AllBright Law Offices strengthens the firm’s global strategy in 2020, opening its Seattle office on July 15 2020, which follows the opening of its other overseas locations in Hong Kong and London. AllBright has been in the international arena for a while, having already co-operated with Bird & Bird, as of April 2020. The two firms have referred more than 300 cases and projects to each other, of which more than 60 have been successful.
AllBright has also handled a number of deals that impacted the market in 2020. In terms of international trade, AllBright continues to defend the legitimate interests of its clients under an unpredictable climate. Last year, the firm represented Jushi Egypt for Fiberglass Industry, to terminate the EU anti-dumping investigation on Egyptian fibreglass products. AllBright applied the market economy treatment rules of the WTO and the EU Antidumping Regulation to prove that the financial records of Jushi Egypt reflected the production and sales costs of the fibreglass products and denied the possibility of dumping.
In this case, China Jushi’s general manager of the development strategy department, Shen Guoming, was impressed by the high comprehensive ability of AllBright: “The trade remedy involved many areas of cross-border expertise such as law and finance, and also combined with the company’s products, there were high overall composite requirements, which the team were able to accomplish very well.”
Han Kun Law Offices has extensive experience in complex cross-border and domestic transactions. Last year, Han Kun was involved with many milestone cases, such as the one in which the firm represented the joint sponsors in connection with the approximately HK$29.8 billion secondary listing of JD in Hong Kong. Han Kun represented both KE Holdings in its US$2.1 billion US IPO and Hillhouse Capital, which was the lead investor in a US$1 billion investment in Yuanfudao’s series G financing.
As for the securitisation area, Han Kun was involved in projects of Sunshine Life Insurance and Taiping Life Insurance in issuing asset-backed securities with its policy pledge loan debt assets as the basic assets. One client from a well-known securities company commented: “In response to regulatory and client requirements, Han Kun has tried its best to design different transaction structures and models for us and the issuer to cope with the changing market conditions.”
In 2020, Han Kun continued to strengthen its comprehensive capacities, hiring several new partners and counsels from leading international and domestic law firms, including dispute resolution experts like Denning Jin Liyu, Fan Xiangyang, Adrian Yip, Yang You and Angela Lei Cui, tax expert Yuan Shiye and real estate finance expert Fang Rong.
Jingtian & Gongcheng has further expanded and strengthened its team and, according to the firm, its Guangzhou and Hangzhou branches are growing rapidly, with the Guangzhou branch now having a staff size of nearly 50.
According to the firm, as of December 31 2020, of the 127 listings of Chinese companies in Hong Kong (including IPOs, transfers and introductions), Jingtian & Gongcheng has participated in the listing of 51 companies on the main board and GEM of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, acting as the issuer’s counsel for 30 of these projects and underwriter’s counsel for 21 of them.
Keeping talents means maintaining competence, and Jingtian & Gongcheng collaborates with top universities in China to nurture outstanding talents. The firm has co-operated with the China University of Political Science and Law to cultivate law talents, and as a sponsor of the “China University of Political Science and Law Paralegal Competition”, Jingtian & Gongcheng provides internship opportunities for outstanding students.
In 2020, King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) China has had significant growth in its talent pool and key practices. On September, KWM China promoted nearly 30 partners and 29 counsel. Furthermore, 17 partners joined KWM China, covering M&A, securities, banking and finance, tax, IP and dispute resolution.
KWM successfully completed projects such as the acquisition of the German company ABC Umformtechnik by FAWER Automotive Parts, and the co-operation project between Fujian Provincial Communication Transportation Group and China Merchants Port on the acquisition of equity in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port.
In terms of restructuring, in response to and in line with the national policy of mixed reform of state-owned enterprises, the firm has actively participated in the mixed reform and integration projects of state-owned enterprises, such as the energy group projects in Shandong/Shanxi; KWM has also undertaken cross-border business integration projects of large private enterprise groups, such as the privatisation of Haier Electronics Group and the listing of Haier Smart Home on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange by way of introduction.
