The reorganisation of the Asia-Pacific management structure at Pinsent Masons aims to further boost its energy and infrastructure business by tapping into the regional shift towards sustainable projects.
The seven Asia-Pacific appointments in April underlined the firm’s focus on the region’s infrastructure and energy industries, which are the specialised areas of practice for the new regional leaders.
The management team comprises James Morgan-Payler, head of Asia-Pacific; Matthew Croagh, head of Australia; Ian Laing, head of Singapore; Alvin Ho, the representative for Hong Kong; Kanyi Lui, the representative for mainland China; Melanie Grimmitt, global sector head for energy; and Hammad Akhtar, global practice group head for transactional services.
“Our energy business represents approximately 14% of our global revenue, which represents a significant and rapidly growing part of our business,” Lui, who has extensive experience in advising energy and infrastructure projects on development and financing, told China Business Law Journal.
Energy co-operation is a cornerstone investment of the Belt and Road Initiative. Pinsent Masons has advised a series of Belt and Road projects sponsored by Chinese state-owned enterprises, such as the world’s largest concentrated solar plant in Morocco, the largest oil and gas investment in East Africa, and the Asian Development Bank phasing out coal-fired power plants across Southeast Asia.
In 2017, with China releasing three official documents to encourage programmes endorsing the 2030 Agenda, which includes the UN sustainable development goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, the Belt and Road projects have gradually transitioned to “small-and-beautiful” and sustainable-oriented themes.
“Renewable energy will continue to be at the forefront of energy sector growth across the region, driven by the demand for clean energy contributing to net-zero and ESG targets,” said Morgan-Payler. “He expected a rise in projects endorsing the clean energy transition with a strong interest in harnessing offshore wind across Southeast Asia.”
The newly created role of Asia-Pacific head was one of the restructured changes in the spotlight. The firm said “it enters its next phase of strategic growth across the region”.
China’s clean and renewable energy markets are also growing after the central government set a “dual carbon” target of capping CO2 emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.
Nevertheless, promoting clean energy increases the difficulty of managing legal issues, while Lui cautioned that the energy business is experiencing inflation, economic downturn, geopolitical risk and other factors.
“Projects take longer to put together and receive approval, [although] good projects can be highly competitive, execution can be fraught with risk due to rapidly changing policies. Supply chain issues, competing compliance requirements and price escalation are particular concerns for clients,” said Lui.
Morgan-Payler believed priorities in the coming year will be improving client service delivery with a purpose-led professional services business with law at the core, as challenges ranging from the pandemic to legislative, geopolitical and technological advancements will remain.
The firm is also seeing continued investment and opportunities in technology, science and industry – fast-moving sectors even during the pandemic.
“The scope for market growth across the Asia-Pacific region provides significant opportunities for the entire project life cycle and most practice areas,” said Morgan-Payler.