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BAKER & McKenzie is increasing its presence in the Middle East by opening an office in Bahrain.
It will be the first firm to have operations in the two main financial centres of the Gulf region - Manama in Bahrain and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
The new office will be headed by John Xefos, currently managing partner of the Riyadh office. Xefos will be assisted by English banking partner Ian Siddell and two US banking lawyers.
"Bahrain represents significant potential for Baker & McKenzie, especially in the core practice areas of banking and finance," says partner Nigel Carrington, chairman of the firm's Europe-Middle East Regional Council.
Baker & McKenzie already has established clients in the region, including ANZ Grindlays, the Chase and National Bank of Bahrain and the Gulf International Bank.
"We've seen strong growth in the Gulf region," says Carrington.
"Each year, more and more foreign-owned and domestic companies are establishing operations here."
At present, Norton Rose is believed to be the only English practice with an office in Bahrain.
Clifford Chance terminated its association with Bahrain two years ago when the City-based firm refocused its Middle Eastern operation around Dubai.
Baker & McKenzie says there is room for a practice offering sophisticated financial advice to Bahrain's commercial and investment banks, of which there are more than 70.
The firm now has 60 offices in 35 countries, including 24 offices in its Europe-Middle East region, which account for one-third of its £443m global revenue.