Faced with fierce market competition and a complex market environment, Tian Yuan Law Firm continued to grow its business last year, with significant expansion in capital market and related dispute resolution cases.
In addition, Tian Yuan’s energy and mineral resources team maintained its momentum and continued to deepen its efforts in the Belt and Road Initiative markets in 2020. In the US$3.59 billion acquisition of a Peruvian power distribution company by Yangtze Power, Tian Yuan acted as the lead legal adviser for Yangtze Power in the largest overseas energy M&A project for Chinese enterprises in recent years. Tian Yuan also led the EPC+F financing project of Power Construction Corporation of China’s 730MW combined cycle power plant project in Rumaila, which is the first sovereign guarantee project for the private sector since the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.
According to the firm, it also opened new branches in Haikou, Suzhou and Guangzhou last year, further completing its legal services in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, the Hainan Free Trade Zone and along the Yangtze River Delta.
The winners of the Best International Law Firms stand out for the breadth and depth of their China practice. They bring together a wealth of international experience and top-class local expertise, and their success reflects the importance of long-term commitment towards building deep roots in the country.
Baker McKenzie FenXun, the first joint operation firm in China, has established a leadership position in the market. With 17 awards across practice areas and industry categories, Baker McKenzie is the go-to firm for top Chinese and international business looking to do some of the most significant and complex transactions.
The Baker McKenzie outbound M&A practice has had a stellar record, advising on some of last year’s biggest deals. The firm acted for China Yangtze Power’s acquisition of an 83.6% equity interest of Peru’s largest electric company, Luz del Sur, from US-based Sempra Energy for about US$3.59 billion, the largest acquisition by a Chinese SOE in the Americas in 2020. The deal was the first time China Yangtze Power entered the overseas electricity distribution market and it was the first time a Chinese company entered Peru’s utility sector.
The firm’s IP practice is widely recognised and its clients include some of the world’s biggest brands across sectors such as consumer, fashion, retail, cosmetics, healthcare, entertainment and manufacturing. Notably, it advised Starbucks in relation to a criminal action against six suspects for manufacturing and selling counterfeit fake coffee products in Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangsu provinces. The judgment has been selected as one of the top 10 typical IP cases of Jiangsu province in 2019 and also selected by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate as one of the 18 annual representative cases.
DLA Piper, as one of the longest standing international law firms in the market, has consistently been rated among the top firms in the country. It is especially noted for its dispute resolution, real estate and construction practices and has in recent years been recognised as a leader in emerging practice areas such as data protection, fintech and blockchains. The firm’s taxation and family wealth management practices are also widely recognised. The firm, has over the past year, expanded its teams with top-level hires and promotions, as well as invested in technology and innovation.
Kwok Kit, general counsel and head of compliance at China Ping An Insurance Overseas (Holdings), compliments DLA Piper’s dispute resolution expertise. “They have provided good ad strategic advice and also abided by our agreed budget.”
Kwok recommends Kevin Chan, the firm’s Hong Kong-based partner, saying “[he] anticipates issues and I trust his advice on how to proceed because he has the relevant experience”.
Its real estate practice, headed by Hong Kong managing partner and the firm’s global co-chair of real estate, Susheela Rivers, advises large multinational corporations and domestic investors, including institutional funds, fund investors, investment managers, sovereign wealth funds, foreign pension funds, domestic and foreign private investors, private equity groups, asset managers and major domestic and international corporations.
It advised Ping An Insurance on the 30% share acquisition from and joint venture with Sun Hung Kai Properties in developing an HK$11 billion commercial/retail complex at the West Kowloon station in Hong Kong. The firm also advised CBRE on the establishment of an offshore joint venture platform with a local partner to invest in logistics assets in the PRC as well as the acquisition of seed assets in China, with a transaction value of US$250 million.
