NEW DATA PROTECTION LAW

Qatar 2019 | EXECUTIVE GUIDE | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Rashid Al Saad Al Kuwari, Senior Partner of Sharq Law Firm, on the World Cup, Qatari IPOs, and the new Data Protection Law.

Qatar has intensified its business relations with countries beyond the GCC. How has this affected the business for law firms?

Qatar has always understood the importance of attracting international companies to conduct and carry out business in the country. Especially, with Qatar hosting the World Cup 2022, it became vital to have international companies bring their experience to develop and execute various projects. This effected law firms in several ways, mainly, through the requirement to have a team of varied members in terms of culture, language, background, experience, and education that can meet the expectation of different companies and international parties. Second, law firms had to build a larger team due to the size of work assigned as a result of the booming economy. Finally, increased competition meant law firms had to introduce attractive modules of services and better quality of service to grow and shine in the market.

How is Sharq law firm involved in IPOs in the Qatari market?

Sharq law firm has extensive experience in the field of capital markets and IPOs, as the firm has been a leading player in major IPOs happening in Qatar over the past few years. Being a local law firm with an international outreach, Sharq law firm has been able to adequately advise clients on the best structure to establish a company or transform a limited liability company/private shareholding company into a public shareholding company. Sharq law firm has not just helped with the establishment phase, but has played a constant active role in advising clients with due diligence or prospectuses in order to ensure a smooth efficient process. Since we are a local law firm, it puts us on a greater playing field as we are able to benefit from certain exemptions as a result of the government's desire to encourage growth in the market, which also falls in line with Qatar's Vision 2030.

What is the added value that a strong legal partner can bring for international companies starting business in Qatar?

Under the Qatari Law, only Qatari lawyers who are admitted in the Qatari Bar can advise and appear at the Qatari Courts, making the experience of local law firms irreplaceable. Sharq law firm has built a team that has local and international members who are qualified in common law countries and civil law countries with experience that varies and differs in terms of education and practice. An international business or a company that comes to Qatar looks for a partner who can understand their language and business needs and advice on the local law, which is our strength.

Which major regulatory changes are in the pipeline for Sharq law firm?

Tax law is one of the regulations the market has been anticipating as it will cause several changes in the way businesses are conducted in Qatar. Furthermore, with Qatar encouraging 100% foreign ownership, a new law may be enacted, which allows such ownership, in addition to the existing laws under QFC and the foreign investment law.

Qatar has been the first country in the GCC to introduce a Data Protection Law. What are the implications for companies working in the country?

Qatar has successfully enacted a Data Protection Law, which is essential to companies and institutions whether as individuals or as organizations. It gives individuals comfort that their data will not be used in an illegitimate manner. Qatar was quick to understand the importance of data being kept private and confidential, resulting in it being the first GCC nation to have such laws. The law is more rigid when the confidential data relates to children or medical information. Ultimately, such legislation provides comfort to individuals and business and reassures them that Qatar is an ideal location to conduct business in. We have witnessed a huge increase in demand in companies approaching us to seek reassurances if their policies comply with the Data Protection Act.

What is your outlook for the year ahead?

I believe that the economy will still grow and business will increase, hence law firms must focus on improving the team and continuous development as it is essential to keep up with the current changes. Furthermore, some areas of law will become relevant to the market with new businesses entering Qatar, and law firms should pay attention to expanding their expertise to match new requirements. Moreover, a recent trend in Qatar is that an increasing number of companies are open to the idea of growing and transforming from either a private shareholding company or a limited liability company to a public shareholding company. The market has considerably expanded and due to the current political spat in the Gulf, Qatar aims to become more independent of others and the government has supported such growth, particularly in certain sectors such as the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and mining sectors. In addition to this, there has also been a noticeable change in many Qatari companies operating in new markets, especially in Oman and Jordan.