DWS targets Africa to halt banking slump

Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS) is gearing up for a massive investment in Africa and the Middle East as it looks to boost the dwindling profit of the firm’s flagship banking team.

Following an all-encompassing five-month strategic review of the firm’s largest practice area, which was first revealed by The Lawyer (5 March), the group will move away from once lucrative PFI work in the UK and look to international project finance for salvation.

DWS managing partner Howard Morris said: “We wanted to make sure the firm is concentrating on the profitable areas and making the most of the expertise we have.

“There’s a lot of competition in the market with so many firms doing extremely well in finance. We have to respond to this and play to our strengths.”

As part of the strategy, project finance head Howard Barrie will move to the firm’s Paris office, which has seen substantial growth in work in African jurisdictions.

While the firm has embarked on a recruitment drive of partners and associates in its Abu Dhabi office, it also plans to recruit heavily in Johannesburg and strengthen links between its Middle East and Africa offices across all practice areas.

Director of Africa development Paul Buginga said: “There’s a lot of investment in Africa coming from the Middle East. Linking the offices in these regions will help us to create more potential and attract clients.”

Morris explained that the firmwide emphasis on emerging markets has steered the team into project finance and expanding its capital markets capabilities.

“Other firms have moved away from project finance because of low profitability. Our energy and projects work means we’re well placed to benefit from this area of finance,” he said.

While some African jurisdictions have stringent and complex regulatory environments, a small number of international firms such as DLA Piper, Gide Loyrette Noel and White & Case, have benefited from the burgeoning energy and projects sector.