Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nik Norzrul Thani helms Zaid Ibrahim & Co

Zaid Ibrahim & Co, Malaysia's largest law firm, saw its founder getting a seat in the Cabinet. Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who did not contest in the recent general election, has been appointed as Minister in the Prime Minister's Department. With the Kelantan-hailing lawyer relinquishing all his interest in the firm, partner Dato' Dr Nik Norzrul Thani now assumes the firm's chairmanship. The Malaysian Reserve had interviewed Nik Norzul in November. Here's the piece.


Zaid Ibrahim & Co, the country's largest legal firm that is actively engaged in regional work in the field of Islamic finance, has won a number of big ticket items and expects to export their legal services overseas. The firm — with presence in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand — is looking at a slew of new cases and investment transactions in this region and as well as the Middle East.

"We have branches all over. We are able to export our Islamic finance expertise to these countries," Datuk Dr Nik Norzrul Thani Nik Hassan Thani, a partner at the legal firm told The Malaysian Reserve.

Nik Norzrul Thani, who heads the firm's Islamic finance practice, said legal firms and other advisors now require broader understanding of Syariah and related fields as demand for more competitive products intensifies amongst the Islamic finance providers. For some time now, bankers have voiced their frustrations at the lack of legal experts in Islamic financing, an area that is still undergoing growth. "We strive to have people who do cutting edge work," said Nik Norzrul Thani, formerly a dean at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) and a lawyer with Baker & Mc Kenzie.

Over the last few years, Zaid Ibrahim & Co have managed to secure a number of Islamic finance related assignments. The law firm says its lawyers have structured some of the most innovative financing transactions in the region. In Brunei, it was appointed advisors for the first issuance of Islamic bonds based on the Syariah principles of Sukuk Al-Ijarah while in Indonesia, it advised on an Islamic financing structure based on the Syariah principle of Al-Murabaha.

Among others, it worked on a US$100 (RM332) million Sukuk Al-Ijarah Islamic financing facility in Bruinei, Islamic financing product bond on the principle of Al-Murabahah in the UK, a US$35 million Murabahah Islamic trade finance facility in South Africa and a US$10 million Bai Ad-Dayn Islamic facility in Canada. Locally, among the big ticket items included a RM5.57 billion MTN issued under the Istina principle to finance all costs associated with the initial operations of a power plant and a RM5.1 billion Al-Bai' Bithaman Ajil Islamic debt securities for a highwayrelated client.

It is also advising a number of financial institutions on standardising their Islamic banking documentation. Zaid Ibrahim & Co's Islamic banking and finance practice comprises five lawyers who cover an extensive range of domestic and regional transactions, with an emphasis on projects in emerging markets in Asia.

"One of the defining features of the firm's lawyers is their ability to add value -whether by creating innovative structures, finding solutions that meet the differing objectives of multiple parties or by contributing cutting edge substantive advice on a range of matters.

"Our lawyers are familiar with the products and structures available in the market and have advised on matters in Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, hence are able to assist clients on innovative forms of structured Islamic financing to meet the specific and unique needs of clients' commercial strategies and drivers," according to the firm's description of its Islamic banking and finance practice.

Nik Norzrul Thani said the firm has also team up with regulators to organise Islamic finance related seminars in the region; the most recent held in Jakarta. (THE MALAYSIAN RESERVE, Nov 12, 2007)

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