India Business Law Journal reveals its leading foreign firms for India work. Vandana Chatlani reports
Life has changed dramatically, and so, too, the process of law and business. Disruption, doubts, and delays caused by the covid-19 pandemic have turned the world on its head with severe consequences for global healthcare, employment, the economy, business, law and much more.
The pandemic is also throwing up new areas of work as companies grapple with supply chain complications, revisit contractual obligations that cannot be met, exercise force majeure clauses and come to grips with derailed deals. Legal advisers and their clients, like others, are adapting to this rapidly changing environment and its accompanying challenges – working from home, pushing transactions across the finish line, and attending virtual court hearings.
India’s central government has announced a series of relaxations and stimulus packages to help vulnerable sections of the population and ease the burden felt by India Inc. However, since May, the government has devolved power to the states and union territories, which are free to impose whatever restrictions they believe are necessary in order to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of the virus.
Indian and international companies with a presence across India are struggling as a result to decide the way forward, as one state could ease restrictions while another introduces new limitations to tackle the crisis.
Indian businesses and their legal advisers are finding ways to cope – familiarizing themselves with new regulations, reducing overheads, reprioritizing business goals, and thinking innovatively about possible strategies to survive the pandemic and all the uncertainty it brings.
With this landscape of uncertainty in mind, India Business Law Journal reveals the India-related accomplishments and undertakings of law firms around the world. Our report, now in its 14th year, draws on an analysis of more than 600 law firms from every continent that have catalogued deals and disputes with an Indian element in the past 12 months. Our results are based on rigorous research, vast editorial experience and extensive consultation with corporate counsel and Indian law firms.
As in previous years, we received hundreds of submissions from law firms and meticulously combed through public and other records, along with reports in Indian and international media, to ensure the accuracy of our information.
Based on this research, India Business Law Journal is pleased to present its selection of the top 15 foreign law firms for India-related work. We also list 15 firms that are considered key players for India-related deals and an additional 20 firms that are classed as significant players.
Each year we closely examine the work of regional and specialist firms in key economies such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and Singapore, along with regions such as sub-Saharan Africa. We highlight 20 firms in this category that are primed and enthusiastic about seizing roles on India-related assignments.
We further identify 15 firms to watch, and 15 firms to watch in the regional category. Some of these firms are huge entities, providing Indian clients with access to multi-jurisdictional services and broad practice area expertise. Others have carved out niches, honing their talent in particular hubs, building strong capabilities across specific industries, and creating regional networks to assist India-connected clients with contentious and non-contentious needs. We believe, on the evidence available, that these firms are committed to India and remain inspired to enhance their India-related credentials.
All the lists are in alphabetical order. We have expanded our top tier and key player categories this year based on the increasingly diverse pool of international law firms participating consistently on big-ticket India-related deals. Beyond deals, Indian clients also have incredible choice when it comes to resolving disputes, as evidenced by the rise of litigators and arbitration specialists with Indian experience across all our categories. In addition, international firms have raised their game to provide assistance on public policy, anti-corruption and social impact initiatives.
New entrants to our top 15 include Ashurst, DLA Piper, and Slaughter and May – firms that have demonstrated fervour with regard to India and showcased their ability to handle complex, cross-border deals across practice areas. The table comprises law firms that have handled sophisticated matters, disputes and projects, earning the respect and trust of clients and peers as a result of their stellar practices, and the performance of individual lawyers championing their India desks.
Virtually all those listed in the top 15, and many among the key and significant player categories, have dedicated resources, talent and energy to the Indian market for more than 20 years, building long-lasting relationships with Indian companies, financial institutions and law firms. Indian businesses have explored and conquered new markets, and their increasing experience and maturity has led to billion-dollar, headline-grabbing deals.
This hunger for expansion has led Indian talent to move around the globe and left foreign law firms keen for a piece of the action. How this activity will ultimately be affected as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, only time will tell.
TOP 15 foreign law firms for India work
ALLEN & OVERY (A&O) is an undisputed leader for complex, high-value transactions with an Indian element. Its cross-disciplinary excellence is highlighted throughout its varied deal list. In the past year, the firm acted for DSP Merrill Lynch, HSBC Securities and Capital Markets (India) and Nomura Financial Advisory Securities (India) on SBI Cards and Payment Services’ US$1.25 billion IPO, and assisted Indo Infra on its proposed investment in Mumbai International Airport. “A&O is the gold standard in legal expertise … one of the most revered organizations by clients and peer firms alike,” says Rajiv Luthra, the founder of L&L Partners. One client describes Gautam Narasimhan as “an excellent lawyer with a depth of experience in India who works hard, understands commercial objectives and puts the client first.” Rajat Sethi, a founder at S&R Associates, praises Pallavi Gopinath-Aney for her “top drawer international deal skills combined with a very in-depth and nuanced understanding of Indian regulations”.
ASHURST enters the Top 15 after a brilliant year on India deals and disputes. The firm has shown its commitment to the Indian market for decades, resulting in long-lasting relationships with Indian companies and law firms including Indian Law Partners, with which it shares a non-exclusive best-friend referral arrangement. The firm demonstrated its capital markets expertise when it represented the joint bookrunners and lead managers, and JP Morgan Securities as lead green structuring agent in the US$950 million senior notes offering by Greenko Solar Mauritius, a subsidiary of Greenko Energy. It went on to advise Citi India as sole placing agent on the US$102 million block trade in shares of Mahanagar Gas by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell. On the corporate front, Ashurst represented Brookfield Infrastructure on its agreement to acquire Indian telecoms tower company Reliance Jio Infratel. London-based Stuart Rubin has taken the reins from Richard Gubbins as head of the firm’s India desk.
Clients backed BAKER MCKENZIE for its expertise across a spectrum of practice areas. The firm banked headline deals including the US$1.2 billion refinancing for SKI Carbon Black (Mauritius), the holding company of Aditya Birla Group’s carbon black business. Baker McKenzie was counsel to the lead arrangers, representing a syndicate of 17 banks. Other roles included advising: Barclays Bank on a US$150 million letter of credit facility for Go Airlines; Tata Autocomp Systems and its subsidiaries in Sweden, Brazil and the US on term loan credit facilities used to refinance its existing credit facilities to acquire Swedish company TitanX Holding; and Essel Propack on the US$310 million sale of a 51% stake to Blackstone; and a diverse group of lenders for external commercial borrowings by Indian corporates (Fullerton India Credit, Aditya Birla Finance, Bajaj Finance and HDFC Credila). Noteworthy individuals are Ashok Lalwani (who drives the India practice), Samantha Mobley, Philippe Reich, Emmanuel Hadjidakis and Chu Kah-chin.
CLIFFORD CHANCE wins accolades for its vast experience in banking, project finance and development, acquisition finance, M&A, capital markets and dispute resolution. “Clifford Chance is one of the best international counsel for Indian transactions,” says Neetu Ranka, vice president at Edelweiss Financial Services. “They have an extraordinary set of talented lawyers who are amongst the most sought after in the legal community,” says SR Patnaik, a partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Deals included: assisting the arrangers on various financings for Reliance, including the recent US$3.48 billion equivalent of loans from Reliance Jio InfoComm to Reliance Industries; and conducting due diligence of English and Singapore law project documents for a 1500MW coal power plant at Godda, in Jharkhand. Clients speak enthusiastically of the firm’s India experts: Kabir Singh is “extremely sharp and knowledgeable, and is able to grasp the complexities of the subject”, while Rahul Guptan is “fast, comprehensive, articulate and strategic”.
DLA PIPER has no trouble securing roles on headline deals thanks to its strengths across capital markets, restructuring and insolvency, technology, media and outsourcing, dispute resolution and cross-border M&A. Led by Liam Prescott, the firm recently assisted the Securities and Exchange Board of India in recovering more than US$71 million in misappropriated funds held in Australia from a Ponzi scheme. On the back of its restructuring expertise, DLA was selected to advise Jindal Steel & Power Australia and Wollongong Coal on a protracted restructuring negotiation with creditors of around US$500 million of indebtedness. It was also sole international counsel to Deutsche Bank on a US$7 billion restructuring of facilities given to Essar Steel. On the investment front, the firm was counsel to Russian Direct Investment Fund (Russia’s sovereign wealth fund) on the acquisition of a stake in Indian learning app, Byju’s. Daniel Sharma chairs the firm’s global India group.
FRESHFIELDS BRUCKHAUS DERINGER has an enviable track record on India deals. The firm displayed its capabilities on contentious matters handling a dispute between an India-based global telecoms company (Freshfields’ client) and the government of Tanzania. The dispute related to the government’s imposition of an illegitimate tax bill and various penalties of more than US$1 billion.
