12-06-2008: Zaid Ibrahim & Co 1st Asian legal firm to start operations in Dubai
by Sharon Tan
KUALA LUMPUR: Zaid Ibrahim & Co created history by being the first Asian legal firm to export services to the Middle East, after receiving approval from the Dubai Financial Services Authority to provide legal services to local, regional and international clients in and from Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC).
The firm’s Dubai office would start operation in July, just about a year after it established a Middle East desk.
Its chairman Datuk Dr Nik Norzrul Thani said the law firm was positioning itself as the gateway for Malaysian and Southeast Asian clients making their way to the Middle Eastern market and as a springboard for Middle Eastern clients coming to Malaysia and the region.
“We set up the Middle Eastern desk last year. It was a natural progression because the response was overwhelming,” he told The Edge Financial Daily.
He said the firm was approached by DIFC to set up an office in Dubai alongside international law firms from the US and UK that were already operating in Dubai.
Zaid Ibrahim & Co, which already has a client base in Dubai, is also targeting commercial work besides the financial and infrastructure sectors. In the pipeline are a few projects in the Gulf Cooperation Council states.
Islamic assets in the Gulf region are expected to grow at a rate of 20% to 25% and would be worth about US$1.4 trillion (RM4.55 trillion) by 2010, while the Sukuk issuance by companies from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar is expected to be worth US$29 billion.
The DIFC estimated that the current market for Islamic financial products is in excess of US$260 billion, which is expected to grow at 12% to 15% annually in the next 10 years.
The law firm is expected to invest about RM500,000 in setting up its office in Dubai. Zaid Ibrahim & Co’s other offices are located in Singapore, Jakarta, Bangkok and Vietnam. These offices (including the Dubai offices) are expected to contribute between 25% and 30% to the law firm’s revenue.
Zaid Ibrahim & Co created another first when it established an affiliated company, ZI Shariah Advisory Services Sdn Bhd to provide legal and advisory services on Islamic law to local and overseas clients.
ZI Shariah is recognised by the Securities Commission (SC) as an approved Syariah Advisor for Sukuk issuances.
“This initiative makes Zaid Ibrahim & Co the first and only law firm in the country to possess Syariah advisory services capabilities, said Nik Norzrul, adding that the company was also engaged by Asian Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank for advisory work.
Zaid Ibrahim & Co managing partner Chew Seng Kok said ZI Shariah could provide lawyers and syariah advisors to its clients.
“You don’t want to structure something and then find out that it is not syariah compliant,” said Chew.
ZI Shariah advisory is in line with applicable syariah principles, international syariah standards such as those issued by the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions and relevant resolutions made by the Syariah Advisory Councils of the Securities Commission and Bank Negara.