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US firm to focus on PFI/PPP in Central and Eastern Europe
Altheimer & Gray has launched a 24-lawyer Central and Eastern European projects group as it looks towards opening an office in Serbia. The projects group will focus on PPP and PFI work in the region, and will be led by London partners Anthony Fine, Edward Marston, Michael Scott and Ashok Ghosh. The firm plans to open in Serbia by the end of the year. The projects group and the Serbian plans are part of the same push into Central and Eastern Europe. The region is currently awash with deals focusing on the privatisation of state-owned infrastructure. According to Altheimer Prague partner Christopher Berlew, Serbia has a lack of foreign lawyers and is set to attract a lot of inward investment from private companies and banks. "This is a country that needs a lot of building up and its resources are stretched," said Berlew. "Lawyers with an office nearby can do the work, but as clients start to come into Serbia they'll want people on the ground. "If you don't open in Serbia, you're leaving money on the table." The firm is currently considering all of its options, and is as yet undecided on whether to pursue a joint venture or a merger in Serbia or to build its own office. Altheimer London partner Nick Towle is on secondment to the Serbian Privatisation Agency, working alongside the director as a personal adviser. The firm has already won a tender to advise the Romanian government on a PFI project encompassing the privatisation of several car factories. Fine, Altheimer's head of global projects, who is heading up the Central and Eastern European projects group, said: "The Central and Eastern European market has shown a clear need for PFI and PPP. We're hoping that our long history of doing and understanding business in Central and Eastern Europe will provide a unique platform in the area."