The annual China Business Law Awards has shone a light on the real achievers of 2015, as voted by law firms and clients alike. Leo Long showcases the winners
The beginning of the Year of the Monkey has been overshadowed by concern among the major economies since the central government announced its latest GDP growth rate of 6.9%, the lowest in 25 years. It’s not a surprise. Observers expect the volatile global economy to be susceptible to the Middle Kingdom’s slowed growth, or what has been dubbed the “New Normal”.
Chinese companies have seemed too busy to worry about any downturns in the past year, riding a tide of deals that followed globe-trotting President Xi Jinping, who most recently visited the Middle East, a hotspot for Chinese construction and trade.
In 2015, the slogan “go global” invited Chinese enterprises to explore markets abroad in greater numbers. Fosun was one of the most high-profile players. The company acquired a majority stake in ESS, one of the biggest private healthcare groups in Portugal, and also took over ROC Oil, a leading independent upstream oil and gas company in Australia.
Other groundbreaking developments and transactions also made headlines, including Chinese authorities’ investigation into Qualcomm, with its record fine of US$950 million, and the massive US$26 billion merger of China South Rail and China North Rail.
With many notable deals on the way, Chinese entrepreneurs are walking taller, and so are their external legal advisers. Chinese law firms have reported astonishing growth in revenues. Take Llinks, one of Shanghai’s leading law firms, which reported an estimated annual growth rate of 50% in 2015. And according to a recent article written by the managing partner of Zhenghan Law Firm, revenue at the 12-partner firm in 2015 jumped by almost half to RMB105 million (US$16 million), bringing revenue per equity partner to RMB8.77 million (US$1.33 million).
Expansion, either via professional staff or new offices, usually follows. Guangdong’s ETR Law Firm, following upticks in revenue, launched three offices in southern and central China in 2015. Tahota, a leading law firm headquartered in Sichuan, opened a total of four offices in China and the US in the past year, while the total number of partners increased 50% to more than 100 at the 500-lawyer team.
With expansions also comes alliances. After the landmark combination of Dacheng and Dentons in early 2015, more Chinese law firms followed. Two Beijing law firms, Tianchi and Juntai, joined hands in mid-2015 to become Tiantai Law Firm, with more than 400 lawyers, while two firms in Shandong province, Zhongcheng Renhe Law Firm and Qingtai Law Firm, also combined and became the biggest law firm in the province, Jointide Law Firm, with more than 500 professionals and other staff.
In September 2015, Beijing-based boutique firm Kejie Law Office formed a global alliance with 13 independent firms outside of China under the label of Cathay Associates. Three more firms in Portugal, Argentina and Italy joined the alliance in early 2016. In December 2015, newly formed Chinese firm Fujae Partners entered into a strategic alliance with McGuireWoods, a leading US law firm.
Despite these developments, some Chinese law firms are maintaining independence and focusing more on China-related practice. It is also notable that some have reviewed remuneration systems for their professionals. Retaining strength at the firm while pooling new talent has always been an ambition of law firm leaders.
No matter what the development strategy adopted, the goal for these firms has remained the same: to service clients better. Their efforts and performance are demonstrated in the deals handled, and most significantly in the feedback from their clients.
Cherry-picking the best ones among so many law firms for the China Business Law Awards in 2015 has not been an easy task. China Business Law Journal has received nominations, votes and recommendations from hundreds of in-house counsel, managers and other decision-makers from both international and domestic companies.
The lists of the most outstanding performers are confirmed based on different statistics and data from the law firms and their clients, including significant deals, client feedback, revenue growth, new recruits and other noteworthy achievements, either overall or in specific sectors.
China Business Law Journal has announced seven law firms of the year awards, one best new law firm award, and five winners of equal standing in each China-related practice area, as well as five international winners. The awards are designed to showcase the diversity of talent in the market, while offering assistance to in-house readers as they consider and select their best legal advisers.
Although detailing the achievements of all the winners is not possible, it is necessary to point out that regardless of coverage, each winning firm in each category carries the same weight of achievement – and deserves the same level of congratulations. Well done to all our winners!
Law Firm of the Year
King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) has again shown the momentum to lead in China-related legal markets. In the past year, the firm has played a role in various significant China-related deals, 16 of which have been recognized by China Business Law Journal’s Deals of the Year awards, including a ground-breaking re-organization of Cheung Kong and Hutchison with an aggregate value of more than US$54 billion, and the establishment of the Sino-European stock exchange joint venture between Deutsche Börse, China Financial Futures Exchange and Shanghai Stock Exchange.The winners of our prestigious awards are: King & Wood Mallesons, Law Firm of the Year (China); Clifford Chance, Law Firm of the Year (International); Maples and Calder, Law Firm of the Year (Offshore); Deacons, Law Firm of the Year (Hong Kong); Zhong Lun Law Firm, Law Firm of the Year (Beijing); AllBright Law Offices, Law Firm of the Year (Shanghai); Guangdong ETR Law Firm, Law Firm of the Year (Guangdong).
The past year also witnessed KWM’s expansion in China, with 15 new recruits as partners and 25 lawyers promoted to partners internally. Its international footprint also expanded with the launching of a Singapore office in May 2015 and plans just announced to establish a second office in the UK.
Clifford Chance is another outstanding player in China-related transactions – CGN Power’s global offering, GF Securities’ IPO in Hong Kong, and WuXi PharmaTech’s privatization being a few that come to mind. The firm won recognition from clients in sectors including capital markets and mergers & acquisitions (M&A). The M&A team is “very detailed and diligent”, says a general counsel Asia-Pacific for a leading hygiene and pulp and paper products company.
To provide support to various transactions, Clifford Chance pays attention to law firm management by deploying resources creatively. The efforts could be exemplified by its Global Shared Services Centre and Knowledge Centre in India. The firm says the Knowledge Centre supported more than 1,500 client projects across 30 offices in the past year.
In offshore work, Maples and Calder led with contributions to many high-profile deals. The firm participated in the merger of two leading Chinese transportation technology companies, Didi and Kuaidi, and China Mobile Games and Entertainment Group’s privatization. “They were prompt and efficient and practical,” says Rebecca Cox, a legal counsel at integrated aviation services company Transportation Partners, of the performance of the firm’s banking and finance team.
Maples and Calder also applied innovative solutions to meet client needs. Its web-based portal, Maples eServices, helps clients view and manage their entity’s information. It is also worth noting that the firm’s affiliates, Maples Fund Services and Maples Fiduciary, opened offices in San Francisco and the Netherlands, respectively, in 2015.