Freshfields counselled it to a successful settlement. The firm also won landmark M&A transaction roles including as counsel to: BP on a new joint venture with Reliance Industries; Zentiva on the purchase from Sanofi of a manufacturing site in Gujarat; and a consortium of global institutional investors on their proposed acquisition of airports in Mumbai. Karan Suri, an executive director at Morgan Stanley commends the firm for its “understanding of corporate governance requirements as well as deal breakers for sponsors, [which] help advisers such as us navigate difficult negotiations”. Piusha Bose and Arun Balasubramanian are key India experts.
HERBERT SMITH FREEHILLS (HSF) has created a legacy for itself on matters with an Indian element thanks in no small part to the commitment of India practice chair, Chris Parsons. “Chris Parsons demonstrates a social commitment to India,” says the managing partner of a well-known Indian law firm. “His visibility, personality and overwhelming passion for India outshines Herbert Smith itself.” Aditya Vikram Bhat, a partner at AZB & Partners, says: “HSF is an invaluable ally on India-related matters that have cross-border connections and work streams.” Its key achievements over the past 12 months include: representing AustralianSuper on its US$1 billion investment in India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund; and advising Nanomi (a subsidiary of Lupin) on the sale of its stake in its Japanese subsidiary, Kyowa Pharmaceutical Industry, to Unison Capital Partners IV and Unison Capital Partners IVHSF. It also secured a victory for an Indian subsidiary of Mylan Laboratories in a dispute with Australian biotechnology company Phosphagenics.
JONES DAY‘s India team is coordinated from Singapore under the leadership of Sushma Jobanputra. It has a strong track record on banking and finance, M&A, private equity, capital markets, energy, projects and infrastructure, dispute resolution, and investigations and compliance. Prominent assignments including acting for Godrej Consumer Products (GCPL) and Godrej Mauritius Africa on a US$135.2 million financing to repay existing debts of certain members of the GCPL group; representing Westpac and State Bank of India in connection with a US$1.7 billion financing for Indian Oil; and advising Babcock Power on joint bids, along with ISGEC, for thermal power projects tendered by NTPC in Tamil Nadu. “Jones Day lawyers have shown an exceptional grasp of local laws and practices, while sustaining the quality of representation we have come to expect in the [US],” says Michael McInerny, assistant general counsel at Babcock Power. Mary Mabey, senior vice president and general counsel at ATN, recommends Lynette Lim as well as Karthik Kumar “for his sound legal and business advice”.
Capital markets luminary LATHAM & WATKINS was an adviser on five India Business Law Journal Deals of the Year in 2019 – more than any other international firm. Pramod Kumar, managing director and head of banking in India at Barclays, says the firm “is thoroughly professional, very responsive and provides very high-quality, balanced advice”. The firm delivered another strong performance in the past year, representing Adani Green Energy through subsidiaries and co-issuers Adani Green Energy (UP), Parampujya Solar Energy and Prayatna Developers, in the US$500 million co-issuance of 6.25% senior secured notes due 2024. Additionally, it advised Morgan Stanley Southeast Asia in Oriental InfraTrust’s private placement of 230 million units listed on the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE), and Adani Ports and the Special Economic Zone on two bond offerings with a combined value of US$1.4 billion, listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. Capital markets trailblazer Rajiv Gupta leads the India practice.
LINKLATERS is a formidable force on Indian transactions, regularly representing Indian conglomerates enlarging their footprint outside the country and marquee investors on their forays into India. The firm has one of the largest India-focused capital markets practices among international law firms. Led by Amit Singh, the team includes partners Hyung Ahn and Jonathan Horan. The firm’s banking specialists are Narayan Iyer, who heads the India team, and Philip Badge. Meanwhile clients rely on the expertise of Savi Hebbur and Sushil Jacob for corporate matters. Recent achievements include assisting the lenders on a US$135.2 million financing to repay the debt of particular members of Godrej Consumer Products, and advising the eight bookrunning lead managers on Yes Bank’s US$2 billion further public offering. In May, Linklaters signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with IDIA Charitable Trust (IDIA), which aims to increase diversity in the legal industry, by supporting students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds in India.
NORTON ROSE FULBRIGHT lawyers “are completely clued into India’s fast-changing business dynamics and legal landscape”, says Naresh Thacker, a partner at Economic Laws Practice. India practice head Sherina Petit is well respected and wins praise from one client for her “very high level of ethical standards and pragmatic approach towards dispute resolution and settlement”. Vasanti Selvaratnam QC, whom the firm instructs on English law issues, says Petit is “a delight to work with”, while Matthew Buckle is “incredibly bright and one of the rising stars” in international arbitration. Norton Rose advised Reliance Industries on the development and financing of a 750MW power plant and an LNG receiving terminal in Bangladesh, and a consortium of lenders on a US$262.5 million term facility for a crude oil terminal operator in India. The firm has “well-developed international capabilities across practice areas,” says Rajat Sethi, a founder at S&R Associates. “John Chrisman is … someone to go to when you want to get a complicated deal to the finish line.”
SHEARMAN & STERLING is regularly at the forefront of complicated transactions with an Indian angle, frequently luring in blue-chip clients such as Aditya Birla Group, Reliance Industries, Sun Pharmaceuticals and Essar. It has a clear strategy focused on targeting private equity firms, as well as Indian companies and multinationals. The firm concentrates on specialist sectors too. Greenko Energy Holdings and Greenko Solar (Mauritius) sought its advice on the latter’s US$1.035 billion bond offering. The Greenko offering was the largest green bond in Asia, the largest high-yield bond from India in 2019, and one of India Business Law Journal’s Deals of the Year 2019. Shearman also took on mandates for ArcelorMittal, advising on its US$1 billion acquisition of Essar Steel via its joint venture with Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Corp, and Etihad on the restructuring of its investment in Jet Airways. The firm’s dedicated India practice is led from Singapore by partner Sidharth Bhasin.
SIDLEY AUSTIN is a mighty player on the capital markets circuit, outperforming many rivals to secure roles on meaty fundraising exercises. Clients speak ardently of its expertise. “They are among the best firms doing India-facing work,” and “most well-suited to cater to the needs of an Indian capital markets transaction,” says Anurag Byas, a senior associate at ICICI Securities. Adithya Anand, vice president at Reliance Industries, says Manoj Bhargava has been his “go-to man for any clarifications related to capital market transactions, especially in relation to US laws”. Nakul Manaktala, associate vice president at SAMHI Hotels endorses Ankit Kashyap as “a master trouble-shooter” who is very approachable. Standout transactions include advising Reliance Industries on a US$7 billion rights offering– the largest rights offering by a non-financial services company in the world in the past 10 years. Parthiv Rishi, previously a partner at
Linklaters, joined the firm this year.
SLAUGHTER AND MAY revels in opportunities to handle high-stakes matters and navigate legal and regulatory labyrinths to help clients achieve their commercial goals. Their deal lists may not be as long as those of their competitors, but their clients are frequently eminent leaders in their fields. Slaughter and May is “one of the finest firms around, technically very sound, and possesses the skills to distil complicated situations into basic principles,” says Rajat Sethi, a founder at S&R Associates. Sethi recommends Roland Turnill as “a standout M&A lawyer”. In a recent memorable deal, the firm advised TVS Motor Company on its acquisition of iconic British motorcycle brand, Norton Motorcycles. The transaction involved one of TVS Motors’ overseas subsidiaries purchasing certain assets of Norton Motorcycle Holdings and Norton Motorcycles (UK), both in administration, for £16 million (US$20.5 million). Slaughter and May provided guidance on corporate, intellectual property, employment, real estate and tax aspects of the transaction.
SQUIRE PATTON BOGGS prides itself on its public policy practice, which is staffed by members who have held senior government positions in capitals around the world. That experience is harnessed when addressing the specialized needs of government and private entities operating internationally. In 2019, its Washington DC office advised Tata Consultancy Services on a range of public policy aspects of their business operations in the US, including immigration and the H1-B visa programme. Squire is also known for its capital markets capabilities. The firm represented: the bookrunning lead managers on Shree Cement’s US$350 million rule 144A qualified institutional placement; and the brokers on the State Bank of India’s US$500 million offer for sale. Rahul Gautam, senior vice president and head of corporate finance at PVR Cinemas, appreciates the firm’s “prompt and solution-oriented approach”. Biswajit Chatterjee heads the India practice, which includes former US Ambassador to India, Frank Wisner, Nimi Patel, Sunil Mehta, Frank Samolis, and Kaustubh George.
KEY PLAYERS foreign law firms for India work
BIRD & BIRD wins accolades for its expertise in handling deals and disputes in the healthcare and life sciences sectors. It secured two mandates from Indian vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India, first on its purchase of the majority share in Germany’s Vakzine Projekt Management, and later on the €167 million (US$195.8 million) sale of its Czech unit, Praha Vaccines, to US-based Novavax – the largest M&A deal to date this year on the Czech market. Beyond the healthcare sector, the firm clinched roles as adviser to Chennai-based oil and gas company Invenire Energy on its acquisition of Hardy Exploration & Production. “Bird & Bird has been impressive and extremely supportive with their legal advice and Voltas’ matter handling of all legal issues in Singapore,” says Gopal Bub, senior legal manager at Voltas. He singles out Akshay Kishore “for being extremely pragmatic and commercial with his advice”. Nipun Gupta and James Mullock co-head the India practice.
