30/10/2007 - 22:00

Minter Ellison's continental shift

30/10/2007 - 22:00

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One of the many Western Australian law firms to benefit from the local resources boom has recognised an opportunity on another continent where local miners are prominent. Minter Ellison’s Perth office has established an African centre of excellence to

Minter Ellison's continental shift

One of the many Western Australian law firms to benefit from the local resources boom has recognised an opportunity on another continent where local miners are prominent.

Minter Ellison’s Perth office has established an African centre of excellence to provide legal advice to Australian companies in the region working in mining and oil and gas.

Minter Ellison partner Duncan Maclean, who is heading the new specialist centre, said its establishment reflected the amount of interest and activity in the African resources sector.

“We are finding a number of clients are looking at opportunities in Africa and require assistance with the usual legal requirements,” Mr Maclean said.

“Currently, there’s about 15 Australian Securities Exchange-listed, Perth-headquartered companies that are active there, and all need assistance with legal services.”

The firm’s new centre will service clients with operations in a number of countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Congo, and Botswana.

Mr Maclean said the legal centre would advise clients on issues of sovereign risk, taxation, exchange and bribery.

Part of the challenge of providing legal advice in Africa, he said, was the language barrier.

“About 30 of the 50 or so countries in Africa are French speaking, with a civil law system,” Mr Maclean said.

To this end, the firm has recruited a dual French- and English-qualified lawyer, who will join the team in January.

The centre will have a team of about eight, with other members of the firm’s energy and resources group available for projects as needed.

Minter Ellison has an international energy and resources team of 160 lawyers.

Mr Maclean said clients generally needed to know where their money was being spent, how to generate and retain profit, and how to dispose of and realise their asset.

“A range of things impact those elements. We advise clients on how to get value within the legal framework,” he said.

Mallesons Stephen Jaques partner in charge Alan Murray said although his firm provided advice to clients in Africa, including several recent deals in Botswana, the region was not an area of special focus.

“Africa is clearly a place of considerable interest, but we have a focus more on the local resources and Asian resources markets,” Mr Murray said.

Clayton Utz managing partner Geoff Simpson said his firm had been servicing clients with operations in Africa for about 20 years, in both mining and oil and gas sectors.

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