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HONG KONG HK

K&L Gates Expands Hong Kong Office With Former Orrick Team

K&L Gates has recruited a team of three partners specializing in an integrated funds and private equity practice.

Sook Young Yeu, Scott Peterman and William Ho all join from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, which has decided to close its Hong Kong office. Yeu and Peterman, both funds specialists, were partners with Orrick while Ho, who advises on private equity transactions, was of counsel with the firm. The trio are joined by two associates at K&L Gates.

Yeu, who led Orrick’s Hong Kong office since joining in 2005 through Orrick’s takeover of legacy Coudert Brothers’ China offices where she had been practicing since 1989. She’s advised Asian investors on investing U.S. and other cross-border funds and on private equity investment.

Peterman has an active fund formation practice advising the structuring of various private, investment and real estate funds. Last year, he advised Hong Kong-based fund manager Pacific Hawk Ltd. on launching the first open-ended fund in the city following legislative change. He joined Orrick in 2017 from Jones Day where he was of counsel. Before that, he was a partner with Sidley Austin.

Ho focuses his practice on advising private equity houses and companies on fund raising transactions, investments and mergers and acquisitions. In May, he advised Taiwan-based live streaming site operator M17 Entertainment Ltd. on a $26.5 million Series D from investors including Singapore-based venture capital fund Vertex Growth Fund. Ho joined Orrick in 2018 from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison where he was an associate for three years. Earlier in his career, he trained and practiced with Slaughter and May.

The trio bring in-depth industry experience in the technology, media, telecommunications, and fintech sectors, said David Tang, K&L Gates’ Hong Kong-based Asia managing partner, in a statement. “The additions of Sook, Scott, and Will significantly broaden and deepen our funds and private equity practices in Asia,” he said.

Last year, K&L Gates added in Hong Kong capital markets partner Guiping Lu from elite Chinese firm Haiwen & Partners.

China introduces new Hong Kong security law

China introduced a controversial national security law Thursday that could place restraints on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

The law prohibits acts of “sedition, foreign interference, terrorism and secession.” China cited national security concerns for implementing the measure, but many warn the law will be interpreted broadly and cover protests.

China’s legislature begins its annual National People’s Congress meeting on Friday, where it could pass the law without deliberation from the legislature in Hong Kong.

Under the institution of “one country, two systems,” such a measure would need to pass the Hong Kong legislature. The legislature attempted to pass national security legislation earlier this year, but failed after being met with opposition from protesters.

The summer of 2019 marked a significant resistance to the Chinese government from pro-democracy protestors. The movement has since subsided in the form of public protest as the COVID-19 outbreak has spread throughout the world, including in Hong Kong.

Pro-democracy leaders are speaking out against the proposal and its procedure. “This is the end of Hong Kong. This is the end of ‘One Country, Two Systems.’ … Beijing has completely breached its promise to the Hong People. A promise enshrined … in the basic law,” declared lawmaker Dennis Kwok.

HONG KONG HK

Osborne Clarke latest firm to exit HK market

UK firm Osborne Clarke is set to close its Hong Kong office, with operations scheduled to come to an end by June – the second international firm to announce that it would shutter its office in the city in just over a month.

Recently, U.S. firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe announced it would wind down its Hong Kong operations by the end of August.

Osborne Clarke has had a presence in Hong Kong for over five years. The firm launched its office there – its first foray in Asia – after hiring two Bird & Bird partners, Marcus Vass and John Koh, who established the associated Hong Kong firm Koh Vass & Co. Since February 2019, the firm had been trading as Osborne Clarke.

However, the last 12 months have been very disruptive for law firms in Hong Kong, with first the political protests, and then the coronavirus pandemic, negatively impacting business conditions.

Osborne Clarke’s Hong Kong office has eight members, including two partners and two associates.

Following the closure of Hong Kong operations, the firm will refocus its regional growth plans on its Shanghai and Singapore offices, as well as its association with Indian firm BTG Legal.

HONG KONG HK

Baker McKenzie Elects Milton Cheng as Next Chair

Leading global law firm Baker McKenzie is proud to announce that following a vote of its partnership, Milton Cheng has been elected as the next Chair of the Firm.