CLEARY GOTTLIEB STEEN & HAMILTON is frequently seen on marquee deals involving Indian companies. Recent accomplishments include advising: GlaxoSmithKline in its ₹254.8 billion (US$3.4 billion) sale of its 5.7% stake in Hindustan Unilever; Qatar Investment Authority on an acquisition by its subsidiary of a 25.1% stake in Adani Electricity Mumbai; and The Rise Fund, a social impact investment fund managed by TPG Growth, in numerous investments including in two India-based platforms, Leadership Boulevard and The Better India. “I would highly recommend Nallini Puri, who combines international M&A experience with excellent knowledge of the local India market and M&A practices,” says one client. The client also endorses Surya Banerjee, “a solid, hardworking associate with a promising future”, and Tihir Sarkar “who also participated in the transaction at a senior level and provided excellent advice”.
The CMS India desk coordinates India work through a team of partners and senior associates based in London, Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, Dubai, Singapore, Vienna, Zurich and Rome. The Severn Glocon group, a control and choke valve business, turned to the firm for advice on the sale of a 100% shareholding in a number of its group entities to Bluewater Energy. The sale included the disposal of Severn Glocon India. Investec engaged the firm as it became the placing agent on an £18 million rollover and placing, and a follow-on £22 million placing for India’s IMImobile. And Infosys sought the firm’s advice on a proposed tax structure relating to the operations of its Croatian branch office and on-call tax advisory. CMS was equally active on the disputes front, acting in high court proceedings in London for a large Indian conglomerate on a joint venture dispute in relation to oil exploration in Nigeria. Bill Carr and Alasdair Steele are key contacts in London.
DAVIS POLK & WARDWELL is reputed for its vast experience in high-value capital markets, private equity and M&A deals. The firm had a busy 12 months assisting Tencent late last year on its acquisition of a 9.96% stake in Sumo Group, an English company whose businesses provide development and design services to the video games and entertainment industries. It went on to advise Reliance Industries (RIL) on its joint venture with an affiliate of BP in a deal that expects to expand RIL’s current fuel retailing network to 5,500 retail sites and 45 aviation fuel stations across India in the next five years. This year, Davis Polk represented Clarivate Analytics in connection with its US$950 million acquisition of Decision Resources Group from Piramal Enterprises. It has also continued to be a trusted adviser to RIL and Jio Platforms on a string of blockbuster investments in Jio.
GIBSON DUNN & CRUTCHER‘s relationship with India runs deep. Under the leadership of Jai Pathak, who has advised on prominent India-related deals in the past 25 years, the India team has structured foreign investment into India across a variety of sectors including manufacturing, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), telecoms, retail, energy, IT, real estate, aviation and infrastructure. This year, the firm was counsel to Eros International, an Indian motion picture production and distribution company, on its merger with US-based media company STX Financing, and to New York-based Voya Financial on a joint venture in India with the SLK Group. Gibson Dunn is “an outstanding firm”, says Rajat Sethi, a founder of S&R Associates. “Jai Pathak is one of the very best and most experienced India lawyers around at international firms.” Bharat Vansh Bahadur, associate general counsel at Interglobe Aviation, says “their strength is that they understand a client’s business”. He also recommends Mitri Najjar and Emma Pond.
Private equity and fund formation has been a core focus of GOODWIN PROCTER’s India practice for many years. The firm represented several international private equity funds in the US$1 billion series H financing and US$156 million series I financing in Swiggy, India’s largest food delivery platform. It then acted for Coatue Management in the US$120 million series D3 financing and US$50 million series E1 financing in Mumbai-based Rebel Foods. It also represented: several international private equity funds in the US$585 million series D financing in Udaan, a B2B e-commerce company that connects buyers and sellers in India through an online marketplace; and A91 Partners in the formation of its inaugural growth capital fund. Yash Rana heads up the India practice from Hong Kong with support from Abhishek Krishnan. Other key India lawyers are Ananth Lakshman and Asmita Mishra. Gregory Barclay continues to head the firm’s India funds practice from Hong Kong with support from Manish Ranjan.
HOGAN LOVELLS is a key player after the reinvigoration of its India practice and a stellar performance on India deals in the past 12 months. The firm clinched a role as adviser to Facebook on its US$5.7 billion investment for a 9.99% stake in Jio Platforms, the biggest telecoms operator in India. It also assisted Ford Motor Company on the creation of its US$275 million joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra – one of India Business Law Journal’s Deals of the Year 2019. The firm also advised France’s Groupe ADP (formerly Aéroports de Paris) on all aspects of its proposed US$1.4 billion equity investment to acquire a 49% stake in GMR Airports. “The firm is top class across various jurisdictions,” says Abhijit Joshi, the founder of Veritas Legal. Sandeep Mehta, a partner at J Sagar Associates, appreciates Stephanie Keen and Soumitro Mukerji for their “knowledge, capabilities, precise advice and personal approach”. Mukerji steers the India team from Singapore.
KIRKLAND & ELLIS is a popular choice for global clients seeking US and UK legal advice on India-related matters. The firm’s principal areas of practice are M&A, including Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) matters, finance, antitrust, regulatory and executive compensation; restructuring and tax; litigation and arbitration; cross-border investigations and regulatory enforcement; and intellectual property and technology matters. It is currently advising a global pharmaceutical company on a US Department of Justice investigation into potential US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations involving allegations that senior employees paid bribes to Indian government officials. Other highlights include representing a host of Indian pharmaceutical giants including Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Lupin, Torrent Pharmaceuticals and Ranbaxy on lawsuits in the US, and assisting Vista Equity Partners in its US$1.5 billion investment in Jio Platforms. Key India contacts are Srinivas Kaushik, Cori Lable, Asheesh Goel, Anand Damodaran and Ranesh Ramanathan.
Having attracted India-focused specialists from rival firms in the past few years, MAYER BROWN has become a heavy hitter on complex disputes involving Indian parties. The firm has been advising an Indian company in connection with a dispute arising from a construction project in India against a global pharmaceutical company. Jeffrey Graham, senior vice president and head of legal and regulatory affairs at SkyPower Global, instructed the firm on a series of arbitrations arising out of contractual disputes with a leading Indian company where the contracts are governed by Indian law and disputes subject to Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) rules. “I consider Mayer Brown in Singapore to be a tier 1 law firm with outstanding arbitration experience involving Indian-related matters,” he says. Graham endorses Tay Yu-jin, head of international arbitration in Asia, and Divyesh Menon. Also well regarded are Kayal Sachi, Ian Roebuck, Devi Shah, and India practice co-heads David Carpenter and Paul de Bernier.
MILBANK TWEED HADLEY & MCCLOY has cultivated strong working relationships with international and local banks and law firms in India, positioning itself to attract assignments on high-value M&A, project financing, capital markets offerings, private equity investment, aircraft financing and disputes. Transaction highlights in the past 12 months include advising: the joint lead managers on GMR Hyderabad International Airport’s US$300 million bond offering; the initial purchasers on Delhi International Airport’s issue of US$350 million 6.45% senior secured notes due 2029; and the lead managers on JSW Steel’s issue of US$500 million 5.95% notes due 2024. Milbank promoted James McFarlane to special counsel this year. He has advised both issuers and underwriters in high-yield debt and equity issuances. Naomi Ishikawa and James Grandolfo head up the India practice from Singapore and Hong Kong, respectively. John Dewar and Sinjini Saha in London are also key contacts for India.
REED SMITH has a strong track record of handling cross-border disputes involving Indian businesses. In the past year, the firm acted for Barclays Bank in an English High Court litigation against a Dutch company and its Indian parent company, obtaining a judgment for US$40 million. The firm also picked up roles on finance deals acting for Bank of India on numerous foreign currency facility agreements for Videocon Hydrocarbon Holdings totalling more than US$1.1 billion, and assisting the Bank of India on the English law aspects of a US$1.08 billion financing for Sterling Global Oil Resources provided by a consortium of Indian banks. Hywel Phillip, director and general counsel with AT Holdings in Singapore, recommends India practice co-head Gautam Bhattacharyya, Matt Gorman and Gerald Licnachan for “great quality advice and hands-on, prompt and reliable service within an affordable budget”. Dubai-based Sachin Kerur and New York-based JP Duffy are other India specialists. Dallas-based I Bobby Majumdar co-heads the India practice.
ROPES & GRAY‘s India team consists of 30 lawyers spread across offices in the US, Hong Kong, London, Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul. The firm has cemented its reputation for anti-corruption and antitrust investigations across the Asia-Pacific region. As a result, it was counsel to Google in relation to multiple antitrust investigations conducted by the European Commission, the US Federal Trade Commission, and the Competition Commission of India (CCI). It also showcased its strengths on corporate matters including: Baring Private Equity Asia in its US$888 million acquisition of India-based healthcare technology service provider CitiusTech; and TPG Growth and Cancer Treatment Services International in the US$283 million sale of the latter to Varian Medical Systems. It also represented PG Impact Investments in its debt investment in the education sector following the provision of a loan to Thirumeni Finance, a non-bank financing company with a mission to improve access to quality education in low-income communities in India.