Deacons advised Jianguang Asset Management (JAC) in the purchase of the US$1.8 billion RF Power business from NXP Semiconductors, a landmark deal for Chinese enterprises tapping into the high-end semiconductor industry. It required the lawyers to handle many patents across international borders and a compressed schedule.
Clients recommend the firm’s Hong Kong partner Catherine Zheng and her team for their performance.
“Catherine and her team kept up efficient and explicit communication with the other party’s legal counsel and clients, despite a massive workload and complicated IP issues,” JAC’s managing director, Zhang Xinyu says. “They also offered very professional due diligence to help us fully understand the target company in a short time.”
It’s also worth noting that Deacons launched a talent management programme called Deacons Academy, which helps support the career development of professional staff, in August 2015.
Zhong Lun Law Firm has maintained its leadership in offering a full legal service, and has participated in hundreds of big transactions in all sectors. In the infrastructure sector, the firm provided legal services for Beijing Drainage Group’s RMB40 billion (US$6.08 billion) sewage treatment and reclaimed water utilization project. In dispute resolution, the firm advised parties in a dispute over “quna.com”, and Automotive Gate FZCO’s dispute involving complete-knock-down items with a Chinese auto manufacturer at ICC; in capital markets, it participated in the RMB10 billion panda bonds issued by Bank of China (Hong Kong).
With headquarters in Shanghai, AllBright has strengthened its influence nationwide with new offices in Tianjin, Jinan and Hefei in 2015. It also teamed up with Hong Kong law firm Stevenson Wong & Co to set up a joint venture law firm in Shenzhen’s Qianhai district. Within its team of around 1,000 professionals, 184 lawyers – including 25 partners – have joined the firm in 2015.
AllBright has shown strength and expertise in aviation and shipping, IP, employment and many other fields. The firm advised Fosun in an eye-catching legal dispute over a premium piece of land in Shanghai’s Bund area.
“We are very satisfied with AllBright’s legal service in intellectual property,” says a China representative of a Mexican industrial equipment company. “AllBright offers professional, comprehensive and considerate services. I look forward to working more with the firm.”
The legal counsel of a Chinese airport company also expressed his satisfaction with the firm’s co-operation since 2009. “No matter how difficult the issues are, we can always receive the most professional and pertinent legal advice and solutions from AllBright.”
With its recruitment of about 60 new lawyers in 2015, Guangdong ETR Law Firm has shown growth potential. The firm has been top ranked in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, for the past three years consecutively by revenue, including a 25% increase in 2015.
After starting three new offices in Wuhan, Qingyuan and Dongguan this year, the firm has bigger ambitions to tap into cities domestically and further afield, including Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo. More than 300 lawyers at Guangdong ETR serve enterprises and organizations in Guangdong and other districts, including provincial and municipal tax authorities. It also advised Hong Kong-listed real estate company Country Garden in its billion-yuan corporate bonds offerings.
Best overall PRC law firms
The merger of Dacheng and Dentons in early 2015 is undoubtedly one of the biggest headlines in the global legal industry in recent times. After the combination, Dentons in December confirmed tie-ups with Colombia’s Cárdenas & Cárdenas and Mexico’s López Velarde Heftye y Soria, with the total lawyer headcount estimated to surpass 7,000.
In the domestic market, the law firm has leveraged its global network to bolster its performance in cross-border transactions. For example, in the establishment of the Sino-European stock exchange joint venture in Europe (mentioned previously), the firm’s lawyers in China and Germany worked together for the parties in the two countries. The firm participated in many other significant deals including the US$7 billion Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail project in Indonesia.
Jun He Law Offices adopts a different development strategy to maintain its leading position. The firm says that instead of merging with foreign law firms to become more international, it is determined to maintain independence and focus on its China practice. This does not mean they refuse co-operation, however, and the firm has been building an international platform with other independent law firms on a non-exclusive basis to meet clients’ needs.
The firm provided services in Didi Dache’s merger with Kuaidi Dache, in Bayer’s RMB3.6 billion acquisition of Dihon, and in the Ministry of Commerce’s (MOFCOM) investigation into medical equipment from the EU and Japan. Jun He is undergoing a three-year experimental project to reform its decade-long performance-based remuneration system for partners to a modified lock-step system aimed at making the firm’s work more effective, efficient, co-ordinated and specialist-oriented.
Though the final result of the experiment is pending, the new system has shown early results. In 2015, Jun He added 33 partners, either from lateral hires or internal promotion.
As one of the most respected law firms in China, Fangda Partners maintained growth in 2015, with its Beijing and Hong Kong offices expanding. Fangda was a key player in notable deals including the Didi-Kuaidi merger and Focus Media’s privatization.
Best overall international law firms for China work
In 2015, Allen & Overy opened an office in South Korea and recruited a new partner for its Beijing office. The firm has notched up achievements in comprehensive legal services, especially banking and finance. In December, it advised Baosteel Group as keepwell provider and Baosteel Hong Kong Investment Company as issuer on the issue of US$500 million three-year zero-coupon bonds exchangeable into H-shares of China Construction Bank Corporation, held by Baosteel Group. The deal is considered the first offshore bond issuance exchangeable into H-shares held by a Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE).
Following Hong Kong’s inaugural sukuk issuance in 2014, Allen & Overy advised the government’s second sukuk issuance in December 2015. It also counselled clients in ICBC’s US$5.5 billion triple-currency debut offering of preference shares and the issuance of RMB10 billion panda bonds by Bank of China (Hong Kong).
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advised Hutchison Whampoa on its merger with CK Hutchison Holdings, and Cheung Kong Property Holdings on its spin-off and listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
The firm advised a consortium of underwriters on the US$811 million IPO of China International Capital Corporation, one of China’s leading investment banks, and China Media Capital on its investment in City Football Group, the owner of various football clubs including Manchester City.
Best law firms for offshore work
The winners are Conyers Dill & Pearman, Maples and Calder, and Walkers.
The oldest established offshore firm in Asia, Conyers Dill & Pearman celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2015. The firm has led in corporate finance and capital markets work in Asia, occupying more than a 65% share of the Hong Kong IPO market, an example being Harmonicare Medical’s Hong Kong IPO. It has excelled in M&A and privatization, including the privatization deals of China Mobile Games and Entertainment Group, and WuXi PharmaTech.
Walkers provided legal services to a special committee in WuXi PharmaTech’s privatization, in respect to Cayman Islands law. It also acted as offshore legal counsel in ITOCHU’s acquisition of a 20% stake in CITIC, and LDK Solar’s multi-jurisdictional restructuring.
In 2015, Walkers launched Walkers Professional Services and re-entered the corporate and fiduciary services business. The firm has plans to open an office in Bermuda this year.
Best new law firm
Hui Zhong Law Firm is the new market player honoured with this prestigious award.
