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US firm Baker Botts has opened a Dubai office to expand its Middle East and North Africa practice at the same time as Ashurst reveals its plans to launch in the region.
As first revealed on www. thelawyer.com (20 April) Stephen Matthews, Middle East managing partner at Baker Botts, will move to Dubai from Riyadh with three associates. Matthews plans to have between eight and 10 lawyers in Dubai by the end of 2005.
"With its vibrant economy and proximity to other Middle East energy capitals, Dubai is an ideal location to base our rapidly growing Middle East practice," Matthews told The Lawyer.
Baker Botts has been involved in several large-scale energy infrastructure projects in the Gulf region. Matthews said: "We did the $90m (£47m) Murabaha petrochemical Islamic financing for the Gulf Farabi Petrochemical Company; work for the Samba Financial Group; upstream and LNG [liquid natural gas] work in Qatar; and independent power projects."
Chair of global projects Stuart Schaffer commented: "The Dubai office will serve a number of sectors in the energy industry, where we intend to continue our ongoing LNG, petrochemical and electric power work."
Baker Botts also hopes to increase its corporate, banking, finance, telecommunications, construction and dispute resolution work.
Managing partner Walt Smith said: "Dubai is a base for energy companies and financial institutions and will increase our ability to serve and expand our client base."
As well as Dubai and Riyadh, Baker Botts has offices in Austin, Baku, Dallas, Houston, London, Moscow, New York and Washington DC. In contrast with other firms' strategies in Asia, it is also planning to launch a Hong Kong office and is looking at possibilities in China.
Meanwhile, Ashurst is in the early stages of planning its own Dubai launch, although the firm has yet to secure a licence to practice in the region.