SIMPSON THACHER & BARTLETT is a magnet for private equity deals. The firm was counsel to KKR on its acquisition of a majority stake in Max Healthcare Institute. The acquisition was undertaken through a series of transactions, including: KKR’s portfolio company, Radiant Life Care, purchasing a 49.7% stake in Max Healthcare from South Africa-based hospital operator Life Healthcare; Max India spinning-off its non-healthcare businesses into a new wholly owned subsidiary; Radiant demerging its healthcare assets into Max Healthcare; and Max Healthcare undertaking a reverse merger with Max India. Following completion of the reverse merger, KKR will acquire an additional stake of 4.99% in the merged entity from the promoters of Max India. Blackstone turned to the firm when it acquired a controlling stake in Aadhar Housing Finance, India’s largest independent affordable housing finance company. Simpson Thacher’s India work is coordinated from its Hong Kong office, led by Ian Ho.
STEPHENSON HARWOOD‘s multidisciplinary India practice is an attractive draw. Nikhil Narayanan, a partner at Khaitan & Co, says the firm ranks among the top for its commercial approach and responsiveness. “They punch well above their weight and offer high-quality service at very reasonable prices,” he says, adding that George Cyriac “is very knowledgeable about the Indian market, user-friendly and puts clients at ease”. Recent accomplishments include representing: Axis Bank and Standard Chartered Bank on separate acquisition finance facilities for Travel Circle Mauritius; LOGOS Group on the launch of LOGOS India Logistics Venture to fund investment in logistics real estate in India; and Tech Mahindra on its US$95 million acquisition of Born Group. Anand Venkataraman, head of corporate affairs and commercial at Kaya Skin Clinic, says: “I have never worked with any other law firm that is as friendly and warm as them,” he says. “One of the best firms I have worked with.” Kamal Shah heads the India group.
WHITE & CASE remains a prominent name among peers on the India circuit. The India practice operates from New York, Singapore and London, and takes on a host of assignments for international investors and Indian companies including M&A, private equity, capital markets, project development and financing, leveraged financing, fund formation, dispute resolution and general corporate advisory work. India specialists include Dipen Sabharwal, an international arbitration expert who regularly advises on India-related disputes. Aditya Singh focuses on international arbitration matters and white-collar investigations. The firm expanded its global banking and finance practice late last year with the appointment of Alexander McMyn, who moved from Hogan Lovells. McMyn advises creditors, sponsors and borrowers on a broad spectrum of transactions with a particular focus on destinations such as India, Indonesia and Australia. Nandan Nelivigi, who has advised on a variety of corporate transactions, leads the India team.
SIGNIFICANT PLAYERS foreign law firms for India work
ADDLESHAW GODDARD’s India business group has helped companies establish operations in the UK, Europe, the US, the Gulf region, Africa and Asia. Addleshaw’s London, Singapore and Dubai offices are particularly active on the India front. “We have worked with the London office and consider it top class,” says Abhijit Joshi, the founder of Veritas Legal. Addleshaw was counsel to Tata SIA Airlines on the launch of its international operations in Dubai, the Future Group in relation to the insolvency of fashion retailer Koovs, and IndusInd Bank Limited on financing Rwanda Tea Investments. Mike Duggan, Richard Wise and Hemal Kotecha are reputed for their India work. Vivien Yang recently joined as a partner in Hong Kong. Yang has more than 15 years of experience advising clients in oil and gas, LNG and power-related transactions, and is familiar with key players such as Oil India, ONGC Videsh, Bharat PetroResources and Indian Oil.
COVINGTON & BURLING has been active on India deals for more than two decades. The firm has pushed the envelope, going beyond corporate matters, joint ventures, investigations and project financings to advising clients on matters of public policy relating to India. The firm’s standout deals in the past year include: advising Piramal in the US$950 million sale of Decision Resources Group to Clarivate Analytics; and representing Reliance Jio Infocomm on a comprehensive, long-term strategic relationship with Microsoft to develop data centres in India. One Indian lawyer says Covington has “one of the finest tax practices”, “deep expertise on regulatory matters”, and “a knack of hiring very senior resources from government”. The firm has taken an active role in supporting the high-tech and life sciences-focused, Bengaluru-based entrepreneur community. Under India practice chair Ralph Voltmer, Covington has hosted a quarterly networking event in Bengaluru where entrepreneurs discuss international topics relevant to the local startup community.
With about 500 lawyers based in New York and London, CRAVATH SWAINE & MOORE has never been concerned with the numbers game, and has always gravitated towards challenging and complex deals. Last year, Chinese online travel company Ctrip.com increased its stake in Indian online travel site MakeMyTrip through a share swap deal with South African technology investor, Naspers. Cravath advised Naspers on the swap, which was one of India Business Law Journal’s Deals of the Year 2019. “Cravath is world-renowned for advising on some of the most complex cross-border M&A transactions, including those involving India,” says Cyril Shroff, the managing partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. “We would particularly go to them for very complex, innovative and landmark transactions.” The firm has advised HDFC Bank since 2001, when it helped bring the bank public. “We would recommend them for their quality of service,” says Srinivasan Vaidyanathan, CFO and group head of finance at HDFC Bank, highlighting Philip Boeckman’s professionalism.
Clients and peers offer glowing praise for DEBEVOISE & PLIMPTON’s capabilities on dispute resolution and private equity. “They have a fantastic arbitration team that knows Indian law, Indian clients and has huge India-related work experience,” says George Pothan Poothicote, a legal consultant at India’s Ministry of External Affairs. “Having the vast experience and expertise of Lord Goldsmith, a QC, former UK attorney general and a senior partner, optimizes costs,” says Mysore Prasanna, a legal consultant, arbitrator and mediator. Marco Chung, an executive director at Morgan Stanley, says the firm is “head and shoulders above any peer international law firm” on its understanding of India-focused close-ended funds. Debevoise is currently advising Russian potash fertiliser manufacturer PJSC Uralkali, on claims brought against the former joint administrators (now joint liquidators) of the Force India Formula One Team. Other highly regarded lawyers are Gavin Anderson, Geoffrey Kitteredge, Geoffrey Burgess and Philip Rohlik.
EVERSHEDS SUTHERLAND’s size and reach is a huge draw for Indian clients. The firm was legal adviser to the administrators of iconic sporting motorcycle brand Norton on its sale to India’s TVS Motor, and assisted General Motors on the sale of its Talegaon manufacturing facility in India to Great Wall Motors. “They treat all assignments, large or small, with equal dedication and the right amount of resources,” says Mickey Mehta, the CIO at Crown Land Capital Group. “I have found them to be of a high calibre and professional in their dealings. I have worked with Kingsley [Ong] for over six years on various transactions: insolvency, dispute resolution, M&A, recovery and structured trade. He is very client-focused and his business partner approach has served me well, which is why I continue to use the same law firm even across different companies I have headed up.” Parmjit Singh spearheads the India group.
FOLEY HOAG has served India-related companies across a variety of industries including technology, investment management and life sciences. The firm represents Alembic Pharmaceuticals on global patent prosecution and portfolio strategy work, and acted for Jana Care on the launch of its first full-time US operations in Boston. Neeta Sanghavi, head of legal at Avendus Capital, instructed the firm for advice on international fund documentation, guidance on marketing and solicitation of funds in the US, the use of derivatives and compliance with US laws. Sanghavi says the firm is “very good, prompt, effective and pragmatic”, providing “excellent services and great value”. Sandeep Saraf, head of compliance and legal at White Oak Capital Management India, consulted the firm on similar matters. “We are quite satisfied with the services of Foley Hoag and they hold strong amongst other international law firms,” he says. The firm continues to represent the Republic of India in an investor/state arbitration with Louis Dreyfus Armateurs.
GUNDERSON DETTMER leaps onto the list of significant players for the first time after a promising year in venture financing. The firm channels its offerings based on a set of services critical to clients and refined by stage: venture capital and growth equity, entrepreneurs and emerging companies, and maturing and public companies. A team led by Jon Pentzien represented Lightspeed India Partners as it co-led the series A investment in Nextbillion.ai, a Singapore-based startup building AI-based mapping solutions. Existing client Tiger Global instructed the firm on the series A financing round, which it led together with Sequoia India for UrbanPiper, a Bengaluru-based restaurant management platform. The firm was also counsel to Club Factory, a China-based fashion e-commerce store, which raised US$100 million in a series D round of financing to expand its platform in India. On the M&A front, the firm was legal adviser to Naspers-PayU in its acquisition of Wibmo.