Established in mid-2013, Hui Zhong is among China’s first few boutique firms that specializes in dispute resolution for both domestic and cross-border services. The firm also focuses on offering labour and employment legal services for clients, including a global leading company in data storage solutions and a leading US corporation in mathematical computing, among others.
In 2015, Hui Zhong completed or handled over 70 cases with a total value of RMB5 billion – from which 30 were domestic arbitration, 10 were foreign-related arbitration, and 10 were disputes. More than 20 were employment arbitration and lawsuits. Hui Zhong’s lawyers handled more than 30 arbitration cases at major arbitration centres including China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC), Shanghai International Arbitration Centre (SHIAC), Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration (SCIA), Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) and Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). During the arbitration procedures, the firm also handled other cases spanning many jurisdictions and sectors including securities and private equity. Some attracted widespread attention, like the dispute over a stake transfer of Chinese restaurant South Beauty.
Hui Zhong also operates in Shanghai through an independent law firm called Shanghai Yun Zheng Law Firm.
Aviation and shipping
The PRC winners are AllBright Law Offices, Dentons, Heng Xin Law Office, Wang Jing & Co, and Wintell & Co. International winners are Clyde & Co, Eiger, Holman Fenwick Willan, Ince & Co, and Mourant Ozannes.
AllBright has served as lead Chinese legal counsel for the world’s top vessel owner, Maersk, in handling decades of lawsuits in China. It has also represented China’s top vessel owner, COSCO, in handling various projects and disputes. On the aviation side, AllBright participated in an international aviation logistics hub project in Hubei, the first of its kind outside the US and Europe.
“The firm has always provided professional legal advice for our company in aspects including maritime carriage of goods, bill of lading, charter contract, especially in the disputes about maritime cargo transports, where the firm has efficiently and meticulously helped redeem much economic loss,” says Feng Chonggang, a legal manager of COSCO Container Lines.
In-house clients recommend AllBright’s Shanghai-based senior partner, Cao Fang. “Cao and his team have demonstrated efficient and detailed work ethos, and offered practical and viable feedback immediately after receiving clients’ requests,” he says. Other in-house counsel praised AllBright’s another Shanghai-based senior partner, Ark Bao. “Bao’s expertise, capacities with co-ordination and communication, and dedication to his work is remarkable.”
In the case where Dalian City Oceanic and Fishery Administration sued a vessel’s owner and insurer for damages for ship oil pollution, Heng Xin Law Office successfully defended the vessel owner and insurer, with the appellant court rejecting the authorities’ claim of RMB50 million. It is the first case where a vessel owner successfully defended itself. Heng Xin also participated in a fuel payment dispute arising from the bankruptcy of OW Bunker, one of the world’s largest marine fuel traders.
In December, Heng Xin advised a Hong Kong shipping development company in working with China Huarong Financial Leasing, one of China’s largest financial leasing companies, to complete the after-sale direct leasing of a US$21 million international vessel. The case marked China’s first after-sale direct leasing of a vessel. “We have entrusted or assigned Heng Xin Law Office for handling various shipping claims, and their work has met with general approval from our principals,” says a associate director at Britannia P&I Club. Other in-house counsel recommend senior partner M Q Zhu at the firm.
Banking and finance
The China winners are AllBright Law Offices, Duan & Duan Law Firm, Global Law Office, Guantao Law Firm, and Jun He Law Offices. International winners are Allen & Overy, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Latham & Watkins, Linklaters, and Wilkinson & Grist.
In late 2015, Duan & Duan launched an office in Chengdu, bringing the total number of its offices to nine. Among other deals, Duan & Duan represented Volvo Construction Equipment and relevant financing organizations in handling national disputes involving financing and leasing of hundreds of pieces of equipment nationwide. Simon Zhan, legal director of Volvo Construction Equipment, has worked with Duan & Duan since 2014. “[They] help us to build the system, templates or guidelines in a cost efficient way without sacrificing the quality of work,” says Zhan.
In-house clients recommend the firm’s Shanghai-based partner Wu Jian. A supervisor at a capital management group says Wu successfully helped the company avoid risks in a big investment project. “Wu has assisted our company in some negotiations of investment projects and had a pertinent grasp of main points. The negotiations also met our expectations,” the supervisor says.
Guantao Law Firm is preparing for more expansions, the latest likely to be a planned merger with Shanghai’s Zhongmao Law Firm early this year. In 2015, following the opening of its Sydney office, Guantao renewed its alliance agreement with international law firm Ashurst; the firms began their alliance in 2008. The firm also merged with its associated law firm, Peter C Wong Chow & Chow, in Hong Kong in December 2015. Guantao has advised many banks on a variety of transactions including the disposition of bad assets of Bank of Dalian, the debt restructuring of the Shanghai branch of China Development Bank, equity projects of Chang’an Bank, and investment projects of Hengfeng Bank.
“The professional services of the team have satisfied the requirements of our projects and they are active in communications, providing great assistance to our grasp of the risks in those projects,” says a legal counsel at a top Chinese insurance group.
In-house clients recommend Tan Weihong, a partner based in the Beijing office of the firm.
Tan’s team also assisted in the credit enhancement business for one of the biggest stated-owned investment companies. “Despite the transaction being highly complex and involving massive numbers of assets, Tan’s team impressed us with their professionalism, enthusiasm and dedication,” says a legal counsel for the investment company.
The China winners are Grandall Law Firm, Grandway Law Offices, Jia Yuan Law Offices, KWM, and Shu Jin Law Firm. International winners are Clifford Chance, Davis Polk & Wardwell, Mayer Brown JSM, Sidley Austin, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.
Jia Yuan Law Offices advised on the IPO of Legend Holdings, the parent company of Chinese multinational computer tech company Lenovo, in its US$2 billion IPO in Hong Kong. It also advised Luzheng Futures on its Hong Kong IPO, which is said to be the first H-share company focused on the futures business. The firm was also involved with GF Securities’ Hong Kong IPO and Spring Airlines’ Shanghai IPO.
“The firm has abundant experience and excellent expertise in capital markets. More important, it can understand issues from the stance of clients, turn experience and capacities into practical and viable solutions, and execute them on-the-ground,” says a senior legal manager in Legend Holdings.
In-house clients recommend Yan Yu and Sun Tao, Jia Yuan’s partners based in Beijign. “Yan has abundant experience, good vision, excellent communications with regulators, companies and agents, and in-depth grasp of major issues; Sun can understand well and feasibly execute various legal issues.”
