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November 19, 2010 9:28 AM

Cleary Set to Launch in Brazil

Posted by Ross Todd

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamiltonon Friday announced its intentions to open an office in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2011, subject to approval of Brazilian authorities.

"Brazil is a significant part of our Latin America practice, which began over 50 years ago and includes more than 100 lawyers," Cleary managing partner Mark Walker said in a statement from the firm.

The Brazil office will be managed by New York partner Juan Giráldez and Rome partner Francisco Cestero, both of whom will relocate to São Paulo. Giráldez focuses on international financing and business transactions, particularly capital markets transactions, M&A, cross-border financings, joint ventures and privatizations. Cestero has assisted América Móvil, the largest wireless operator in Latin America, in over 10 international acquisitions and joint ventures.

"Juan's and Francisco's local knowledge and broad legal expertise, combined with the resources of our Latin America practice and the entire firm, will enhance our ability to provide the best possible legal services to our clients who have interests in Brazil and throughout the region," Walker said.

Cleary plans to staff the São Paul office with about 10 lawyers focusing on capital markets, project finance and restructuring, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, corporate governance, and litigation.

Rumors of Cleary's impending Brazil launch have been swirling around the market for several months. For decades Cleary has maintained one of the strongest cross-border practices in Brazil, though it previously served the market remotely. Indeed, Cleary acted as issuer's counsel to Petroleo Brasiliero SA (Petrobras) in the Brazilian oil and gas giant's record-setting $67 billion stock offering in September. Capital markets partner Nicolas Grabar led the team that worked on the offering.

Cleary's planned move into the market is the latest in a string of Brazil entries over the past two years by Am Law 100 and Magic Circle law firms. The market is appealing to firms with strong cross-border capital markets and infrastructure practices. Since 2008, Allen & Overy, Chadbourne & Parke, DLA Piper, Gibson Dunn, Milbank, Simpson Thacher, and Skadden all have opened offices in São Paulo, as detailed in the October issue of The American Lawyer. Just last month, Jones Day announced plans to launch in Brazil with hopes to have a fully licensed office in São Paulo up-and-running by the middle of the first quarter of 2011.

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