The India practice at K&L GATES is driven by partners Pallavi Mehta Wahi in Seattle and John Magnin in London. The firm has represented international clients seeking a footprint in India and ambitious Indian entrepreneurs with a global vision. The firm clinched a role as adviser to SpiceJet in its first transaction with Chorus Aviation Capital, a US$120 million deal involving the sale and leaseback of six aircraft. Other highlights include representing business and IT consultancy Accelalpha in its recapitalization by Century Park Capital Partners. “We find numerous similarities in the value systems of K&L Gates and our firm,” says Rajiv Luthra, the managing partner at L&L Partners. “This makes for a great equation as we are able to work with them seamlessly, almost like a single team.” In January 2019, the firm combined with Straits Law Practice in Singapore, deepening its Indian client base in the sectors of banking and finance, corporate/M&A and dispute resolution.
KELLEY DRYE & WARREN has cemented its reputation in the US-India business corridor over four decades, advising on inbound and outbound acquisitions, IP, technology, regulatory compliance, private equity and disputes. In the past 12 months, the firm handled a string of assignments for Indian clients, assisting with real estate and labour law issues connected to the coronavirus pandemic, bankruptcy matters, investments, contractual disputes and regulatory compliance. Talat Ansari and Deepak Nambiar co-chair the India practice. Before becoming a lawyer in the US, Ansari, who was born in India, practiced law for more than a decade. Nambiar, a former counsel to GlaxoSmithKline in India, focuses on major M&A, technology and other cross-border corporate transactions involving the US and India. Aware of India’s position as a huge arms importer with the world’s fourth-biggest military budget, the India team, together with the firm’s international trade and export controls practice group, also advises clients on defence procurement regulations.
KING & SPALDING has had an outstanding year on India transactions, securing roles on prominent deals such as a project by Borealis (its client), Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Adani and BASF to develop a US$4 billion chemicals complex in Mundra, India, that is expected to be the world’s first greenfield refinery powered entirely by renewable sources. It also advised Masdar on its proposed US$592 million purchase of a 20% stake in Hero Future Energies, and Nomura in relation to a facility to Blue Planet, a Singapore waste management company, on its acquisition of a stake in Zigma. Rajat Sethi, a founder of S&R Associates, says the team is “detail-oriented, always willing to roll up their sleeves, and understands their clients and business in great depth. [India practice leader] Rahul Patel has been an old and very experienced India hand, and is very busy on complex and high-value inbound and outbound India matters.” Andrew Brereton is also recommended by the portfolio manager at a private credit fund.
MORGAN LEWIS & BOCKIUS works with clients across a wide range of industries who have an interest in expanding out from, or into, India. The firm offers expertise in technology, life sciences, telecoms, energy and natural resources, media, healthcare and education. This year, Morgan Lewis represented Italian engineering services provider Trevi Finanziaria Industriale in the sale of its oil and gas division to Megha Engineering & Infrastructures (MEIL). Indian infrastructure company MEIL develops global projects in the water, hydrocarbons, highways, energy, electric mobility and manufacturing sectors. The firm is well-positioned to assist Indian clients on their investments across Southeast Asia thanks to its affiliation with Morgan Lewis Stamford, a Singapore law corporation. Partner Rahul Kapoor, who is based in Silicon Valley/San Francisco, leads the India initiative. Other key contacts for India are Jonathan Hines (Moscow), Pulina Whitaker (London) and Ayman Khaleq (Dubai).
Private equity powerhouse MORRISON & FOERSTER (MOFO) took on deals for client SoftBank in the past year, assisting SoftBank Group on its US$250 million investment in Ola Electric Mobility and SoftBank Vision Fund on three standout deals: a primary investment in the US$1 billion series G funding round of One97 Communications; its series F follow-on investment in Oravel Stays; and its series F investment into Indian online grocery startup, Grofers. “MoFo is indeed one of the best law firms I’ve worked with,” says a partner at one of India’s top law firms. “The MoFo team brings an unmatched degree of client commitment to every assignment. Their India desk, led by Amit Kataria, has a far better understanding of the Indian market than all the other US firms I’ve worked with.” Marcia Ellis, Brian Snyder and Sunandini Das are key members of the India practice.
OSBORNE CLARKE casts a wide net over Indian conglomerates seeking business advice across Europe. Its deal list is proof of its strength and reach in the region. It advised Birlasoft on employment and immigration matters in Belgium and the Netherlands; HCL on employment, commercial and data protection matters in Germany, the UK, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands; Tech Mahindra on the framework of a debt restructuring commenced by one of their clients before a court in Milan; and Larsen & Toubro Infotech in a multinational outsourcing transaction across Europe. The firm was also instructed by Infosys on the acquisition of an ABN AMRO group company in the Netherlands. UK corporate partner Simon Spooner became co-head of the India group and will work alongside group founder Ulrich Bäumer, a partner in the firm’s German IT/commercial team. The firm maintains its relationship with Indian law firm BTG Legal, led by Prashant Mara, the former co-head of Osborne Clarke’s India group.
In July 2019, Penningtons Manches merged with Thomas Cooper, creating PENNINGTONS MANCHES COOPER, with a team of more than 850 people operating across seven UK and six international locations. Penningtons has had a committed India team for many years, operating primarily from London under the leadership of Rustam Dubash, who has practised in India and maintains strong links with Indian law firms and companies. The firm’s partnership with Thomas Cooper gives its existing Indian clients access to specialists in maritime, commodities and finance law, and legal expertise from both practices in Madrid, Paris, Piraeus, Sao Paulo and Singapore. Arbitration, dispute resolution, real estate and business immigration are other key areas of focus for the India group. Penningtons is currently acting for Mahindra Racing UK on data mapping and implementing GDPR compliance, including data transfers between India and the UK. In addition, it took on a role as counsel to Tata Advanced Systems on cross-border manufacturing agreements including technology licensing.
SHEPPARD MULLIN RICHTER & HAMPTON has been a trusted adviser to Indian businesses seeking guidance on labour and employment law, IT litigation, IP, anti-corruption and trade regulation, and corporate commercial matters mainly in the US. Tech Mahindra has relied on the firm for guidance on litigation and dispute resolution, including patent, trade secrets, and licensing matters. It sought the firm’s advice when it acquired New York-based digital media agency Born Group last November for approximately US$95 million. Other recent achievements include acting for Tata Consultancy Services in connection with motions to compel arbitrations in the US District Court. It also assisted insurance software business Majesco on its purchase of Inspro, and acted for L&T Technology Services on employment law issues, including compliance with US, state and local laws, and employment litigation. Valerie Demont is a principal contact for India matters, while Robert Friedman and James Hays lead the South Asia team.
The majority of India-related mandates handled by SIMMONS & SIMMONS is coordinated through its offices in London, Germany, Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong. In January, the firm welcomed counsel Shashwat Patel as the new head of its India group. Patel, who moved from Debevoise & Plimpton, will work closely with Bristol-based technology, media and telecoms (TMT) partner Hinal Patel to build up the firm’s brand in India. Highlights in the past 12 months include advising an international bank in relation to an advance payment facility extended to Reliance Industries in connection with the sale of oil to an international oil trader; and assisting a UK hedge fund manager in relation to a joint venture with an Indian asset manager that will lead to the launch of two funds. The firm was also counsel to the Indonesian government in a bilateral treaty arbitration brought by Indian Metals & Ferro Alloys under the India-Indonesia bilateral investment treaty, for a claim of US$680 million.
SKADDEN ARPS SLATE MEAGHER & FLOM has represented companies with an interest in India for several years. It has assisted on M&A and joint ventures, restructurings and divestitures, international corporate financings, project finance transactions, and cross-border disputes. Skadden was global counsel to Chinese online travel company Ctrip.com when it increased its stake in Indian online travel site MakeMyTrip through a share-swap deal with South African technology investor, Naspers. The transaction, one of India Business Law Journal’s Deals of the Year 2019, saw Naspers transferring its stake in the Indian company for new shares in Ctrip, aggregating to about a 5.6% stake. The deal concluded with Ctrip owning a 49% stake in MakeMyTrip. The firm also represented Twitter when it led a US$100 million round of funding in Mohalla Tech (ShareChat, a Bengaluru-based social networking site). The deal was Twitter’s maiden investment in India.
TAYLOR WESSING’s reputation rides on its excellence in resolving complex disputes, particularly in the life sciences and healthcare sector, along with expertise in technology, communications, brand protection and financial services. On the contentious side, the firm represented Lupin on patent litigation regarding invalidity and non-infringement of three patents belonging to Chiesi, relating to asthma product formulations, and Sun Pharma in a contractual dispute with a supplier. The firm is also Cipla’s adviser of choice on several contentious and non-contentious commercial matters throughout Europe. Sameer Tapia, a partner at ALMT Legal, refers to India head Laurence Lieberman as “a fantastic litigator”. On the non-contentious side, the firm assisted Ola Cabs on its UK launch in numerous cities, and a US semiconductor company on its Indian launch. “We find the firm’s knowledge, understanding of, and ability to manoeuvre through the finer nuances of the Indian legal system very impressive,” says Rajiv Luthra, the founder of L&L Partners.
