THE FIRM Herbert Smith Freehills receives high praise for its heavyweight capabilities in African projects work. The team has around 60 dedicated experts worldwide, with a particularly strong offering in Paris. The practice advises on all aspects of energy and infrastructure projects, and highlights include representing GDF SUEZ in the development of an LNG terminal in Cameroon. On the financing side, the firm advised four French banks on the USD600 million limited recourse financing of an upstream development in Equatorial Guinea. The October 2012 merger with Freehills in Australia expanded the firm's Africa capabilities, adding particular strength to its already renowned mining practice.
Sources say: "They have a long history in Africa." "They distinguish themselves by being very customer-facing lawyers. They understand practical solutions and arrive at them quickly."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Africa practice head Stéphane Brabant also leads the energy and infrastructure group in Paris, and is referred to as the firm's "guru of Africa." He receives outstanding praise from peers and clients, who laud his "knowledge of Africa, his experience out there and also his interpersonal skills with local people."
A "valuable asset" to the Africa group, Bertrand Montembault impresses sources with his dedication and expert guidance.
Mehdi Haroun has considerable expertise in North Africa, and is dual-qualified in Algeria and France. He has years of practice in Morocco, Tunisia and Libya, as well as the wider MENA region, and is fluent in French, English and Arabic.
London-based partner Martin Kavanagh advises sponsors and lenders on a variety of project work. Peers hold him in high regard, and one expert commented: "He's a great lawyer - if I'm in a conflict situation he'd be on my list."
Rebecca Major is a key member of the practice in Tokyo. She advises Japanese clients on their African interests, including M&A in the energy sector and project work. According to one source: "She's really impressive - no-nonsense, and knows the African environment."
Nina Bowyer is based in the Paris office and regularly leads mandates in anglophone Africa. She is especially active in Nigerian projects.