Consulting and legal services firm HFI Consulting International is to launch its Middle East and North Africa (MENA) legal base in Lebanon.
The move puts the firm at the heart of an increasingly relevant territory for the energy and water industries, and has led to two of Beirut’s most successful commercial lawyers becoming part of the core HFI team.
Anwar and Ramzi Selouan are senior partners in the Selouan Law Practice and both have over two decades of experience in MENA commercial and corporate law. Tri-lingual in Arabic, French and English, they are recognised as one of Lebanon’s most respected legal teams.
The announcement comes just days after HFI, the brainchild of former Wood Group head of legal Hugh Fraser, was formally relaunched. The Scots lawyer initially set up HFI in the Middle East in 2003, but has spent the past four years establishing the Middle East foothold for a US specialist energy law firm’s operation in the UAE.
HFI specialises in the planning and execution of business expansion projects in the Middle East for companies with advanced technology and know-how in the energy sector and water industry. Many of the firm’s clients have their origins in the North Sea.
Mr Fraser says, “Basing HFI Legal Consultancy MENA in Lebanon could be considered a radical move given that the UAE is a more common location. However, Beirut won the business case for a number of well-defined reasons.
“Firstly, we are gaining access to a highly educated and internationally-minded resource pool of tri-lingual Arabic, French and English speakers to lead on Arabic language negotiations and legal documentation across the region from Morocco to Oman.
“In addition, Beirut is also adjacent to the exciting deepwater gas projects which are emerging in the East Mediterranean; and finally, the regulatory and taxation regime is fair and reasonable and Lebanon fits naturally with our existing activities and plans for Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
“With the tri-lingual Selouan brothers on board as core team members at the Beirut base camp, combined with our home-based team in Scotland and our network of in-country firms and consultants in the MENA region, we believe we have an incredibly strong proposition.
“The Selouan Law Practice was set up by the brothers’ father in the 1960s: Ramzi and Anwar are renowned for their integrity and their knowledge of Arabic corporate and commercial law and practice is second to none.
“Beirut has seen its challenges over the years, but it is very resilient and internationally focussed. The Lebanese are considered the ‘Scots of the Middle East’: they are highly educated, mobile, personable and committed and we believe that we will have a long and successful association with Lebanon.”
HFI has established offices in the centre of Beirut and the Selouan brothers will be joined by MENA business licensing and registration manager, Linda Al Orm. She will split her time between the new MENA legal base in her home country, the firm’s consulting and corporate services offices at DMCC free zone in Dubai, where she has lived for five years, and the firm’s representative office in Abu Dhabi.
Mr Fraser will continue to be based in the Middle East and the Scottish operation is headed up by senior legal consultant Malcolm Kelly, who spent over 20 years with global engineering firm Weir Group.