UK financers hone Middle East role

 - December 6, 2010, 7:30 AM

A growing number of business aircraft transactions has prompted London-based aviation law firm Gates & Partner to consider opening an office in the Middle East. Partner Aoife O'Sullivan is here at the MEBA show this week partly to engage with prospective clients, but also to consider options for establishing a permanent presence with a local attorney.

Last year, Gates was involved in closing 25 aircraft acquisitions in this part of the world and it is already set to achieve a higher number by year-end. The company is expecting further sales growth in the region next year, based on the fact that it has seen 100 percent of deals this year being completed due to finance providers' improved confidence in the business aviation sector.

Gates deals with a variety of Middle Eastern clients ranging from banks that finance aircraft destined for the United Arab Emirates, to high-net-worth individuals, and a growing number of corporate buyers. "A real maturity has entered the market over the last 10 years as operators have improved their operating standards," said O'Sullivan. "They are very proud of their industry." She praised local aviation authorities for taking a more proactive approach to enforcing regulatory standards.

Fundamentally, the legal support that Gates provides for aircraft owners in the Middle East is no different from anywhere else. The priorities are to protect the asset as far as possible and to create ownership structures that protect those owners in terms of liability.