Grandway was a leader in Chinese securities and capital markets in 2015, advising 12 companies on their IPOs, among which seven companies obtained approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC); in the meantime, more than 40 more IPOs were sent to CSRC for approval. In addition, Grandway completed the listings of more than 56 companies in China’s New Third Board in 2015, after China started its scheme to diversify its capital markets.
Shu Jin Law Firm in Guangdong province also assisted in 42 listings on the New Third Board and completed 10 IPOs. The firm advised Vanke, one of the biggest real estate developers in China, and COFCO Property, on their massive debt offerings.
Mayer Brown JSM entered into an association with Jingtian & Gongcheng in 2015.
The firm advised joint bookrunners, including BOCI Asia, on the US$121 million global offering and listing in Hong Kong of Flat Glass Group, the largest PV glass maker in the world. In October, the firm advised on the Hong Kong listing of China Overseas Property, one of China’s leading property management companies.
In-house clients recommend Phillip Smith and Jeckle Chiu in the firm’s Hong Kong office. A deputy general manager at the legal department of a leading construction company in Hong Kong says Smith is “thoughtful and persistent in drafting documents to maximize clients’ interests”, while Chiu is praised for “his pragmatic and client-oriented approach”.
Competition and antitrust
Both Tian Yuan and Zhong Lun participated in the antitrust investigation by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) into Qualcomm, which was imposed with a record-high penalty of RMB6.088 billion (US$950 million). In the case, Tian Yuan represented Chinese authorities while Zhong Lun defended Qualcomm.The China winners are AnJie Law Firm, Broad & Bright, KWM, Tian Yuan Law Firm, and Zhong Lun Law Firm. International winners are CMS China, Jones Day, Gide Loyrette Nouel, Sidley Austin, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
In addition, Tian Yuan represented NXP in its acquisition of a global integrated circuit supplier, Avago, in its acquisition of a worldwide storage integrated circuit supplier, and Woodward and General Electric in their joint venture deal involving the production and supply of aircraft engine components, to name a few.
Meanwhile, Zhong Lun has advised significant clients such as Sumitomo Corporation, ITOCHU, Nissan Group of China, Baosteel Group, and Dongfeng Motor Corporation in dozens of acquisitions and joint ventures for antitrust and competition issues.
CMS China’s head of corporate practice and managing partner of the firm’s Shanghai office, Ulrike Glueck, led her team on advising a leading German mechanical and hydraulic presses manufacturer on merger control review and analysis of competition effects on exclusive purchase, and a leading global terminal service company on its set-up of a joint venture company with a local Chinese partner and merger control review.
“As a German company it is not only necessary to get an understanding of the Chinese rules and regulations but also, sometimes even more important, the translation of the thinking behind,” says Stephanie Lüdtke, head of legal at metal forming company Schuler. “Dr Ulrike Glueck is excellent in giving this advice and translation.”
Gide Loyrette Nouel’s antitrust team was quite active in 2015. The firm has handled several major notifications for various transactions, mainly in acquisitions and setting up joint ventures. “They know very well our activities and [are] doing a good job for all the documents and advice they are responsible for … and they provide good analysis,” says Arnaud Dauvillier, chief operating officer at ENGIE, a French multinational electric utility company.
In-house clients name Chen Xi and Thomas Urlacher as recommended lawyers at the firm. “Apart from the facts that Chen has high-quality expertise and language skills in Chinese, English and French, we also value the rigorous, practical and eager-to-learn attitude,” says another in-house counsel.
Compliance and anti-corruption
The China winners are Broad & Bright, Dentons, KWM, MWE China, and Zhonghao Law Firm. International winners are Kobre & Kim, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Ropes & Gray, and Steptoe & Johnson.
MWE China has an established reputation for its regulatory compliance practice in representing outstanding Chinese and international companies in issues from employment relations and white-collar crime to multi-jurisdictional Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigations.
Along with its international alliance with McDermott Will & Emery, MWE China represented a global manufacturer in a high-profile investigation or litigation jointly handled by China’s authorities on food and drug administration and public security, as well as the prosecutors’ office and the State Administration for Industry & Commerce (SAIC). The case is expected to have a major impact on many trade practices surrounding the client’s industry, as well as forthcoming PRC promulgation. In another case, MWE China represented a prominent SOE during a major crisis triggered by public complaints of alleged corruption and involving significant issues of Chinese and US law.
The firm also assisted in an internal investigation for the Chinese subsidiary of a leading international company, which has been under the microscope of the US Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission for a major FCPA violation. During the investigation, the firm identified improper payment and advised and assisted the client to conduct a successful self-disclosure and back file of its RMB1.5 million obligation to the local tax bureau to avoid all penalties and fines.
Steptoe & Johnson regularly advises companies doing business in China on anti-corruption statutes like the US FCPA and the UK Bribery Act, and offers legal service to companies with activities that implicate Chinese regulatory requirements. The team has extensive experience in compliance and regulatory issues spanning multiple sectors in insurance, chemicals and food, construction, and labour and employment.
The firm’s fully bilingual Beijing team has conducted more than 20 full-scale internal investigations for US and multinational companies in China. The team represented a US-listed Chinese pharmaceutical company and a US-listed medical devices company with respect to potential financial irregularities and violations of the FCPA. The team has offered compliance advice to multiple companies on various issues like gifts, travel, hosting and similar activities.
Construction and real estate
The China winners are Boss & Young Attorneys at Law, City Development Law Firm, Deheng Law Offices, Zhong Lun Law Firm, and Zhonglun W&D Law Firm. International winners are Deacons, Mayer Brown JSM, Norton Rose Fulbright, Paul Hastings, and Pinsent Masons.
City Development was among the first Chinese law firms that specialized in construction, real estate and urban infrastructure development. The firm has been appointed special legal counsel of the market supervision division of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, and its Fujian branch is acting as standing legal counsel for the housing authorities in Fujian province. In December, the firm established an office in Urumqi city in northwestern China, and a legal service centre for “One Belt One Road” initiatives.
In 2015, the firm worked on 49 public-private partnership (PPP) projects, four of which were listed as model PPP projects by the Ministry of Finance. The firm’s lawyers offered legal services for indemnity claim for five chief contractors for Shanghai Disneyland Park and successfully helped recover losses valued at hundreds of millions of renminbi.
The performance of City Development in the case won it positive comments from clients. “The professional guidance from City Development has broken the deadlock for the claim of compensation for all the contractors,” says Deng Fudi, the general manager, contracting department, of Shanghai Construction Group. Deng speaks highly of the Shanghai-based senior partner Cao Shan at the firm: “She has an accurate understanding of the legal puzzles of construction enterprises like ours, and meets our urgent needs.”