Lawyers at international arbitration boutique THREE CROWNS have extensive experience in handling India- related disputes across sectors including telecoms, energy, real estate, infrastructure and financial services. Clients profit from access to India-qualified lawyers, India specialists in each of the firm’s offices in London, Paris, Bahrain and Washington DC, and a strong in-house advocacy unit in the form of Constantine Partasides and Reza Mohtashami, who have been designated as Queen’s Counsel. Vyapak Desai, a partner at Nishith Desai Associates calls Three Crowns “an exceptional firm”, and “one of the best firms to work with on arbitration-related matters”. Montek Mayal, senior managing director at FTI Consulting, who endorses the expertise of Manish Aggarwal, Gaëten Verhoosel and Leilah Bruton, says the firm is “top notch; high-quality and expert-driven, yet focused on practical solutions”. Three Crowns is advising a multinational telecoms company on potential investment treaty claims against the Republic of India arising out of the 2G scandal.
Corporate work, finance, energy-related matters, and employment and immigration are core focus areas at the India practice of WATSON FARLEY & WILLIAMS. The firm is regularly at the forefront of aviation deals and in the past 12 months it acted for banks, lessors, corporates and airlines on aircraft-related transactions worth more than US$1 billion. It represented IndiGo Airlines on several deals including the sale and leaseback of nine Airbus A321 Neos involving CDB Aviation, and advised on a lease agreement in relation to an A320-232 from a China Development Bank special purpose vehicle (SPV) to a Sculptor Capital Management SPV. It also took on a role as adviser to an Indian non-banking financial company on its purchase of a financial services business in the Dubai International Financial Centre. The firm is “very hands on at a senior level”, says one Indian law firm partner, who recommends Dhruv Paul.
REGIONAL & SPECIALISTforeign law firms for India work
ANDERSON MORI & TOMOTSUNE assists Japanese companies with their investments and disputes in India. Ryo Kotoura is an experienced India hand, working to support clients on establishing local subsidiaries, branch and liaison offices in India, setting up joint ventures, acquiring local companies, assisting with distributorship agency agreements, and handling employment matters, IP issues and litigation. In June 2019, the firm advised Nippon Life Insurance on its acquisition of Reliance Nippon Life Asset Management (RNAM) – one of India Business Law Journal’s Deals of the Year 2019. Reliance Capital exited its stake from RNAM while making a simultaneous offer for sale to other financial investors, generating ₹60 billion. It also attracted other mandates including advising Fuji Electric on its purchase of Chennai-based power backup manufacturer Consul Neowatt Power Solutions, and advising Nippon Express on a 22% investment in Future Supply Chain Solutions.
APPLEBY’s dedicated India-focused team, based out of its Mauritius office, attracts veteran and fledgling investors interested in India. Its understanding of the key offshore legal, regulatory and commercial environments earned it roles on a slew of high-profile deals including Bharti Airtel’s perpetual bond issue through its subsidiary Network i2i to raise funds worth up to US$250 million. Seher Ali, general manager of legal at Bharti Enterprises, praises Malcolm Moller and Farzanah Nawool for being professional, effective and likeable. “I have worked with their team on several transactions and each time I have been very pleased with their level of communication and responsiveness,” says Ali. Rajiv Gupta, a partner at Latham & Watkins, says: “Appleby is by far the most popular law firm for Mauritius advice. We see them on almost all our equity and debt deals that require Mauritius law advice.”
Singapore joint law venture CLYDE & CO CLASIS regularly secures mandates from Indian parties seeking to resolve disputes at the SIAC, under the leadership of Prakash Pillai. It recently represented the affiliates of an agricultural business headquartered in the US against its Indian joint venture partner in a heavily contested SIAC arbitration. The dispute spanned six years and involved arbitration and court proceedings, culminating in an eight-day final merits hearing in Singapore. In January, the client was awarded substantial damages and costs. Another recent win was for India’s largest manufacturer of writing and printing paper on a dispute relating to a failed agreement for the sale of shares in a Malaysian paper company for around US$310 million. The case involved US$50 million as security for the sale and purchase. The Indian party was ultimately successful, obtaining an award of US$50 million, plus costs and interest.
Boutique law firm COLLYER LAW specializes in representing emerging growth companies, supporting technology businesses and advising venture investors. It also manages disputes and arbitrations for Indian parties in Singapore. Recent deals include advising Indian online doctor booking services venture, Practo, on its series D1 venture financing round, and the shareholders of Medios Technologies in its acquisition by Remidio Innovative Solutions. Joseph Mocanu, the managing partner at Verge HealthTech Fund, which engaged the firm for a social impact healthcare investment, says it is “top notch”, offering “big-law quality with the personal touch only a boutique can offer”. Mocanu recommends Aritra Roy. Claire Pribula, managing director of The Yield Lab, calls Azmul Haque “the best lawyer on this planet … the Swiss Army Knife of lawyers”, applauding his encyclopaedic knowledge of fund setups and operations and his “rare ability to support both large corporations and startups”.
Indian companies rely on CORRS CHAMBERS WESTGARTH to navigate the legal and regulatory regime impacting their investments across Australia. The firm brings key expertise in sectors such as TMT, infrastructure, energy and resources, education and agribusiness. Australian firms have also looked to Corrs for guidance on doing business in India. Respiri recently engaged the firm in relation to the supply of its digital asthma monitoring product into the Indian market, while another Australian-listed entity turned to the firm for advice on establishing a technology capability centre in India under a build, operate and transfer arrangement. The firm has also worked with Amity University on its market entry strategy in Australia, and Chennai-headquartered Ramco on implementation matters for major Australian customers. Corrs works closely with the Bengaluru-based Victorian Government Business Office to assist Indian companies entering the Australian market. Arvind Dixit chairs the India group.
Dentons may be the world’s largest law firm in terms of headcount, but most of its India work is handled out of the Singapore office of DENTONS RODYK DAVIDSON. The firm recently acted for Udaan, an India-based B2B online marketplace, in its US$585 million series D investment round. Investors included Tencent, Altimeter Capital, Footpath Ventures, Hillhouse, GGV Capital and Citi Ventures, as well as existing investors DST Global and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The firm was also counsel to Keppel Land in its US$25 million equity investment in Smartworks Coworking Space, a space solutions provider with a presence in nine major Indian cities. Manishii Pathak, a partner at IndusLaw says the firm has a “good understanding of Indian laws”, is “well-read about local developments” and “transparent”. Pathak recommends S Sivanesan and Sunil Rai. London-based Deepa Deb is also a key contact for India.
DREW & NAPIER is renowned for its dispute resolution expertise and its ability to manage contentious cases in India from afar. It also assists Indian parties on M&A transactions, tax matters and fund work. One client who used the firm for a complex litigation involving India, Mauritius and Singapore law, described its services as “outstanding and seamless”. Siddharth Thacker, a partner at Mulla & Mulla, says the firm’s lawyers “are extremely industrious and understand the practicalities, nuances and challenges of dealing with the Indian market”. Foo Yuet-min and Jimmy Yim are also highly recommended. Harshvardhan Sethi, at VM Mining, says the firm offers “exceptional service” on both contentious and non-contentious matters. Carol Fu, board office specialist at DyStar, which engaged the firm for disputes related to its Indian shareholder, appreciates Mahesh Rai’s proficiency and knowledge of Indian legal matters. Cavinder Bull “is spectacular and in a very elite league”, says Shaneen Parikh, a partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas.
DUANE MORRIS & SELVAM is consistently the firm of choice in Singapore when it comes to capital markets deals. In the past 12 months, the firm won roles advising investment and financial service institutions on numerous capital-raising exercises, including IPOs by Prince Pipes and Fittings and Affle, a US$1.2 billion qualified institutional placement by Bajaj Finance, and a US$42 million rights issue including an offer in the US by Arvind Fashions. The firm has also been active on energy projects and regulatory matters in Singapore and Myanmar. Key highlights were advising Oil India on regulatory and contractual matters in Myanmar, and the State Bank of India’s Yangon branch on financing and regulatory matters. Jon Crandell, who has advised on significant offerings by Indian issuers, joined the firm in February from Clifford Chance. Jamie Benson, Gerard Hekker and Priyank Srivastava are primary contacts for India.
With more than 600 practitioners and offices in Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda, ENSAFRICA is Africa’s largest law firm, and its South African and Mauritius branches are crucial to its India offering. It has assisted companies on multi-jurisdictional projects, joint ventures, private equity and investment funds, infrastructure, local ownership structures and startup launches. Key India-focused practitioners are Sanjay Kassen, Thierry Koenig, Mohamed Sajid Darsot, Nashenta Vuddamalay Zindel, Maxime Sauzier and Shrivan Dabee. This year, the firm represented Tata Power on the ₹1.55 billion disposal of its 50% stake in Cennergi, a wind farm in the Eastern Cape. The firm is currently involved in a litigation where it is acting for Dynamic India Funds III, ICICI Bank, ICICI Venture Funds Management Company and Western India Trustee and Executor Company in relation to a claim of around US$205 million by 69 claimants.