The firm’s construction practice covers both contentious and non-contentious matters. It represented Thiess Mongolia in Hong Kong court proceedings to recover payment for its mining works in Mongolia from the Hong Kong-listed Mongolia Energy Corporation and its subsidiary. It has also acted in other disputes, claims and arbitration cases for large multinational construction companies.
Freshfields’ China practice is highly regarded for the breadth and depth of its offerings, and is the go-to firm for both multinational companies and some of the country’s biggest businesses. The firm has acted on many of the landmark deals last year, from Nongfu Spring’s record-setting listing in Hong Kong to China Merchants Group’s Hong Kong REIT listing, the first authorisation application of a REIT under the sponsors’ regime adopted by the city bourse, to advising German vaccine maker BioNTech in its covid vaccine alliance with China’s Fosun and CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive’s acquisition of German rail technology company Vossloh Locomotives, among others.
A relative newcomer in China among the winners, Kirkland & Ellis has steadily built a formidable practice in the country. Last year, Kirkland was involved in some headline-grabbing deals, including mega-mergers, privatisations, listings and restructuring cases.
The firm’s restructuring and insolvency practice has been a standout with the variety and complexity of cases handled. Notably, it advised Car Inc, one of the largest car rental companies in China, on its successful completion of consent solicitation for amendments to the change of control- related terms of the relevant indentures, and China Singyes Solar Technologies in the restructuring of its notes and convertible bonds with an aggregate principal amount of US$425 million. In the past, it has also advised commodity trading giant Noble Group on its multibillion-dollar global restructuring.
Kirkland also acted in some of the largest take-private deals, including as an international co-counsel for an investor consortium in the US$8.7 billion privatisation of 58.com from the NYSE. The consortium comprised Warburg Pincus Asia, General Atlantic, Ocean Link Partners and Yao Jinbo, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of 58.com.
Skadden continues to be one of the most successful international law firms in China, in terms of volume and value of the deals as well as the impact of the transactions it has handled. While it has a robust practice across areas such as M&A, corporate compliance, asset management, antitrust, dispute resolution, among others, it is perhaps most notable for its top-notch overseas capital markets practice. The firm advised on six of the eight largest US IPOs by Asian companies in 2020.
It also advised four of the five largest Hong Kong secondary listings in 2020 – JD.com, NetEase, New Oriental and ZTO.
Offshore law firms, covering key jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands (BVI), play a key role in facilitating seamless transactions, especially for overseas listings, cross-border M&A, private equity and asset management practices as well as for dispute resolution.
Conyers Dill & Pearman has been a leading offshore firm offering counsel to some of the biggest deals in the region. The firm advises its clients on Bermuda, Cayman and BVI laws.
The firm was the Cayman counsel on the first dual listing of a Cayman incorporated entity, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation’s US$6.6 billion STAR Market listing and the US$600 million bond issuance.
CK Kwang, head of the company secretarial department at Agile Group, commends the firm for its “professionalism”, recognising corporate partner Paul Lim and his legal and company secretarial teams.
“Conyers has been acting as our Cayman and BVI legal counsels of the group since it listed on the main board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Recently we have also appointed them as our BVI agent for all of our BVI subsidiaries,” Kwang says.
Chris Lambert, managing partner at Robertsons Solicitors, lauds partner Richard Hall, “I have worked with him for many years. Richard is an extremely knowledgeable, commercial and hands-on practitioner. He is a “go to” for urgent and complex M&A transactions.”
Harneys was among the first offshore firms to set up an office in China and has since been a leader in the market. It has advised clients on transactions across offshore jurisdictions including the BVI, Bermuda, Cayman and Luxembourg.
One of the most notable recent deals for the firm was the dispute between the shareholders of WeRide, a Cayman incorporated developer of self-driving cars. The firm acted on behalf of Wang Jing and Guo Rongrong, shareholders of WeRide, in seeking the winding up of WeRide. The proceedings were settled on confidential terms in May 2020.
