Creative solutionsSeptember 29, 2021
Naila Ramsay and Heba Anwar Raslan, partners at Sharkawy & Sarhan, talk to The Energy Year about how Egypt’s energy industry is recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic and the firm’s competitive advantages. Sharkawy & Sarhan is an Egyptian law firm with a focus on infrastructure, power (both conventional and renewable energy), oil and gas, and mineral resources.
How would you assess the Egyptian energy industry after the downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic?
Naila RAMSAY: Covid-19 had a big impact. Luckily, we do not seem to have been hit as badly as other countries. We are one of the few countries that has continued to grow economically during the crisis, albeit at a slower pace. Egypt remains open for business. Our government, led by our president, has repositioned Egypt at the heart of Africa. Egypt is one of the biggest recipients of EBRD [European Bank for Reconstruction and Development] funds. This is a huge sign of confidence from DFIs [development financial institutions] in our economy, our institutions and the direction taken by our government.
Heba Anwar RASLAN: The new bidding round will undoubtedly produce greenfield projects, which means lots of investment. Securing investment for exploration is becoming more and more challenging. This is not specific to Egypt, but a global issue. It means that IOCs have needed to find novel and creative solutions and we are happy to have helped with seeing through some of these. However, we have seen a lot of interest in the new bid round. Some of the areas are new frontier ones, particularly those in the West Med.
What is Sharkawy & Sarhan’s client base?
NR: We have a strong reputation for advising financial institutions and they form a large part of our client base. We are privileged to count the EBRD as one of our main clients. We are currently working with the EBRD on several key infrastructure and renewables projects in Egypt. In addition to advising DFIs and commercial banks, we act for market leading sponsors and the public sector.
HAR: In the energy sector we regularly advise IOCs, independent oil and gas companies, and NOCs. Our clients include Shell, KUFPEC, Energean, Dragon Oil, Petronas, Dana Gas, Dana Petroleum, Eni and Neptune. Energy is one of our five key sectors and represents a substantial part of our work.
What is the firm’s involvement in the local renewables sector?
NR: We try to anticipate what is happening in the market, which is why we are very interested in green hydrogen. Our traditional clients have also expressed interest in this area. The government is keen. International law firms are positioning themselves to get work in this sector. We have a prolific power and utilities practice. We were privileged to have advised all financial institutions on the second round of the feed-in-tariff programme as well as advising on several large BOO projects and the first distributed generation projects financed by DFIs.
What are the competitive advantages of your firm?
NR: We are sector and industry focused. While some law firms do everything, we are focused on the areas that we specialise in. Our deep on-the-ground knowledge of substantive legal issues, our market expertise and our appreciation of industry-specific concerns allow us to navigate the Egyptian legal framework with confidence whilst applying our business mindset to best support our clients. We have acquired knowledge by acting on some exciting, complex transaction with complicated cross-border elements. Through our best friend network with international law firms, we have opportunities to send our young lawyers on secondments abroad (mainly London and Dubai).
We make sure that the service we give is spot on, reliable and seamless. In our experience, following this model means we cannot grow too fast. We are looking at steady, strategic growth by focusing on our main sectors.
HAR: We put a lot of energy and commitment into developing long-term relationships with our clients, always built on trust and mutual respect.
What other markets does Sharkawy & Sarhan work in?
NR: Our market is Egypt. Recently, an increasing number of our large Egypt-based clients have been doing business in Africa. We are sometimes asked to co-ordinate and manage local law firms in Africa. This is a reasonably new development for us. For example, we have clients in the power generation sector and energy industry that have asked us to get involved and help them do business in Mozambique, Tanzania and other countries in Africa.