DWF signs deal to set up regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia and unveils new legal alliance

Listed firm one of 44 businesses set to base Middle East operations in Riyadh as part of Saudi investment drive

Riyadh Shutterstock

Listed UK law firm DWF has reshuffled its operations in the Middle East by announcing the creation of a regional headquarters for its business services arms in Riyadh while also launching an association with local law firm Al-Ohaly & Partners to boost its legal division in Saudi Arabia. 

The Riyadh office is set to become the Manchester-based firm’s third in the region, adding to its existing presence in Doha and Dubai, and was unveiled as part of the kingdom’s latest push to become a regional commercial hub under the Future Investment Initiative by licensing 44 international companies, including DWF, to open regional headquarters in Riyadh.

Under the new plans, the Riyadh office will house the firm’s business services divisions, Connected Services and Mindcrest, as DWF Arabia. The new entity will be led by Mohab Khattab, who joins the firm as DWF Arabia’s chief executive officer.  Khattab, who previously served as general counsel of the Saudi Arabian Industrial Investments Company, brings with him more than two decades of experience as a lawyer and business development executive in the region and focuses his practice in the energy, financial services and TMT sectors. 

DWF’s legal services division, meanwhile, will operate in Riyadh through the tie-up with Al-Ohaly & Partners, led by former Clyde & Co associate Abdulrahman Al-Ohaly. The firm will focus on advising local clients on dispute resolution, corporate and banking and finance matters.

DWF had previously operated in Saudi Arabia via an association with Harasani & Alkhamees Law Firm, which was unveiled in 2017. That arrangement appears to have come to an end in January 2020.

Commenting on the deal signed today, chief executive Sir Nigel Knowles said: “This is an important step forward for us in developing our ability to support our clients wherever they need us to be [...] We will build our presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the months and years ahead, to support both the government of Saudi Arabia and the business community as a trusted advisor.” 

Knowles added that DWF Arabia and Al-Ohaly & Partners will work closely with DWF’s existing teams in Doha and Dubai as well as its wider international network to expand its local footprint under the kingdom’s initiative. 

Other companies that announced their plans to open in Riyadh include multinationals in the technology, food and beverages, consulting and construction sector including Unilever, Baker Hughes and Siemens, according to Reuters

The expansion continues the firm's recovery after a turbulent pandemic-impacted 2020, which saw it scale back its Australian legal operations and close its Singapore and Brussels offices in a series of cost cutting measures that also included the closure of its flexible resourcing arm, DWF Resource. As part of that process the firm also reduced the size of its Dubai office, although it went back onto the front foot in February when it hired insurance partner Brian Boahene from Ince to establish an insurance practice, 

Turnover at DWF hit £338m for its financial year to 30 April with adjusted profit before tax of £34m exceeding market expectations by 15%, while organic growth increased by 8%, the firm reported in May. The pandemic-fuelled scale-backs, meanwhile, led it to reduce its net debt at year-end to £61m from £65m in 2020. 


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