The firm also participated in several projects engaged by China Construction Third Bureau First Engineering Co and offered full legal service for the Shanghai International Finance Centre project. The firm’s director, Zhu Shuying, successfully helped a construction company recover project money of RMB9 million in a construction contract dispute, which was named as a model case in 2015 in China’s Supreme Court bulletin.
Apart from representing Hong Kong contractors in construction deals, Deacons also took part in some high-profile real estate purchases such as the HK$5.1 billion (US$654 million) sale of No. 75 Peak Road, and the HK$1.6 billion tender sale of Commercial House, No.35 Queen’s Road Central.
But the firm’s presence was not confined in Hong Kong. It advised a major real estate developer in Hong Kong to purchase a hotel and its operations in Sichuan province from a renowned China property developer for a consideration of approximately RMB400 million. It also acted for a China developer in its acquisition of a commercial property situated in Shanghai’s central business district.
“With their expertise, their response time is short and their advice is always reliable,” says a general manager, the legal leader of a Hong Kong conglomerate’s property division. “They can tell you whether a certain sales arrangement is in compliance or not in compliance with the First-hand Sales Ordinance.” In-house clients recommend Lilian Chiang, senior partner at Deacons’ Hong Kong office “because she is very experienced and her words can always be relied upon. She is efficient and always offers practical advice and solutions, and always protects our interests and position.”
The China winners are Dentons, Fangda Partners, Hui Zhong Law Firm, Llinks Law Offices, and Martin Hu & Partners. International winners are Clifford Chance, Eversheds, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, and Latham & Watkins.
2015 was a prosperous year for Llinks Law Offices, which estimated total revenue had an annual growth rate of at least 50%. The firm also launched its Hong Kong office in April.
Llinks has handled more than 100 dispute resolution cases, about 70 of which have been completed and involved around RMB2 billion.
For instance, the firm represented a Shandong technology company in a dispute involving a share subscription agreement with another technology company. The complex case involving the major assets reorganization, backdoor listing and conflicts over controlling rights was finally resolved in December 2015.
In other cases, Llinks represented in disputes between public funds and their subsidiaries, or institutional or individual investors, involving fund contracts, asset management contracts, trust contracts, financing contracts, and in a land demolition compensation dispute between a foreign-invested factory and a local government, and in a manufacturing contract dispute between a well-known industrial company and an A-share listed company.
“Llinks’ team have rigorous and professional standards, and respond to clients immediately,” says Julia Xu, a legal supervisor of TVBC, a media company. Clients recommend Yang Peiming at the firm, saying “Yang and his team performed very well, and are very professional in both written defending scripts and oral defending skills”.
Eversheds has advised Hong Kong’s Communications Authority in high-profile judicial reviews relating to the Hong Kong Television Network’s challenge to the treatment of its mobile TV licence. The firm also successfully defended CITIC in the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal during proceedings brought by a multinational commodities trader. Finally, it advised the provisional liquidators of Grande Holdings in its HK$1.8 billion liquidation, one of the largest and highest-profile liquidations in Hong Kong.
In mainland China, Eversheds acted for DuPont on a US$100 million claim against a Japanese manufacturer of equipment to produce solar panels in China, and a major Hong Kong-listed Chinese company on its response to investigation by Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
The firm’s Hong Kong team were praised by its clients. “The team takes a very pragmatic approach to dispute resolution,” says John Hanssen, associate general counsel and managing director for Asia Pacific, DuPont.
A legal counsel in a Hong Kong government office says they are very satisfied with the firm “because Eversheds maintains its quality and professionalism in their services provided. They always adhere to our timetable and provide prompt services as requested even with very short notice.” In-house clients also recommend the firm’s Hong Kong-based partners Mark Yeadon and Vishal Melwani. “They are the lawyers from whom we often seek advice and assistance. They are reliable, friendly, responsive, professional and understand their client’s needs.”
Employment and industrial relations
The China winners are Baohua Law Firm, Jun He Law Offices, Lanbai Law Firm, River Delta Law Firm, and TransAsia Lawyers. International winners are Baker & McKenzie, Gall, Gibson Dunn, Simmons & Simmons, and Winston & Strawn.
Jun He has one of the strongest teams for employment in China, having acted in a variety of labour dispute resolutions throughout China for clients. The firm also actively participated in other employment issues for clients including the drafting, negotiation and review of relevant labour documents.
In-house clients recommend Gordon Feng, who joined Jun He’s Shanghai office as a partner at the beginning of 2015. “Gordon’s commitment to client service is outstanding. He is responsive and dedicated to his client’s needs,” says an executive director of a leading investment banking group.
In late 2015, TransAsia entered into a strategic alliance with Shanghai Bohe Law Firm, which specializes in criminal and commercial litigation and is respected for its criminal law practice. Bohe, with 36 lawyers experienced with judicial and administrative cases, provides support to TransAsia on criminal law issues and dispute resolution, whereas TransAsia supports Bohe on employment, technology, media and telecommunications (TMT), and outbound investment law matters.
Employment has been a core practice area for TransAsia. In 2015, its employment and labour professionals assisted a leading global water services supplier in establishing grass-roots trade unions for its subsidiaries in four different cities in China, involving about 400 employees. TransAsia also advised a multinational client regarding social insurance back payments totaling RMB50 million, for more than 500 employees for about a decade, and advised a leading global e-commerce operator on a labour dispute arbitration case filed by its two most senior China employees against the company for wrongful termination.
The firm participated in many cases involving compliance issues, mostly due to conflicts between client companies and their senior management personnel. Those clients include global leading companies in medical device and software solutions, market research, signal transmission, water processing, and manufacturing.
Simmons advised a global media conglomerate in a high-profile, long-term project that will involve a joint venture with multiple SOEs in China, and many employment issues. The firm says it was a ground-breaking deal with its unprecedented magnitude or structure. It also acted for a top international bank in a review of its policy and investment, which affected the employment terms of all the bank’s employees in over 20 jurisdictions across the Asia-Pacific, and in Europe. The significant transaction involved important changes to sensitive terms of employment, and took a year to complete.
Energy, projects and infrastructure
The China winners are East & Concord Partners, Grandall Law Firm, Jingtian & Gongcheng, Sunshine Law Firm, and Zhong Lun Law Firm. International winners are Eversheds, GRATA, Herbert Smith Freehills, Latham & Watkins, and Vinson & Elkins.
After the combination of two firms, East & Concord Partners has almost doubled its number of professionals. The firm also launched an office in Wuhan city and delved into new sectors such as maritime affairs, antitrust and logistics industry.
The firm’s professionals in energy, projects and infrastructure participated in the restructuring between the Shanghai-listed Beijing Capital and French water management company Veolia, a concession project of National Highway 110, a transfer-operate-transfer (TOT) project of Beijing Metro’s Number 5 line, a build-transfer (BT) project of low-speed maglev train model line (S1 line) in Beijing.
