Executives optimistic about the economy and investment prospects for the Gulf

An electronic version of the study and bios of Mr. Gibson, Dr. Al-Ammari and Mr. Fournier are available at: http://blakes.com/english/GCCreport/

MANAMA, BAHRAIN, April 28 /CNW/ - The fundamentals are in place for strong economic growth in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries through the remainder of this year and in 2011, according to a study released by Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP (Blakes), a Canadian-based international business law firm. The study, undertaken for Blakes by mergermarket, is based on interviews with more than 75 corporate executives from the GCC to gain their perspectives on the outlook for investment and trends in the region over the near term.

"Blakes has opened offices in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, in association with Dr. Saud Al-Ammari Law Firm, so we are interested in getting the views of corporate executives in the region," said Brock Gibson, the Firm's Chair. "Thirty-one per cent of the surveyed executives expect growth in the GCC to come through continuing improvement in international economic conditions, while 23 per cent expect it to come as a result of stabilization of oil prices. At the same time, while the petroleum industry will remain a pillar of the GCC economies, the region is clearly moving toward less dependence on this still very vital industry. In fact, diversification is a recurring theme in the study."

Eighteen per cent of respondents believe the growth of non-oil industries will be the most important factor fueling economic growth, with 26 per cent identifying telecommunications and 30 per cent identifying either natural resources or transportation-based infrastructure as the sectors that will develop most quickly. These sectors are also said to offer the greatest opportunities for both domestic and foreign investors.

"Saudi Arabia and Qatar are consistently identified as the region's most active players for both foreign-investment activity and intra-regional activity, followed by the UAE, which will continue to be an important centre of economic activity," said Dr. Saud Al-Ammari, Blakes Managing Partner, Saudi Arabia and Gulf Region. "Forty-six per cent of the respondents expect joint ventures (JVs) to be the most common deal structure over the next year. However, a majority identified local ownership rights and legal/enforceability risks as important factors to foreign investors. With offices on the ground, this is certainly an area where Blakes can help."

China and India are identified not only as key markets for GCC-based investors, but also as the countries that will lead foreign-investment activity in the region over the next 12 months, exceeding both the United States and Western Europe.

M&A and private-equity transactions will continue to be affected by the global economic climate and the availability of liquidity, with the clear majority of the study respondents - about 70 per cent - expecting consolidation in the region to increase while 31 per cent expecting it to remain constant over the course of the year. The study also highlighted that most private-equity firms will be focused on restructurings and identifying new opportunities, while M&A will be largely dependent on attractive valuations of assets, with opportunities for distressed assets sales.

"There is definitely optimism about the prospects for this year. Moreover, significant growth and increased liquidity is expected in 2011," said Dan Fournier, Blakes Chair for the Gulf Region. "Most corporate executives believe that growth in the Islamic finance sector will continue, but there will be considerable demand for general conventional debt as well."

About Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

At Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, we serve a diverse national and international client base and our integrated office network provides clients with access to the Firm's full spectrum of capabilities in virtually every area of business law. Blakes has offices across Canada and in New York, Chicago, London, Bahrain, Beijing and associated offices in Al-Khobar and Shanghai. Thanks to our clients and the challenging work they generate, Blakes was named "Canada's Law Firm of the Year" for 2009 by Who's Who Legal and, for the second year running, "Law Firm of the Year: Canada" in the PLC Which Lawyer? Awards. On December 16, 2009, the Financial Times and mergermarket awarded Blakes the Legal Advisor of the Year Award and, for the second year in a row, the Mid-Market Legal Advisor of the Year Canada Award. Blakes consistently ranks as the top Canadian firm according to rankings in the Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters and mergermarket M&A league tables. In April 2010, mergermarket ranked Blakes the sixth busiest law firm in the world in global mergers and acquisitions. More information on Blakes is available by visiting the Firm's website at www.blakes.com or by following us on Twitter at twitter.com/BlakesNews.

About mergermarket

mergermarket is an independent Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) intelligence service, with the largest network of dedicated M&A journalists on the ground in 65 locations across the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This team focuses on gathering actionable proprietary intelligence, creating the only origination database of live targets and bidders. mergermarket is also an unrivalled source of deal history. Public and private deals across a range of sectors can be searched using an exhaustive database. This proprietary intelligence and historical deals database is available to over 145,000 individual subscribers from more than 1,500 of the world's principal advisory firms, investment banks, law firms, private equity firms and corporates. mergermarket is part of The Mergermarket Group, which has over 550 employees worldwide and regional head offices in London, New York and Hong Kong.

SOURCE Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

For further information: For further information: To book an interview, please contact the following: International Media: Hassan Al-Jundi, Gulf-Hill & Knowlton, +973-17-533532, hassan.aljundi@hillandknowlton.com; Chris Pratt, Gulf-Hill & Knowlton, +973-17-533532, chris.pratt@hillandknowlton.com; Canadian Media: Jane Shapiro, Hill & Knowlton, (416) 413-4770, jane.shapiro@hillandknowlton.ca; Celia Bobkin, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, (416) 863-5806, celia.bobkin@blakes.com

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