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PCB Byrne obtains CBIR recognition in multi-billion Abu Dhabi restructuring proceedings

A team at PCB Byrne are advising the Trustee Panel (Paul Leggett and David Stark of Deloitte and local trustee Salem Ballama) in relation to certain aspects of the KBBO Group restructuring. The restructuring concerns an Abu Dhabi based investment group which entered insolvency proceedings in July 2021.

In September 2023, the Abu Dhabi Court sanctioned a restructuring of the debts and assets of the KBBO Group shareholders and 28 group companies, to be effected through one “Main Plan” and several “Sub-Plans”. Whilst claims are still being assessed, over AED 7 billion (c.$2 billion) has so far been admitted. Certain of the debtors have assets in this jurisdiction which are to be realised under the plan, such that recognition in this jurisdiction was necessary.

There was previously some doubt as to whether proceedings under UAE Bankruptcy Law met the requirements for recognition under the UNCITRAL Model Law, as Jeremy Cooke J had previously refused to recognise the proceedings in the DIFC. The position was further complicated by unannounced changes to the UAE Bankruptcy Law, and by the fact that the proceedings are substantially consolidated yet governed by several connected plans. It was therefore necessary to file detailed evidence on UAE law and the operation of the restructuring plans.

In spite of these complications, the proceedings (so far as they relate to certain debtors with assets in this jurisdiction) have now been recognised under the CBIR by an order of Mr Justice Michael Green. This decision provides clarity to practitioners looking to give effect to onshore UAE restructurings in foreign jurisdictions which have enacted the Model Law.

The PCB Byrne team consisted of Trevor Mascarenhas, David Johnson, Eamon Khorsheed and Zoe Vanhegan, with Philip Judd of South Square as counsel.

The Trustee Committee team were led by Paul Leggett with the assistance of Jennifer Frenis. Expert evidence on UAE law was provided by Dr Mohammed Zaidan, as part of a wider team including Mohammad Alshraideh and Salem Issam Rawabdeh (of Primecase Law Firm), with James Iremonger and Paul McViety of DLA Piper Middle East advising on the terms of the Restructuring Plans.

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