Charles Chau, a partner at Jones Day in Hong Kong, says, “I have always been impressed with the responsiveness, efficiency and quality of work from the Harneys team. We had no issues in approaching them to help us with our most significant transactions, knowing fully well that they have both the expertise and efficiency to see that we kept to all our demanding deadlines.”
A Harneys client , who wished to remain anonymous, says, “The team of lawyers at Harneys gave us a good strategy and followed up very promptly with a plan to deal with every possible problem that might arise.”
Maples has long established itself as a leading offshore law firm in the region. The firm has acted on the top cross-border M&A, capital market and dispute resolution deals from China.
It advised BVI and Cayman Islands incorporated Chinese companies on their listings in Hong Kong and the US, acting on four of the 10 largest IPOs in 2020 in Hong Kong, advised on four of the 10 largest IPO funds in Hong Kong, including JD.com and NetEase’s dual listings in Hong Kong; Kuaishou’s Hong Kong IPO, and KE Holdings’ NYSE listing. It also advised Ninebot on the first-ever listing of Chinese Depositary Receipts on the STAR market.
Gaowo Law Firm is widely recognised by clients and peers for its strength in intellectual property. Last year, IP expert Du Lidong joined Gaowo as a senior associate to strengthen the firm’s practice in telecommunications. Having worked in Huawei, Du is familiar with IP laws in China, Japan, Korea, Europe and the US. He has completed patent cases for many well-known companies such as Huawei, ZTE, Panasonic and Sony.
GEN Law Firm was established in Beijing in September 2020 and quickly opened offices in Shanghai and Shenzhen. The firm focuses on corporate investment and financing, complex dispute resolution, IP litigation, non-litigation and regulatory matters such as antitrust and data privacy.
The firm was involved in an NBA pirated programming case last year, which was awarded China Business Law Journal’s Deals of the Year 2020. This case is one of the most important cases to promote the live broadcast of sporting events to be recognised as a film-like work in China. It is an important milestone for the Copyright Law to be in line with international standards, and has attracted the attention of the global sports industry and judicial circles.
Headquartered in Shanghai, JOIUS Law Firm opened its offices in Warsaw and Taipei. In cross-border finance, JOIUS has provided legal services to a number of overseas banks, including Taiwanese banks and their branches in Hong Kong. The firm has represented a number of overseas banks in the recognition and enforcement of judgements and rulings in the mainland and re-litigation cases in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
In the past year, JOIUS has developed fast with the addition of 11 new practitioners including lateral hiring and promotion. Zhang Wolong, who previously worked at Linklaters’s Shanghai office, specialises in finance and securities, domestic and cross-border M&A, and foreign investment.
SF Lawyers is a member of KPMG Global Legal Services network, focusing on cross-border M&A and corporate matters. In 2020, the firm hired private wealth management partner Echo Zhao and her team from AnJie Law Firm and partner Rocky Wufrom Lifang & Partners.
The firm also actively adopted various legal technology tools to reduce repetitive work and improve team efficiency. During the pandemic, the firm utilised an integrated cloud office system with KPMG and adopted a lawyers booking system to manage the lawyers and share feedback with them. SF Lawyers also used deep learning, automation, and cloud-based tools to analyse the big companies’ legal departments and provide feedback.
In 2020, Hai Run Law Firm significantly expanded the size of its team. As of last December, there were 343 people in Hai Run, an increase of 12% over the same period in 2019. The firm had 92 partners, an increase of 11% over the same period in the previous year. With last year’s economic downturn, the total revenue of Hai Run Law Firm reached a record high of RMB340 million (US$52.74 million).
To meet the needs of the legal market’s development, Hai Run actively expanded its offices in China. In addition to its Beijing headquarters and five offices, the firm is preparing to set up Nanjing and Zibo offices to radiate its reach in the legal market in eastern and northern China.