Eversheds has been active in China’s overseas nuclear energy investment. The firm is advising China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) on its US$3 billion equity investment in, and restructuring of, Areva, the world’s largest nuclear company. Eversheds also advised CNNC on its more than £20 billion (US$28.6 billion) investment in the Hinkley Point C project, the first Generation III nuclear new build project in the UK and one of the largest energy and infrastructure projects to be carried out in the UK this decade.
Sunshine Law Firm has been well recognized for its dedication in energy, projects and infrastructure. In 2015, it participated in major cross-border energy projects including a package of Malta energy investment projects worth US$1 billion, and the acquisition of stakes in an electricity company in Turkey by a Chinese company, and covering countries like Tanzania, Indonesia, the Philippines, Egypt and Myanmar.
In the domestic arena, the firm also represented clients in projects covering the construction of power stations, nuclear power projects and natural gas pipelines. Clients included the major national and provincial energy companies, China Guodian Corporation, China Three Gorges Corporation, State Grid Corporation of China, State Nuclear Power Technology Company, China Resources Power Holdings, Shanghai Electric Power, and Zhejiang Provincial Energy Group.
Established in 1992, GRATA has shown good growth potential in the past year. The firm has opened several new associated offices, mostly in European countries, and including offices in co-operation with Arzinger & Partners in Belarus, Isikal Law Office in Turkey, Muellhaupt & Partners in Switzerland, and with other law firms in Latvia and the Czech Republic, as well as a foreign desk in Georgia.
As a leading legal consultant on mining and natural resources in Eurasia, GRATA advised Chinese enterprises in projects on mineral commercial development and infrastructure construction in Central Asia.
“GRATA has abundant practical experience in Central Asia’s energy and infrastructure sector,” says Pei Ruonan, a senior project manager in China National Technical Import & Export Corporation. “It can offer the best and most efficient legal services to enterprises.”
Clients recommends Gulnur Nurkeyeva, head of the China desk at GRATA, “She is dedicated and ready to answer different questions from clients; meanwhile, she is very professional and offers a pertinent service to our company by giving timely and effective solutions.”
The China winners are CCPIT Patent and Trademark Law Office, Chang Tsi & Partners, China Patent Agent (HK), Liu Shen & Associates, and Wan Hui Da. International winners are Baker & McKenzie, Bird & Bird, Hogan Lovells, Wilkinson & Grist, and Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co.
In 2015, CCPIT Patent and Trademark Law Office advised petitioner Volkswagen on an invalidation case against a design patent for an automobile.
In another significant deal, the firm assisted China Tobacco Hunan Industrial on investigating and preventing an illegal competitor using its trademark “Elephanta & Tree” device in Panama. The trademark used by an Italian importer was similar to the “Silver Elephant & Tree device & Elephant device” owned by China Tobacco. The court in Panama rejected the registration of the mark “Elephanta & Tree device” and the infringer was prohibited from using the trademark. Panama is an important market for China Tobacco, and the case was conducive to the company’s combat against illegal competitors in the market.
China Patent Agent (HK) successfully represented Evonik Degussa, a leading multinational specialty chemicals company, against China’s Patent Re-examination Board (PRB), which requested a retrial by the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) after its re-examination decision regarding a patent application of the client being revoked by the courts of first and second instance.
The firm also successfully acted for a major global connectivity and sensor company in a patent re-examination case filed by a domestic telecoms equipment company against the client and the PRB. Both winning cases were picked in the annual 35 exemplary intellectual property rights protection cases by the SPC in 2015.
Another winning case where the firm handled the “Tencel” trademark re-examination for an Austrian client has also been lauded as a model trademark case by the China Trademark Association.
Wilkinson & Grist is well reputed for its strength in intellectual property. “It is one of the leaders in this field,” says a legal counsel from a leading financial services group in Hong Kong. In previous years, Wilkinson & Grist successfully assisted Heinz in a case where its Chinese trademark was recognized as well-known by the Beijing Higher People’s Court – the first recognition of Heinz’s trademark as well-known in opposition proceedings in China.
“They are responsive and their advice is professional and pragmatic. They also have a sense of ownership in dealing with the work, which makes them excel in their services,” says a counsel from a top music company. Another in-house counsel named the firm’s Hong Kong-based senior partner Yvonne Chua, partner Mena Lo, and associate Vivian Or for “their dedicated and professional service”.
The China winners are AllBright Law Offices, B & H Associates, Huanzhong & Partners, Jincheng Tongda & Neal, and Lantai Law Firm. International winners are Baker & McKenzie, Covington & Burling, Grunfeld Desiderio Lebowitz Silverman & Klestadt, Sidley Austin, and Steptoe & Johnson.
Lantai Law Firm has represented various Chinese industry associations in protecting the benefits of outbound Chinese enterprises in the international trade sector. In December 2014, the firm acted for the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Textile and Apparel, defending in an anti-dumping investigation launched by Indian authorities, and achieving victory. The case was the largest anti-dumping investigation in India against the Chinese textile and apparel industry. The scale of the achieved anti-dumping tax, within 4%, was the least on the tax scale of Chinese enterprises levied by India’s investigating authorities in recent years.
The Indonesian government in June launched an anti-dumping investigation against ammonium nitrate produced in China, and also launched a safeguard measure investigation against imported glucose. Lantai defended China Nitrogen Fertilizer Industry Association and China Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuffs and Native Produce (CFNA), respectively, in the cases and led them to positive results.
Lantai’s lawyers are “committed to their jobs and doing the best during the representation”, says Ou Meng, a director of CFNA. In-house counsel recommends the firm’s Beijing-based partner Chen Jing for “having abundant experience in international trade remedies … she is well recognized for her professionalism and dedication”. The international commerce team of Lantai was also appointed to the legal panel of MOFCOM in October.
Sidley Austin acted in the US Solar 1 and Solar 2 anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations for Yingli Green Energy and Canadian Solar, two of China’s largest solar panel manufacturers. The firm is the only law firm that has represented clients in the landmark package involving deals including ongoing US Department of Commerce administrative reviews, appeals to the US Court of International Trade, customs planning, and settlement negotiations, which are the largest US trade remedy cases ever filed.
In another case, Sidley Austin acted for Zhongce Rubber Group, China’s largest tyre producer, in a US anti-dumping or countervailing duty petition brought by some of America’s biggest unions against imports of passenger vehicle and light truck tyres from China. The case is considered one of the largest trade remedy proceedings brought in the US in recent years by value.
