with worldwide.”

Abdel Wahab’s methodology and construction of arguments was “truly remarkable”, the client adds: “He project managed the case from A to Z to an interim win in the first arbitration and an expected win in the second.”

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.