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GAR 100 - 11th Edition

Zulficar & Partners

04 April 2018

The Egyptian firm settled a dispute for Orange while its practice head picked up a prize for his advocacy skills

People in Who’s Who Legal 1
Pending cases as counsel 33
Value of pending counsel work US$7.38 billion
Treaty cases 4
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 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, Orange, Total, Egyptian General Petroleum Company, Alghanim Industries, Arab African International Bank and APM Terminals.

Track record

In 2016, Zulficar and Clifford Chance 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. The claim, worth more than US$400 million, concerned gas pricing and tax measures that affected a petrochemicals investment. The terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed.

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.

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.

Recent events

In November 2017, the firm helped mobile operator Orange Egypt (formerly Mobinil) settle an eight-year Cairo Centre arbitration with an Egyptian state-owned telecoms company over interconnection fees. At the time of the settlement, the tribunal had already upheld Orange’s claim in principle and dismissed a US$1.8 billion counterclaim by the state entity, but had yet to reach a final award on damages.

The firm represented Suez Canal Containers Terminal in a US$100 million ICC claim against China Harbour and Engineering Company over the construction of a marine jetty and terminal. The case was terminated in late 2016 after the respondent settled the claims.

The firm defended the same client in a US$15 million Cairo Centre arbitration with Sahara Building Systems, winning an award on jurisdiction in June 2017 that declined jurisdiction.

It helped energy group TAQA Arabia obtain a favourable award in 2016 against cement manufacturer South Valley concerning a power station, and then enforced the award in Egypt. An appeal court rejected South Valley’s bid to annul the award in June 2017.

The firm is representing advertising agency Promomedia in a US$23 million Cairco Centre dispute with Egyptian newspaper group Al Masry Al Youm over media advertisements, which has given rise to Egyptian court proceedings.

Abdel Wahab attended a gala dinner in Zurich where he received the Swiss Arbitration Association’s biennial prize for advocacy in international commercial arbitration. He is the first practitioner from Africa to receive the award.

Client comment

TAQA Arabia 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”.

Orange Egypt’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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