The firm also represented the central government in various anti-dumping and countervailing deals. A client from governmental offices recommends Sidley Austin’s Geneva-based partner Scott Andersen in this sector, saying “he has highly logical and analytic capabilities and can offer clients effective legal solutions”.
Mergers and acquisitions
The China winners are Fangda Partners, Jingtian & Gongcheng, Guantao Law Firm, KWM, and Deheng Law Offices. International winners are Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, O’Melveny & Myers, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, and Sullivan & Cromwell.
In the M&A sector, some of the most notable transactions handled by Guantao include the China Mobile Games and Entertainment Group’s merger and privatization, and Cheung Kong and Hutchison’s reorganization. The firm also participated in the acquisition of Zhejiang Super Max Environmental Engineering by Xingyuan Environment, the acquisition of a 70% stake in Passion Stream by China Regenerative Medicine International, and the merger of Smart Title by Eternity Investment, among others. According to one client, Guantao’s lawyers are “professional and dedicated” and its Beijing-based associate Zhang Wenliang is recommended for his service.
Simpson Thacher & Barlett has advised Alibaba Group in several major deals, including its acquisition of Youku, its announced US$5.7 billion going-private involving Youku Tudou, and its announced investment of about US$4.63 billion in Suning, which also concurrently invested in Alibaba. The firm also represented Kuaidi Dache in its strategic stock-for-stock merger with Didi Dache, and Israel Chemicals in its strategic alliance with Chinese SOE Yunnan Yuntianhua, the second-largest chemical producer in China.
Tim Steinert, the general counsel of Alibaba Group, considers the firm’s performance “a great combination of local team and US public M&A capabilities”. Clients recommend Hong Kong-based partner Kathryn Sudol, and Palo Alto-based partners William Hinman and James Kreissman.
O’Melveny & Myers advised the special committee of the board of directors of Hanwha SolarOne on the company’s US$2 billion acquisition of 100% of the outstanding share capital of Hanwha Q CELLS Investment from Hanwha Solar Holdings in an all-stock transaction. The firm also acted for Homeinns Hotel Group, a NASDAQ-listed economy hotel chain in China, on its US$1.7 billion going-private with a consortium of investors, Warner Bros on setting up a joint venture called Flagship Entertainment Group with private equity company China Media Capital to develop and produce Chinese-language films, and Meinian Onehealth Healthcare Group and several investment houses in a US$1.5 billion competing take-private proposal to the special committee of iKang Healthcare Group, a NASDAQ-listed preventive healthcare provider in China.
“They were highly responsive, insightful and knowledgeable,” says Thomas Toy, co-chair of the special committee of the board of directors of SolarOne, and a retired board member of Hanwha Q CELLS. In-house clients recommended Nima Amini, partner in O’Melveny’s Hong Kong office.
The firm also acted for China Eastern Airlines on its strategic alliance with Delta Air Lines, a major American airline, to expand their partnership and better connect Delta’s global network with China Eastern. In the enhanced partnership, both parties entered into a conditional subscription agreement where Delta would invest US$450 million in China Eastern’s H-shares.
Private equity and venture capital
The China winners are DOCVIT Law Firm, Fangda Partners, Han Kun Law Offices, Hylands Law Firm, and PacGate Law Group. International winners are Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, Clifford Chance, Paul Weiss, Proskauer Rose, and Sidley Austin.
2015 was a milestone for DOCVIT, which more than doubled its legal staff from 23 lawyers to 48. The firm also expanded its services to sectors like international trade and intellectual property.
DOCVIT advised PICC Capital Investment in projects like the US$1.96 billion East-West-North Guangdong Revitalization Fund and the RMB5 billion Suzhou Industrial Development High-tech City Development Fund, and also serviced Beijing E-Town International Investment & Development and other billion-renminbi funds in Beijing used for the production and research and development of the circuit board industry in Beijing, investment consultation of to-be-listed companies, and investment in media, culture and entertainment industries.
Chen Ming, an investment manager of PICC Capital Investment, says, “DOCVIT has not only experience in private equity investment funds, but also extensive experience in the application of insurance funds.”
A legal counsel from a fund company says DOCVIT “fully understood the goal and requirements of our company’s investment, and has designed the best solution based on our circumstances. In negotiations with potential underlying funds, the firm settled different problems and assisted us in securing our goals while fully protecting the benefits of our company”.
The client recommends DOCVIT’s founding partner Liu Guangchao. “Liu (Guangchao) not only has rich experience in PE/VC, but also can offer insightful ideas with respect to investment.” Other in-house clients recommend the firm’s partner Liu Bing and senior associate Sima Yayun.
Following the opening of its Hong Kong office in January 2015, Han Kun entered into an alliance with Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners, a leading Italian firm with about 360 lawyers in offices around the globe.
Han Kun recruited eight partners from AllBright and one from Fangda Partners in September. In October, Han Kun also joined World Services Group as the exclusive China law firm member of the global network.
In the PE/VC sector, Han Kun worked frequently with the best known start-ups and large internet companies in China and around the world. The most notable deals included Didi Dache’s US$7 billion merger with Kuaidi Dache, and Tencent and JD.com’s US$1.56 billion investment into Bitauto Holdings.
The firm has witnessed the growth of many Chinese start-ups in numerous PE/VC deals, including Baidu’s investment in Uber’s Series E financing; waimai.baidu.com’s spin-off from Baidu and its Series A equity financing; the Series D financing of Meituan.com, a leading website in China similar to Groupon; the Series C financing of UCloud, a China-based cloud computing services provider; and the series C financing of Innovent Biologics, a leading biopharmaceutical company in China.
“In our previous investment or M&A projects, Han Kun not only fulfilled its tasks, but also took the initiative to put forward their thoughts and alternative solutions for us, wherever we would miss or not understand the issues, to help avoid loopholes and risks with respect to key issues,” says James Gao, assistant vice president of Bitauto Holdings.
PacGate is a boutique law firm with about 20 lawyers, and has solid performance in not only the PE/VC sector but also capital markets and M&A. The firm set up an office in Los Angeles at the end of 2014 and in the past year has advised on more than 30 PE/VC deals for leading start-ups, various PE/VC funds and RMB funds.
Those transactions mainly involved financing at different stages for start-ups in healthcare, e-commerce payment, nano-technology, bio-technology, mobile applications, steel e-commerce, online education, tourism e-commerce and others.
A legal counsel from Northern Light Venture Capital says it has worked with PacGate since 2005 and enjoyed the co-operation with the firm. “They give us timely, professional and effective feedback to our questions, and pursue the accuracy and preciseness of legal documents … they have given us full support even under the pressure of compressed timeframes and heavy workloads.”