Apart from its long-standing strength in financial and corporate civil and commercial businesses, Hai Run has been strengthening its practice in financial litigation, shareholder disputes, bankruptcy and restructuring. Last year, Hai Run undertook a number of major and difficult anti-bribery and anti-corruption cases, some of which involved tens of billions of renminbi.
Meanwhile, the bankruptcy and restructuring team led by partner Xing Lixin, has completed dozens of bankruptcy and restructuring cases last year alone in industries such as real estate, biomedical and finance.
In 2020, Joint-Win Partners added more than 30 new lawyers to its practice and established a domestic Jiangyin office and overseas offices in Japan, the United States and Indonesia in the second half of last year. Joint-Win Partners focuses on a variety of areas including capital markets, intellectual property, compliance, dispute resolution and administrative laws and there is a steady increase in clients in those areas. In intellectual property rights, Joint-Win Partners attracted clients last year such as COFCO Shanghai Cereals and Oils Import & Export, Shanghai Tobacco Group and K-Boxing Men’s Wear (Shanghai).
By the end of 2020, the number of practitioners in Wang Jing & GH Law Firm increased to 52, covering real estate and construction, dispute resolution, M&A and taxation. Wang Jing, the managing partner of the firm, told China Business Law Journal last year, “Wang Jing & GH Law Firm will be rooted in the Greater Bay Area, integrate the preferential local policies, attract more lawyers with an international background and aim to become a first-class law firm in Greater Bay Area.”
The firm is actively pursuing its goal of international development and has released its website in Italian and French. The firm has also entered a partnership with the DTL Law Office in Thailand, making it an overseas branch of Wang Jing & GH Law Firm. Several lawyers with expertise in foreign markets have joined the firm one after another. Last September, Li Li joined the firm as a legal counsel to develop its legal services in the German market. Li is a qualified lawyer in both China and Germany.
The year 2020 coincides with the 20th anniversary of Tahota Law Firm. By the end of the year, Tahota had more than 580 partners and reached annual revenue of US$1.3 billion, an increase of 26% from last year. From a well-known firm in southwestern China to a national law firm, Tahota has set up offices in Wuhan, Haikou and Urumqi and hired a number of local talents.
Among the new partners, Kong Xiangjun, had joined pharmaceutical company Sanofi China in 2010 as the head of Asia-Pacific R&D and China regional legal affairs. In corporate compliance, which he leads, Shihui Partners has developed compliance management systems and provided compliance training last year for companies such as Hugo Biotech and AI-powered medical data solutions provider Synyi.
In 2020, Shihui Partners achieved notable success in IPO transactions. The three transactions in which the firm participated, namely JD.com’s secondary listing in Hong Kong, JD Health’s Hong Kong IPO and Burning Rock Biotech’s Nasdaq listing have won China Business Law Journal’s 2020 Deals of the Year.
In February 2020, ETR Law Firm set up an epidemic prevention and control lawyer service team to provide legal services for the resumption of work and production, and in April, ETR set up special funds to organise lawyers to provide free legal consultation and civil litigation legal services for over 2,600 medical personnel and their family members.
During the covid-19 pandemic, 80 Chinese citizens were forcibly deported by Russian law enforcement and judicial agencies in late February 2020. The Moscow office of DHH Law Firm was commissioned by the Chinese Embassy in Russia. DHH developed different litigation strategies after communicating with each client. To date, the cases represented by DHH have been successful and the firm has defended the legal rights of Chinese citizens abroad. The project lasted nine months and the total number of hours of legal services exceeded 1,500.
Tiantai Law Firm has participated in the Chaoyang District Judicial Bureau’s village pro bono legal service project, with a team of 10 lawyers on duty and two hours a week contributing over 100 working hours a year, providing pro bono legal services to the Beichen East Road community for three consecutive years. Tiantai has also joined the team of public interest appeals lawyers of the Beijing Municipal Procuratorate, providing legal aid to eligible complainants.
