Monday, April 28, 2008

Azmi, Illiayas merger primed for growing Islamic finance

TAPPING the growing Islamic finance sector is a major impetus in the recent merger of local law firms, Azmi & Associates and Illiayas. Besides flexing their muscle with numbers, it is understood that grabbing a bigger slice of Islamic finance work was a key consideration in the merger that was officially announced on April 24 in Kuala Lumpur.

Islamic finance industry officials say that Illiayas has been "pretty successful" in cornering Islamic finance work, including from large corporations and financial institutions, though the firm is moderately small.

Illiayas was established on April 1, 1996 and at its peak had three partners and six support staff specialising in banking, Islamic banking, litigation, insurance and conveyancing, according to a joint press release.

The firm is anchored by Mohamad Illiayas Seyed Ibrahim, a graduate of the National University of Singapore and a lawyer of 20 years standing, specialising in banking, Islamic banking and finance.

His partner, Gurmel Singh, is a litigation lawyer of 15 years standing whose clients include Government-linked corporations (GLCs) and banks.

Azmi & Associates, established on Sept 1, 2000 with 12 lawyers, now has 31 lawyers comprising seven partners, 24 lawyers and 15 trainee solicitors. It provides legal services for the capital & debt market, energy and utility sector and advises on intellectual property, mergers & acquisitions, projects, real estate, venture capital, litigation and dispute resolution.

Their combined strength was seen when both law firms invited their clients to a cocktail party at the Malaysian Petroleum Club at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre last Thursday.

With the merger, Azmi Mohd Ali said he aims to turn the new entity, operating under the name of "Azmi & Associates", into one of the top ten local legal firms and a regional player. Prior to this merger, was the high-profile successful merger between legal firms Lee Hishamuddin and Allen & Gledhill two years ago.

The merged entity of Lee Hishamuddin Allen & Gledhill is now one of the top and preferred law firms in Malaysia. Besides immediately increasing the standing of the combined firm to Tier 2, which makes it amongst the top 10 law firms in Malaysia, the merger is also intended to "make the combined firm renowned in the areas of Islamic banking and finance in the Middle Eastern market".

Increasingly, the firm noted that general counsel are looking for breadth, depth and experience when making hiring decisions.

"This can put small and mid-size firms at a disadvantage in competing for higher level work. This merger is envisioned to provide considerable benefit for Azmi & Associates and Illiayas in striving to advance our position as a top tier-practice," the statement said.

(By Habhajan Singh, The Malaysian Reserve, April 28, 2008)

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