Italian firm GIANNI ORIGONI GRIPPO CAPPELLI & PARTNERS has a dedicated India desk and non-exclusive relationships with a number of law firms in India. In 2016, it advised ArcelorMittal on its investment in Italian steelmaker Ilva, and is currently assisting the company on negotiating with the Italian government to restructure the industrial plan and revise its agreements. It also represented Italian construction engineering company Trevifin in the sale of its oil and gas division to Hyderabad-headquartered Megha Engineering & Infrastructures (MEIL) for €116 million. The sale involved two holding companies of the Trevi Group and their subsidiaries worldwide. “Their strength comes to bear especially in transactions involving the review of complex regulatory regimes against any potential threat to the commercial viability of a deal and the client’s business objectives,” says Kosturi Ghosh, a partner at Trilegal. Sandeep Mehta, a partner at J Sagar Associates, recommends Rosario Zaccà and Kathleen Lemmens.
German law firm HENGELER MUELLER is well entrenched as an adviser in the Indo-German and Indo-European corporate landscape. The firm was selected as an adviser (alongside other international firms) by Tata Steel on its 50/50 joint venture with thyssenkrupp, announced in June 2018. Last June, the European Commission blocked the venture leading thyssenkrupp to file a lawsuit against EU regulators, where a decision is now pending. Hengeler also won a role as adviser to global private equity firm Lone Star on the acquisition of the construction chemicals business of BASF for €3.17 billion – a multi-jurisdictional transaction spanning over 60 countries, including India. The firm has interacted with Indian companies throughout the covid-19 crisis to address regulatory, employment, restructuring or corporate issues affecting their operations in Europe and India. Daniela Favoccia, Carsten van de Sande and Amit Datta lead the India practice.
German commercial law firm HEUKING KÜHN LÜER WOJTEK has long been a trusted adviser to Indian companies exploring the German market. Its portfolio comprises Indian companies such as CEAT, Tech Mahindra, Ratnamani Metals & Tubes, Havells Group, Neilsoft and Rotex Group. The firm has been a hive of India-related activity in the past year. It acted for synthetic rubber company Arlanxeo in the sourcing of IT services from Infosys, negotiating a five-year global contract for the worldwide provision of application management services for its SAP infrastructure in 20 locations across 10 countries. It also represented an international manufacturer of high-tech medical devices in patent investigations and litigation regarding a med-tech company and its local agent in India, and assisted Bharat Forge on the structuring and conclusion of a joint venture with German drive technology and engineering company Prettl Holding. Martin Imhof spearheads the India desk.
KOBRE & KIM makes its debut in the “Regional & specialist” category this year. The firm focuses exclusively on disputes and investigations. Vasu Muthyala, a Hong Kong-based US-trained lawyer, leads the firm’s India effort. Muthyala spent more than a decade with the US government, at the Department of Justice and the Securities Exchange Commission, and brings experience in international government investigations and regulatory matters. Recent highlights include acting as counsel to a multinational pharmaceutical company with a footprint in India and the US, to investigate allegations of potential violations of US anti-corruption laws. It also represented Pinpoint Asset Management to monetize more than US$100 million in defaulted bonds issued by Rolta International, Rolta India and Essar Capital to defend against ArcelorMittal USA in its enforcement of a US$1.3 billion arbitral award being pursued in London, the Cayman Islands, the US and Mauritius.
MORI HAMADA & MATSUMOTO frequently captures roles on high-profile transactions by Japanese investors in India. “Their in-depth understanding and experience in complex Indo-Japanese deals, and the confidence that Japanese clients have in them, is remarkable,” says Gopika Pant, a partner at Indian Law Partners. The firm recently advised Hakuhodo on its purchase of AdGlobal360, a digital advertising agency company in India, and was counsel to Mitsui Fudosan on its maiden investment in India – a partnership with RMZ Corp to develop the RMZ Ecoworld 30 office development in Bengaluru. Rudra Pandey, a partner at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co, who has worked closely with the firm, says the India team is “diligent, hardworking, professional and reliable”. Chisako Takaya and Yohei Koyama (head of the India desk) come highly rated. Subham Agarwala joins Soni Tiwari and Pavitra Iyer as the firm’s third Indian-qualified lawyer.
NAGASHIMA OHNO & TSUNEMATSU earns its place among the regional players after a year of solid deals and strong testimonials from Indian and international peers. A leading automobile manufacturer engaged the firm when it formed an alliance with a competitor in a deal that required approval from the CCI, while Nissan Chemicals engaged its services for a joint venture with Bharat Rasayan to establish an agrochemical manufacturing facility in Gujarat. Keizaburo Ioka, a legal officer at Nissan Chemicals, says the firm “provided excellent legal services at a reasonable fee”. Covid-19 has prompted a new stream of advisory – guiding clients on their rights under existing contracts with Indian parties, particularly in relation to exercising force majeure. Shashank Jain, head of legal at Air Vistara, who has consulted the firm on a host of Japanese law issues, recommends Singapore partner Rashmi Grover for her approachability and clear advice.
Japan’s largest law firm, NISHIMURA & ASAHI, is our fourth and final regional player from the country. The firm has advised Indian and Japanese parties on joint ventures, M&A, compliance, crisis management, tax matters and disputes. Its recent accomplishments include advising on a joint venture between a Japanese courier company and an Indian cargo services provider, and a strategic partnership between a Japanese engineering company and a large Indian vehicle manufacturer. Hiroaki Takagi and Taeko Suzuki are well-versed on India matters. Much like its Japanese peers, the firm has expanded its footprint beyond Japan, establishing offices in Bangkok, Beijing, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, New York, Shanghai, Singapore (the first Japanese firm to launch a Singapore alliance), Taipei and Yangon. Clients also benefit from its affiliations with law firms in Dubai, Hong Kong and Jakarta. In January, the firm announced an expansion into Europe with office openings planned in Frankfurt and Dusseldorf.
RAJAH & TANN’s deal list speaks to its India credentials. The firm is representing a claimant in an arbitration over delays relating to a 70-kilometre offshore pipeline project in which certain offshore platforms are to be modified. It also won a role as counsel to Meghmani Organics for the delisting of its Singapore depository shares from the Singapore Exchange as part of its restructuring exercise, which will result in two new companies being listed on Indian stock exchanges. The firm is currently representing Vedanta in two applications before the High Court of Singapore. The case relates to a Singapore-seated arbitration under the UNCITRAL rules, arising from more than US$3 billion in claims against the Republic of India under the UK-India BIT. India experts are Kelvin Poon, V Bala, Jainil Bhandari, Hoon Chi-tern, Vikram Nair, Avinash Pradhan, Kendall Tan and Evelyn Wee.
Singapore law firm SHOOK LIN & BOK has a solid track record of handling India-related assignments across practice areas, from cross-border banking and finance, capital markets and M&A to joint ventures, private equity, regulatory matters and disputes. The India practice, led by Sarjit Singh Gill and Aditi Mathur, comprises India, UK and Singapore-qualified lawyers. “They are extremely quick and efficient,” says Karan Mitroo, a partner at L&L Partners. “We are very happy with the support they provide us on their deals and enjoy working with them.” Gill recently acted for an Indian company, which owns restaurants in India and franchise restaurants in more than 30 countries, on a dispute with its Singapore joint venture partner. Mathur, meanwhile, assisted two Indian private banks, one on a ₹200 million facility for an Indian security solutions provider, and the other on a ₹5 billion term loan facility to the Indian subsidiary of a Singapore IT infrastructure provider.
TLT is a trusted choice for Indian banks seeking guidance on multijurisdictional lending and cross-border enforcement. Last September, the firm appointed Indian insolvency specialist Kanika Kitchlu-Connolly to strengthen its support of UK and Indian clients. In the past year, TLT represented Bank of India in proceedings against Nigerian-owned Atlantic Bluewater Services, and three related corporate guarantors, in relation to their default on an US$80 million loan facility. It also advised IDBI Bank in relation to the enforcement of a US$200 million loan facility provided for the construction of two oil rigs, and separately in relation to proceedings against Axcel Sunshine for its default under a loan agreement, the provisions of which were governed by English law. The firm continues to act for a consortium of 13 Indian banks to recover their dues in a case against Indian businessman Vijay Mallya. Paul Gair is a primary contact.
WONGPARTNERSHIP is a heavyweight when it comes to dispute resolution and routinely appears for clients in India-related arbitrations, both ad hoc and under the auspices of institutions. The firm is currently Singapore counsel to the Republic of India in an investor-state arbitration under the UK-India BIT commenced by Vedanta Resources for a claim of £2.2 billion. Raffles Group engaged the firm in Singapore court proceedings launched against Indian and Singaporean individuals for loss and damages arising from the individuals’ alleged conspiracy to injure the Raffles Group through fraudulent misrepresentations. The firm is acting for Jhaveri Darsan Jitendra, a high net-worth businessman, and various Singapore entities to defend a claim by the late Anil Vasudev Salgaocar (an Indian mining baron who was a member of the Goa Legislative Assembly) in Singapore High Court for over US$690 million.