Based in Hong Kong, Milton is the Managing Partner of the Hong Kong office and concurrently the Chief Executive overseeing Baker McKenzie’s offices and businesses across eight countries in the Asia Pacific region.

Milton has considerable experience in mergers and acquisitions, real estate investment trusts, financial services regulation, corporate finance and corporate restructurings. He regularly advises clients — including REIT and other asset managers, financial institutions, multinationals and Hong Kong-listed groups — on a wide range of acquisition, REIT, restructuring, regulatory and corporate finance matters.

A graduate of King’s College London, Milton became a partner of Baker McKenzie in 1999 and is admitted to practice in Hong Kong and in England & Wales. He is the Firm’s first Asian Chair.

Milton Cheng, Chair-elect of Baker McKenzie said, “I am truly honored by the trust my fellow partners have placed in me. I look forward to working with all of them and my colleagues across the world to build on the great work of my predecessors to make Baker McKenzie the global law firm of choice.”

Milton, who will serve in the role for four years, takes up the position with effect from October 17, 2019 succeeding Jaime Trujillo, who has been Acting Global Chair since October 2018.

Jaime said, “We had a group of outstanding candidates for our next Chair and the partners had a difficult decision to make. In choosing Milton we have someone who can take this great Firm to the next level. I offer him my sincerest congratulations.”

KPMG adds to Asia legal presence

The KPMG Global Legal Services network is pleased to announce that it has expanded its legal capabilities in Asia Pacific by establishing a new law firm in Hong Kong, known as SF Lawyers.

SF Lawyers is the newest member of the KPMG’s Global Legal Services network. It will initially commence operations with four senior hires and two senior associates joining either now or over the next few months, and with plans for around 20 lawyers in the first year. The four senior hires are Shirley Fu, Rodney Chen, Leo Tian and David Murray, and they will be supported by Alex Ma and Sherman Wong as senior associates. Brief details of the senior hire profiles are included below. An additional launch of legal services in Shanghai is expected in 2019.

Honson To, Chairman of KPMG Asia Pacific and China, says: “We warmly welcome SF Lawyers as the newest member of the KPMG Global Legal Services network, which has grown by 30 percent in 2018 alone, and has significant growth ambitions just beginning to be realised across the Asia Pacific region.”

“With increased global connectivity and the digitalisation of many business functions, SF Lawyers will be uniquely positioned to deliver on the needs of both domestic clients (including going outbound) and multinational clients entering or transacting in the Chinese market. Working in conjunction with KPMG, SF Lawyers will provide clients with legal services in key areas such as M&A and deals, and infrastructure projects. It will also offer technology enabled legal services, while leveraging significant investments in robotics, artificial intelligence and other technologies developed globally and in China through the KPMG Digital Ignition Centre.”

“The firm will also help provide clients with global legal solutions, leveraging our legal services practices across 76 jurisdictions, together with KPMG’s presence in 154 countries around the world”, To adds.

SF Lawyers will be operating in association with KPMG Law in Australia, which is led by Stuart Fuller, the former Global Managing Partner of King & Wood Mallesons.  Fuller has recently moved to KPMG where he occupies the role of Asia Pacific Regional Leader for Legal Services.

Fuller says: “We are excited about the association between KPMG Law in Australia and SF Lawyers in Hong Kong, which is reflective of the increasingly important trade and business flows between the two jurisdictions. We are not trying to be a traditional law firm. Our approach is different, with a focus on offering our clients integrated global legal advice and solutions, where we are able to work seamlessly with existing KPMG clients who are looking for local and multijurisdictional counsel. As someone who has lived and worked in Hong Kong for 6 years, I am proud to see SF Lawyers as the newest entry to the network in Asia.”

HONG KONG HK

Hong Kong Dispute Resolution: Plans for 2019 and Beyond?

