The firm has appointed two founding partners to launch the office. Rob Morson joins from Bowman Gilfillan where he was Head of Construction and is widely-regarded as a pre-eminent practitioner in the market as reflected in his Star Individual ranking in Chambers and Partners. Shane Voigt also joins from the same firm and is similarly recognised as one of the leading disputes partners in the infrastructure sector. He is also known for his experience with Chinese contractors and infrastructure investors and is a committee member of the Africa Sub-Committee of the China Africa Joint Arbitration Centre (CAJAC). Further partner appointments are expected before the firm formally opens its doors in early 2017.
The new team will join Pinsent Masons already well-developed Africa practice built around the energy and infrastructure investment communities in London, Paris, Dubai, and Beijing in particular. Globally the firm currently has around 40 partners and 150 lawyers working on Africa-related matters across 38 African countries. In 2013 the firm appointed Akshai Fofaria to lead the firm's Africa initiative and last year brought in project finance specialist Stéphane Gasne from the East African Development Bank. Over 50 of the firm's top 250 clients have a presence in South Africa.
Significant African mandates upon which the firm has been engaged in the past include acting as international counsel on the development of the 80km Gautrain rapid transit railway linking Johannesburg to OR Tambo International Airport, and working with the European Investment Bank to shape thinking around the development of Public Private Partnerships ('PPP') in North African countries. The firm also recently advised Turkish contractor Yapi Merkezi Inşaat ve Sanayi on a $1.7bn railway project in Ethiopia.
The South Africa presence will be fully-integrated into the wider firm. It will be the second new international office to be launched by Pinsent Masons this calendar year following its launch in Dusseldorf, and brings the firm's total number of offices to 22.
Richard Foley, Senior Partner of Pinsent Masons, says:
"Africa is a fast-growing market with clear infrastructure need. It's a market where we are already doing significant business for Chinese organisations, European contractors, investors and funds. Having an on-the-ground presence in Johannesburg, led by a team with a market-leading reputation will enable us to scale the existing practice significantly. We will focus on infrastructure initially – and particularly projects in the energy, IT, Telecoms and transport arena. It takes us a further step toward our vision of being recognised as an international market leader in the global sectors upon which we focus. We said at the turn of the year that we would continue to invest to stay relevant and this is proof of our commitment."
Richard Laudy, Global Head of Infrastructure at Pinsent Masons, says:
"Pinsent Masons has a global reputation for excellence and innovation, and a genuine commitment to a deep understanding of industry sectors. The firm's success in pursuing a sector-led expansion strategy has been proven. Johannesburg is increasingly well-positioned as an entry point for international investors transacting business across the African continent, so there is real opportunity to pursue."