FIRMS TO WATCHforeign law firms for India work
African law firm BOWMANS has offices in Nairobi, Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) has consulted the firm for corporate matters involving investments between India and South Africa. “Bowmans is a top-tier South African firm,” says Cyril Shroff, CAM’s managing partner. “They are highly reputed for their full-service capabilities and also for their depth and expertise of the South African market. They have a strong record of advising on complex infrastructure and mining projects. Their corporate/M&A practice is also well regarded.” Shroff recommends chairman and senior partner Robert Legh, and Ezra Davids, chairman of corporate/M&A.
BSA AHMAD BIN HEZEEM & ASSOCIATES has offices in Dubai, Erbil, Beirut, Muscat and Riyadh. Anand Singh, an India-qualified lawyer with more than a decade of multijurisdictional experience, heads up the firm’s India desk. Singh specializes in advising insurance companies, reinsurers, insurance brokers and agents across multiple jurisdictions on incorporation, distribution strategy, regulatory, compliance and other advisory matters. The firm is representing India’s largest stock exchange on its Saudi Arabian joint venture and representing an Indian construction company in the UAE courts on a dispute under its joint venture with a UAE partner. Swati Soni, an India-qualified lawyer with experience in civil and criminal litigation, joined the firm last year.
DORSEY & WHITNEY’s India practice is staffed by a network of lawyers in Hong Kong, London and North America. The firm works on public and private offerings of securities, M&A and joint ventures, cross-border financing, commercial transactions such as manufacturing and distribution, project finance, foreign direct investment and tax planning. One of its highlights was advising Indian Railway Finance on its US$1 billion 144A bond offering. It also represented Chennai-based Invenire Energy, an oil and gas company with assets in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Africa, on its acquisition of Hardy Exploration & Production (India) from its parent company, Hardy Oil & Gas. David Cameron is a principal contact for India.
Corporate M&A work is at the heart of DWF’s India offerring under practice head Babita Ambekar. Darren Walsh, Craig Chaplin, Vassilis Akritidis, Ben Constance, Kayaan Unwalla and Jonathan Burton also support Indian clients. From its bases in Singapore, Dubai and the UK, the firm has won mandates to assist: HCL Infosystems on business transfer agreements in conjunction with the divestment of HCL Insys to PCCW; Finnov, the holding company of Krazybee, India’s largest online lending platform, on early stage strategic and institutional investments received; and Korea Investment Partners’ on its investment in Pouring Pounds. In March, the firm, which has 33 offices and 4,300 staff, acquired legal services provider Mindcrest, opening offices in Pune, New York and a new office in Chicago. However, in June 2020, DWF announced it would be closing its Singapore office and India practice. Clients will have to wait and watch how this impacts its India capabilities.
Vinita Mehra spearheads the India practice at KEGLER BROWN HILL & RITTER. The firm has developed a niche in representing domestic and India-based businesses as outside general counsel. This is aimed at fuelling and supporting sustainable growth for clients and includes advice relating to corporate issues, IP-driven growth strategies, securing private placements and human capital strategies. “Vinita is licensed in India and the US, so she understands US-based clients and she has tremendous business sense,” says one client. “She is highly attuned to business practicalities. There’s a huge element of reassurance that she’s 100% there with us. It always feels like she is committed to helping us get to a good result in a timely and cost-effective manner.”
MCDERMOTT WILL & EMERY appointed former Reed Smith partner Ranajoy Basu in May. Basu, who specializes in structured finance, securitizations, derivatives, debt capital markets and debt restructurings, now chairs the India group at the firm. McDermott has been counsel to numerous Indian businesses including ICICI, Oil India, the State Bank of India, Ducati India and the Akshaya Patra Foundation. The firm was counsel to UBS Optimus on the world’s largest healthcare development impact bond. The bond will support Indian government efforts to reduce maternal and newborn deaths by improving access to, and the quality of care in, up to 440 private healthcare facilities in Rajasthan. Basu is also acting for Deutsche Bank in relation to the default by Bartronics India and Madison Pacific in relation to the Reliance Communications debt default. Basu leads the firm’s India practice, which is made up of 20 partners across practice groups and geographies.
ORRICK focuses on serving the technology and innovation, energy and infrastructure, and finance sectors. The firm has more than 25 offices across the US, Europe and Asia. Recent transactions include advising an Indian pharmaceutical company on the acquisition of a German pharmaceutical entity, assisting an Indian auto parts manufacturer on the proposed sale of its business in Europe, acting for a large Indian tyre manufacturer on employment law issues in the US, and representing an Indian company on corporate issues related to its business in Japan. Dusseldorf-based Abhijit Narayan is head of the firm’s India desk for Continental Europe.
REGIONAL FIRMS TO WATCHforeign law firms for India work
Tokyo-based ATSUMI & SAKAI was the first Japanese law firm to create a foreign law joint venture, permitting it to admit partners qualified in jurisdictions other than Japan. The firm has lawyers qualified in England and Wales, and foreign lawyers registered in Japan to advise on US, Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese, Indian and Australian law. Ashish Jejurkar, a partner at the firm, studied in Mumbai and practised at Little & Co, L&L Partners and Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas before joining Atsumi and Sakai. The firm recently represented Indian digital company PayMate and its sponsors, Ajay Adiseshann and Ravi Viswanathan, on a US$25 million primary investment by Visa, Recruit Holdings Japan and other investors.
In the past year, Cypriot firm ELIAS NEOCLEOUS & CO has provided legal assistance to a South African investment company on a potential collaboration with a leading chassis manufacturer in India. The company supplies products to leading original equipment manufacturers including, among others, Ford Motors and Volvo. The advice addressed whether it would be beneficial to have a Cyprus entity as an intermediary company, given the recent tax reforms and amendments made to the treaties between India and Cyprus. Separately, it advised a large Nordic corporate client on various investment activities, mainly in the healthcare sector in India, working with an Indian law firm, tax consultants and a custodian bank. Elias Neocleous is guiding the Nordic client in relation to trademark registration in India, in collaboration with an Indian law firm. Motaher Chowdhury leads the firm’s India initiative. The firm has formed strong relationships with several Indian law firms, banks and other institutions.
Brazilian firm LEVY & SALOMAO secured roles on two mega India-related deals: an issue of US$1.6 billion 4.75% senior notes by Novelis, and US$775 million incremental term loans and US$1.1 billion short-term loans entered into by Novelis. Both deals were guaranteed by Novelis do Brasil and other affiliates of the Novelis Group. Levy & Salomao advised on Brazilian law issues, drafting and filing guarantees, the security agreement and issuing legal opinions. The firm shares a long relationship with Novelis (belonging to the Aditya Birla Group) having assisted the group on banking and finance issues for more than 12 years. Luiz Roberto de Assis is a primary contact for India matters.
MAURICE TURNOR GARDNER is a boutique private client law firm in London. The firm has been offering its services since 2009, following the demerger of Allen & Overy’s private client department. It handles the spectrum of issues that affect wealthy individuals and their families and trustees, and has an established real estate team that has advised on high-value property acquisitions, disposals and tenancy arrangements for Indian clients. The firm supports Indian business owners with estate and succession planning, analysis of alternative structures to ensure tax efficiency, knowledge on the UK/India double tax avoidance treaty, and finance management to realize their philanthropic aims. Eesha Arora is a key contact for India-related enquiries.
Israeli firm MEITAR represents Indian companies on a wide range of business transactions. Its clients include local companies and multinationals involved in M&A, corporate sales, investments and strategic joint ventures. Last year, Meitar represented Girls Who Code on the expansion of its international operations to Canada and the UK, in addition to increasing their range of operations in India. Girls Who Code is a non-profit that aims to empower girls to learn to develop software. Clifford Felig is a key member of the India practice.
UK law firm ROYDS WITHY KING has worked with a number of Indian law firms in the past, among them Little & Co, Kanga & Co, MV Kini & Co, Suri & Co, Supreme Law Firm, and Khaitan and Partners. The firm was recently engaged in litigation on behalf of an Indian bank against a shipping company, and six Indian individual guarantors in relation to US$19.5 million in facilities provided to support a vessel’s shipyard business. On commercial matters, the firm is assisting an Indian bank (and its London, Dubai and Ho Chi Minh offices) on a US$150 million loan facility documentation, and security documentation to another Indian bank in New York. Little & Co managing partner Jayendra Kapadia endorses Royds partner Milan Kapadia for his strong experience in banking, commercial and civil litigation, and restructuring and recovery. “He offers utmost dedication to a matter and gives his personal attention from start to finish,” says Kapadia.