The legal counsel recommends its Beijing-based associate Amy Deng as “highly professional, detailed, flexible and responsible. She can offer professional solutions for discussions based on the circumstances of different projects, conclude best solutions and help secure smooth delivery.” The firm’s partner Justin Chen, Michelle Jin and Sean Yan are also recommended by clients.
Sidley Austin acted for China Life Insurance on its proposed acquisition of the new shares of Town Health, a Hong Kong-listed healthcare company, for HK$1.75 billion (US$225 million). The transaction is one of China Life Insurance’s first investments in a Hong Kong-listed company as major shareholder.
The firm also acted for Baidu in its strategic investment in Albatross Computing Solutions, a US technology company, for the venture arm of Citigroup in the disposition of its interests in 99 Bill, a leading online payment company in China, and for VMS Investment Group, a Hong Kong multi-strategy investment firm backed by the New World Group, in its equity investment in Proteus Digital Health, a leading US medical devices company. The firm’s Raymond Oh, a partner based in Sidley Austin’s Hong Kong office, is recommended by clients.
Restructuring and insolvency
The China winners are Fangda Partners, Guantao Law Firm, KWM, W&H Law Firm, and Zhong Lun Law Firm. International winners are Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Latham & Watkins, Tanner De Witt, and Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz.
KWM advised in the restructuring of Jiangsu Xiake Color Spinning, the shares of which were listed on Shenzhen Stock Exchange. In 2014, the company faced a debt crisis and was warned about the risks of delisting. With the assistance of KWM, the company completed its restructuring smoothly in 2015, while solving its debt problems. The size of the deal is valued at RMB1.23 billion.
The firm also participated in the restructuring of Wuhan Huaxin Hi-tech in late 2014. The company was delisted from Shenzhen’s stock market in 2005 for years of losses and became insolvent in October 2014. The transaction is a landmark as the restructuring was completed in just 45 days, the fastest approved restructuring of a delisted company, and it also helped increase the liquidity rate and profitability of the company, giving it the potential to re-list.
A similar case handled by KWM was a restructuring involving Anshan Co-operation (Group), which was completed in May 2015 with an estimated value of about RMB2 billion.
Latham & Watkins advised on the restructuring of a Hong Kong-listed company’s indebtedness owing to certain bank lenders and other creditors, and in relation to winding-up proceedings in Bermuda and Hong Kong. The firm worked with its client, a major shareholder of the target company, and provisional liquidators to provide the best recovery for the creditors and allow the company to restructure its indebtedness and continue operations.
The firm also advised the joint and several liquidators of Wongs Investment Development Holdings Group, formerly the controlling shareholder of Hong Kong-listed China Kingstone Mining Holdings, in the disposal of about half of the total issued share capital of China Kingstone Mining. The team also represented PricewaterhouseCoopers as liquidators of Wongs Investment Development Holdings Group in multiple court proceedings in various jurisdictions.
Structured finance and securitization
The China winners are FenXun Partners, Global Law Office, Jia Yuan Law Offices, JunZeJun Law Offices, and Zhong Lun Law Firm. International winners are Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Kirkland & Ellis, Linklaters, and Sidley Austin.
Jia Yuan Law Offices participated in securitization deals such as the special assets support schemes on pledge-type repurchase of shares by Changan Assets and Founder Securities.
Guo Fei, a senior manager of Harvest Capital Management, says he is satisfied with the firm’s service. “The firm are efficient in drafting documents and giving practical responses; we can get answers the next day when we put forward our questions.”
Sidley Austin has been traditionally strong in Western markets in structured finance. It acted as global restructuring adviser for LDK Solar and Zolfo Cooper, its provisional liquidators, in restructuring more than US$700 million in claims owed by LDK and its subsidiaries. The transaction involved an analysis of a network of existing financial instruments as well as the discussion of different structured finance solutions, each of which required a full grasp of available structured finance options.
“In addition to the legal advice, Sidley Austin counsel provided very keen strategic recommendations to allow our company to formulate the best proposals during our financial restructure and offer the best value to our shareholders and creditors,” says Jack Lai, CFO and executive vice president of LDK Solar.
Sidley also represented China Orient Asset Management (International) Holding as the originator, servicer and liquidity facility provider in relation to a portfolio of assets sold to an orphan SPV issuer.
The China winners are Hwuason Lawyers, Jun He Law Offices, KWM, Run Ming Law Office, and Zhong Lun Law Firm. International winners are Baker & McKenzie, CMS China, Gide Loyrette Nouel, Jones Day, and O’Melveny & Myers.
Zhong Lun worked on the offshore equity transfer of a Shanghai building, offering taxation consultation and filings involved in the transfer. The firm helped the client to remove the risks left by the previous purchaser of the edifice.
The firm also provided tax analysis and advice for an international company on the transfer of its Asian businesses, and has provided advice on tax with respect to restructuring, spin-offs and expansions for various clients.
Gide Loyrette Nouel provided tax-related services for various transactions including group restructurings, M&A tax planning and structuring, tax-efficient financing, tax compliance, transfer pricing, tax disputes and tax reform issues.
Its clients are comprised increasingly of Fortune 500 companies, including a major oil company, several European multinational vehicle manufacturers, a global pharmaceutical company, and an international water treatment service provider.
It has also worked for a number of domestic companies in relation to outbound transactions and investments abroad, including a listed medical company with various investments in Europe.
Technology, media and telecommunications
The China winners are Commerce & Finance Law Offices, DaHui Lawyers, Han Kun Law Offices, TransAsia Lawyers, and Zhong Lun Law Firm. International winners are Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer, Mayer Brown JSM, Morrison & Foerster, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.
In 2015, DaHui advised some of the world’s cutting-edge tech companies including Reed Exhibitions, the world’s largest exhibitions company, CBS Interactive, the world’s largest vertical portal company, Elsevier, the world’s largest academic and science publishing company, Samsung Electronics, Huawei Technology and others.
“DaHui lawyers’ responses are timely and professional, offering opinions from multiple perspectives on laws and regulations, existing policies and best practice for clients’ queries,” says Li Rong, general counsel at Elsevier China.
In-house clients recommend Richard Ma, managing partner at DaHui, saying he “fully understands the needs and questions of clients, and arranges his firm’s professionals to offer legal services after full consultation”.
Mayer Brown JSM has advised many top-flight clients in music streaming, television broadcasting, and also high-tech start-ups.
“The services were delivered with the quality expected and the projects were managed on time,” says Frank Filser, COO & director at NexPack.
In-house clients recommend Gabriela Kennedy and Mark Stevens, the firm’s Hong Kong-based partners. “I work with them and it is a privilege to work with persons who have integrity, who cause things to happen and get the conversations rapidly and correctly. It is fun to work with them.”