CITY firm Norton Rose is closing its Prague office despite optimistic hopes that it would outperform the firm's venture in Moscow.

The Prague office opened in 1994 and was staffed by solicitor David Lacey, consultant Jennie Mills and three support staff.

Lacey will now handle Czech clients from the London office in a section headed by corporate finance partner Andrew Phillips.

Mills said she intended to continue working within the Czech Republic and Central Europe but would not give any details.

When the Prague office opened, Lacey said he hoped it would be as successful as the firm's Moscow branch, which grew to a team of seven lawyers within its first four years of operation.

He also said the political and economic conditions were more favourable for growth in the Czech Republic than in Moscow.

Lacey would not be drawn on the reasons behind the latest move. “We were all positive, but it didn't turn out as we hoped,” he said. “The firm has made its decision. It is a matter of allocating resources.”

Norton Rose managing partner Roger Birkby said the firm was now focusing on the rapidly expanding volume of work in Singapore, Moscow and Paris.

“While we have been able to do some interesting work in the Czech Republic over the last few years, our assessment of the long-term potential of that particular market is that it would not repay a further investment of resources at the necessary level,” he said.