Yingke Law Firm participated in the Ministry of Justice’s “1+1” legal aid initiative. Yingke also help to defend the legal rights and interests of workers and migrant workers. In 2020, Wang Yanhui, an associate at Xining office was awarded the “National outstanding lawyer for defending the rights and interests of workers” by the National Federation of Trade Unions, the Ministry of Justice and the All China Lawyers Association.
Gide provided legal aid to the Youth Employment Solutions for Migrant Youth project in Beijing. Partner Guo Min has worked closely with Plan International China on this project since 2018 to raise legal awareness among underprivileged migrant youth. Associates of Gide delivered presentations on effective and practical legal approaches for migrant women.
Leaf assisted Couleurs de Chine, a French association supporting the education of girls from ethnic Chinese minorities. Leaf has helped Couleurs de Chine to understand the Chinese legal framework applicable to fundraising by foreign non-profit organisations and to contractually formalise a partnership with a local Chinese association.
Hai Run Law Firm participated in a number of cases involving tens of billions of RMB in 2020 with a unique advantage in the field of criminal practice, especially economic crimes, and has handled matters such as embezzlement and misappropriation of company funds by executives for a number of well-known enterprises. At the same time, Hai Run has also set up a research institute on economic crimes in conjunction with the People’s Public Security University of China, which is directly managed by the Ministry of Public Security.
Boss & Young provided compliance services for a number of industry leading companies last year. The legal director of a multinational medical device company particularly recommends Zhang Shihai, a partner at Boss & Young: “In addition to offering legal analysis and advising on basic legal issues, Zhang can also provide practical advice and specific solutions for risk prevention from a law enforcement perspective combining his own previous experience as a law enforcement officer.”
Yuanda China Law Firm’s anti-bribery and anti-corruption team is co-led by Leon Liu and Michelle Gon, partners at the firm. In 2020, Yuanda undertook a number of multijurisdictional cases, including providing legal services to a domestic insurance company to ensure its legal rights were protected during litigations and government investigations surrounding the financial fraud involving a well-known US listed company.
In the past year, Freshfields has been involved in a number of high-profile international regulatory and internal investigations, as well as major M&A due diligence, for a variety of entities including state-owned enterprises, financial institutions, and multinational corporations. The firm’s anti-bribery and anti-corruption team is led by Hong Kong-based partner John Choong.
In its Chinese corporate investigations practice, Paul Hastings focuses on white-collar defence, anti-corruption, and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prowess. The firm advised a leading Chinese integrated design and manufacturing technology conglomerate on compliance and risk mitigation, with regard to any potential risk in technology-related investigations and sanctions arising out of the US-China trade war. The matter value amounts to RMB15 billion (US$2.3 billion).
Shaun Wu joined Paul Hastings as a partner last year. “Paul Hastings’ anti-bribery and anti-corruption practice in Asia has really taken off with the arrival of Shaun Wu,” says Amie Chang, the managing director of global investigation company Nardello & Co’s Hong Kong office.
“Clients get high-quality and nuanced expertise, with a partner at the helm who has had years of experience not just in China, but in the greater APAC region, as well as offshore jurisdictions. He provides excellent, timely and practical advice and insight, and is really among the top in his field,” Chang says.
Haldanes advised on a number of investigations related to Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the US FCPA in the past year. Its clients range from celebrities to senior executives of top investment banks and listed companies. The firm represented two ophthalmologists facing charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office in Hong Kong for alleged referral of public hospital patients to their private clinics and disclosing patients’ records. The case is one of the longest and most document-intensive trials of its kind in the region, with complex legal arguments on ICAC arrest and search procedures as well as the substantive elements of the said charges. It is also a highly publicised matter particularly in the medical circle in Hong Kong.
