BY THE BOOKS

Lebanon 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

One of the biggest law firms in Lebanon, Eptalex-Aziz Torbey Law Firm assists local and international clients in dealing with all aspects of business law.

Ramy Torbey
BIOGRAPHY
Ramy Torbey is the Chairman & Co-founder of Eptalex and the Managing Partner of the Eptalex Beirut office, Aziz Torbey Law Firm. He is an expert in corporate law, M&A, project finance, and international taxation law, advising financial institutions, holding companies, and international and local businesses across various sectors and industries. He recently co-founded the Lebanese Association of PPP to support and promote the efforts of the Lebanese authorities for the reconstruction of infrastructures in Lebanon through PPP models.

How will the political situation impact the economy and business?

The formation of a new government, combined with other factors such as oil exploration and the removal of Saudi's embargo on Lebanon, boosts investor confidence. PPP Law No. 48 was enacted in 2017 and will act as a vehicle for carrying out infrastructure projects. This will instill confidence in the sector and market, provide more transparency, and reduce the level of corruption. Moreover, as Syria is transitioning to peace, there is a giant opportunity for Lebanon to play a role as the hub for reconstruction. We are getting numerous inquiries from clients about the market, tenders, and possibilities. One sector in Lebanon that could greatly benefit from PPPs is electricity, which has attracted widespread attention as one of the main points to tackle within the framework of reforms demanded during the CEDRE conference. The electricity sector was officially privatized 15 years ago. There were some decrees that were supposed to be enacted by the government to supervise the transition to privatization, but that were never started due to a number of political issues. This time, there is optimism regarding long-awaited changes to the sector.

What are the strengths of your firm?

We are a business law firm dealing with all aspects of business law. Outside of Lebanon, we have offices in Milan, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. The rationale for the opening of our offices followed an organic pattern, reflecting current partnerships and clients. We count on partnerships with big firms, and our clientele mostly comprises foreign individuals and companies. We have several French, Italian, and Russian clients, as well as Algerians, Saudi Arabians, and Emiratis. A number of international law firms rely on our services to cover Lebanon and the region. We are able to close the cultural gap that may exist between these firms' clients and their regional counterparties, delivering the highest quality of service that they are used to, combined with local expertise and qualification. We always stay on the edge of innovation, coming up with new structures that can be interesting for the clients in terms of governance, taxation, and possibilities to grow locally and globally. We are also a paperless law firm and have put in place the technology to deliver fast and efficient legal services. One of our strengths is legal technology. We work with banks and financial institutions to provide services related to online payments, electronic payment gateways, credit card companies, and so on. We also deal with technical due diligence during takeovers and mergers. We have worked with several online platforms in terms of drafting all the documentation, from user agreements to public-private policies and putting the legal background in place.

How will Circular 331 impact the economy?

Circular 331 was an interesting initiative launched by the Central Bank to support start-ups and boost the knowledge economy. At first, it had an impact on the economy as it allowed banks to start considering investing with start-ups. Unfortunately, the conditions on the entrepreneurs did not allow it to strive and have a better impact on the future. It expected a number of guarantees that were not always available for small entrepreneurs. Thus, at the moment it is not as efficient as it could be.

Is there a piece of legislation that can benefit the business scene in Lebanon?

There are a few laws that are under debate at the moment in Parliament. One of the last laws that will change the situation on ground is the Commercial Code, which has not been changed for 80 years. Another step forward is the bankruptcy law. Previously, bankruptcy was more of a penalty that was imposed instead of the Chapter 11 model that allows the company to survive and pay its creditors. The law will also have a big impact on companies' governance in Lebanon.