Here, we take a look at market trends and emerging best practices in the dispute resolution space to offer a guide as to what could be top of mind for practitioners in 2019 and beyond

Arbitration

What’s on the horizon? We’ve seen key changes in the evolution of the arbitration arena in Hong Kong, with a host of reforms undertaken to boost efficiency, create clarity, and to align the city’s mechanisms with those of England & Wales, Australia and Singapore. Most notably, the issuance of the Code of Practice for Third Party Funding came into effect on 1 February. This expressly allows for third party funding for arbitration and related matters and this key development irrefutably abolishes the doctrines of champerty and maintenance. What we will expect to see this year is greater clarity and transparency in the Hong Kong panorama as it enables a person or entity who has no interest recognised by law in the arbitration to be a third party funder. The Code, which was published in early December 2018, outlines the practices and standards for third party funders. An advisory body will oversee elements that pertain to funding agreements, confidentiality, conflicts of interest, termination and other related issues.

What you can expect to see: Greater clarity and transparency and a spike in the number of funding agreements as Hong Kong’s landscape aligns itself with forward-thinking jurisdictions. It is likely that these new provisions will make it easier to ensure that strong claims can be pursued; and will allow claimants to hedge their costs. In construction disputes, which are often lengthy and expensive, funding may allow parties to spread risk by not having to bear the whole cost of bringing or defending a claim, and will certainly provide considerable cash flow benefits – the traditional ‘life-blood’ of the construction industry.

DVC’s Anthony Houghton SC and Benny Lo closely examined the impact of the Code at the high-level Think Hong Kong, Think Global event in Tokyo recently.

For more on recent trends on how third party funding is viewed by the courts in a civil claim, refer to the recent Raafat Imam v. Life (China) Company Limited and Others [2018] HKCFI 1852 case featuring DVC’s Clifford Smith SC, Sabrina Ho and Tommy Cheung. The Mongolian Mining and China Solar cases, are cases of third party funding in the insolvency context.

For more on third party funding in the insolvency domain and the interaction between insolvency and arbitration please see Look-Chan Ho’s overview from 2018’s Arbitration Week and Look-Chan Ho and Tommy Cheung‘s presentation on Controlling Costs.

Belt & Road Initiative

Another prominent change to Hong Kong’s landscape in 2019 includes the Belt & Road Initiative.

The Belt & Road Initiative which is made up of a belt of overland corridors and a maritime road of shipping lanes linking over 60 countries will bring about complex investment opportunities bisecting the transport, logistic, maritime, telecommunications and other sectors. With multiple cross-border investors tied together contractually, this will inevitably (and unavoidably) lead to a myriad of disputes impacting international trade, commercial, company & insolvency, intellectual property, construction, telecommunications and other major sectors. Given that arbitration is the most popular and cost-efficient mechanism used to resolve cross-border disputes, Hong Kong is geographically poised to leverage contentions arising from these ventures. DVC has handled numerous enforcement (and setting aside) of awards.

The proposed Greater Bay Area initiative is potentially another landmark infrastructure project that will link Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong Province in order to establish a trading, logistical, manufacturing and technological axis for commercial activity. Another significant change entailed the implementation of the new administered arbitration rules (‘HKIAC Rules’) enacted in Q4 of last year.

What you can expect to see: 2019 and going forward, due to the HKIAC Rules being implemented, we will likely see many gridlocked parties turn to Hong Kong as a seat for these arbitrations.

HONG KONG HK

KMW expands in HK with partner duo from Mayer Brown

King & Wood Mallesons has hired two partners in Hong Kong: Ashley Wong joins the firm as its local aviation head from Mayer Brown, while Wang Yu joins as a partner from Morrison & Foerster, where he was of counsel.

Wong, has over 15 years of experience in aviation matters, advising airlines, leasing companies, maintenance and repair organisations and other market players on aircraft portfolio acquisitions and disposals, pre-delivery payments financing, sale and lease-back arrangements, acquisitions and disposals of new and used aircraft and engines, dry leasing and wet leasing of aircraft, long-term airframe and engine maintenance arrangements and other commercial arrangements.

Wang has more than 10 years of experience advising on securities offerings, private equity and other corporate transactions. He represents corporate clients, investment banks and private equity funds on transactional matters including capital markets, private equity and financial derivative products.  Wong and Wang join KWM a couple of months after the firm hired Ling Huang as a partner in its Beijing office.