Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS) is ramping up its Abu Dhabi office in order to respond to the huge investment into the city by the sheikhdom’s government.
The firm is set to double the size of its Abu Dhabi practice from seven to 14 by the end of the year.
Asset finance specialist Owain Jones is being fast-tracked to partnership and will move to Abu Dhabi in the New Year from the firm’s London office. DWS is also in the process of capturing a lateral hire in the region.
Christopher McGee Osborne, head of the firm’s energy, transport and infrastructure team, told The Lawyer: “We’ve been looking to expand our Gulf offices for a while and Abu Dhabi has pushed itself to the top of the pile because of the growth in the city that’s taken place since the new ruler took over.
“The city is competing for the role of main commercial hub in the region against Dubai and Qatar.” Last year Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan died and was succeeded by his son Sheikh Khalifa, who has been responsible for many of the changes.
The Abu Dhabi government has set up an investment authority, the Higher Corporation for Specialised Economic Zones, which will set up a series of free zones similar to those operating in Dubai. The city is also building a new airport and establishing its own airline, Ittihad.
DWS has been in Abu Dhabi since 1981 and has been involved in drafting some of the sheikhdom’s legislation, including its electricity privatisation programme. It has also advised Union National Bank on the establishment of its Euro Medium Term Note programme and Amlak Finance on its first Sukuk.
The Middle East has become a hot spot for firms looking to expand internationally in recent years. However, Abu Dhabi has been largely overlooked in favour of Dubai.
DWS is one of just a small selection of international firms with an office in Abu Dhabi. The others include Shearman & Sterling, Simmons & Simmons and Trowers & Hamlins.
DWS is also planning to bolster its Muscat office in the near future.