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Reed Smith has become the latest international firm to open an office in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana.
The US firm launched its first office in Central Asia with the hire of two corporate partners, Vladimir Shuster and Arman Tastanbekov, joining from Morgan Lewis and White & Case respectively.
Both partners were previously with Dewey & Leboeuf’s Almaty office until the US firm’s collapse in May 2013 (4 May 2012).
The pair, both dual-qualified in the US and Kazakhstan, will be the resident partners in the new office. They are experienced in corporate and commercial transactions, particularly in cross-border deals in the energy and resources sector.
Reed Smith’s London-based international arbitration partner Belinda Paisley will lead the office. Prior to the office launch, Paisley and her team have acted on Kazakh disputes for more than a decade. The firm has six Kazakh qualified lawyers working in London, and half of them will be relocating to the Astana office.
Significant matters Paisley has advised on include representing the Republic of Kazkhstan (RoK) in successfully challenging two separate arbitrations filed against the state by two investors with a total claimed amount of $3bn (6 November 2013).
However, international arbitration work is not the only driver behind the firm’s move in Kazakhstan. Paisley noted that transactional practice and energy and natural resources are the more important rationales.
“We’ve already built up a track record in the dispute resolution practice there and we are looking at doing more and a wider range of work there,” said Paisley. “The Kazakh market is a good fit with Reed Smith’s strategic focus, particularly on the transactional side. There are strong synergies with the firm’s key practice areas and sectorial groups, such as M&A, banking, private equity and energy and resource.”
The partner hires and office launch is also the firm’s response to clients’ growing demand for on-the-ground transactional advice. Last year, the firm’s corporate team advised the Kazakh government on its participation in a consortium on the £3bn takeover of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (25 June 2013).
“The opening is partly linked to the importance of the energy and resources sector in Kazakhstan, both in terms of its oil and gas production capability and refinery capacity. It is also an important geographical route through which oil and gas are transported across Europe and Asia,” said co-global energy and natural resources head Kyri Evagora. “It overlaps well with our strategy in the oil and gas industry and energy and resources sector.”
Over the past year, a raft of international firms have expanded in this key central Asia market. White & Case and Dentons have both recently opened their second Kazakh office in Astana (1 October 2013). In september 2013, Central and Eastern European (CEE) firm Kinstellar launched an Almaty office with a 10-lawyer team from Dentons (3 September 2013).