Anli Partners has a stable and long-term cooperation with important domestic asset management companies, such as Taikang Asset Management, PICC Asset Management, Ping An Annuity Insurance and Ping An Real Estate. The asset management practice of Anli Partners is led by partner Zhang Huanwei. A client who has worked with Anli Partners for many years commented: “They are practical and problem-solving-oriented in the project cooperation process, responsive and diligent, and can accurately grasp the regulatory trends in our professional field and provide us with timely supportive legal services such as interpretation of new regulations.”
DOCVIT Law Firm focuses on the full range of asset management legal services and, in 2020, it provided comprehensive and in-depth legal services for a total of 38 asset management products. Among them, the asset management product of insurance asset management institutions is one of the key service areas of DOCVIT.
In 2020, Silkroad Law Firm provided legal services for the establishment of the above-mentioned Greater Bay Area Homeland Development Fund, a joint development fund with the support of the HKSAR government and the Liaison Office of the central government, which is a joint development fund initiated by renowned domestic and foreign institutions with an amount of more than RMB10 billion (US$1.55 billion). Its asset management business is also recognised by foreign clients and Silkroad also provides regulatory advice to Fitch Ratings on its China asset management business.
Llinks Law Offices offers legal services to many large insurance company and country-level funds and its professionalism is recognised by clients. A client from Huatai Securities Asset Management shared: “We are very satisfied and recognise the efforts made by the lawyers of Llinks, especially in the professional interpretation of the difficult legal issues in the asset management business involving non-standard investments. They provide professional advice to support the actual asset management business.”
Over the past year, Ropes & Gray confirmed the continued expansion of the large group of market-leading clients, which turn to the China-based team for funds counsel. The China team of Ropes & Gray has represented private equity clients on over 10 fund formations, and currently represents over 30 private equity fund sponsor clients. Also, while covid-19 caused a temporary slowdown in secondary activity worldwide, of the 225 secondary transactions representing more than US$72 billion in value, Ropes & Gray’s global secondaries team have to date advised on approximately a quarter of these deals that were based in Asia/China.
Shearman Sterling’s investment funds team is led by Asia Regional Managing Partner and Head of Greater China Lorna Chen, who has more than 20 years of experience in the investment fund and private equity field. She has participated in and led extensive discussions with several Hong Kong government agencies on modifications of laws and regulations for private equity funds in Hong Kong, including the Hong Kong Limited Partnership Ordinance. This is a significant positive development for the Hong Kong asset management industry as it introduces a new investment structure for private funds and makes Hong Kong a more attractive centre for setting up private investment funds.
FenXun Partners has experience in onshore and cross-border loan transactions, such as project finance (real estate projects, energy projects and infrastructure projects), syndicated loan, acquisition loan, export credit loan and other debt loan transactions. In a finance project, Xin Ziliang, an in-house counsel at PowerChina’s legal department, said it came with a huge workload involving multiple jurisdictions and many stakeholders, which required coordination with lawyers from multiple countries, and the opinions and demands of all parties needed to be completely unified.
“Faced with a highly challenging situation, the FenXun team showed a high degree of professionalism and responsibility, and were able to deliver consistent, high-quality outcomes under intense and extreme working conditions, assisting us to accomplish the set goals with an impressive performance,” says Xin.
The Banking and Finance team of King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) consists of 20 partners and 59 lawyers, and offers comprehensive coverage across the entire suite of banking and finance law. It advised China Merchants Bank on the establishment of its wealth management division, a wholly owned subsidiary established in Shenzhen, which received a capital injection of RMB5 billion. Against the backdrop of the open statement of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) to promote the establishment of a carrier-class securities firm, KWM advised CITIC Securities on its acquisition of 100% equity of Guangzhou Securities, which obtained unconditional approval from the CSRC.
At the early stage of Shanghai General Motors’ open syndicated revolving working capital loan project, with the target amount of RMB20 billion, the central bank announced that all banks should mainly make reference to the loan prime rate (LPR) for the issuance of new loans, as well as use the LPR as the pricing benchmark in floating rate loan contracts, which impacted the interest rate determination mechanism previously agreed by all parties. KWM then assisted Shanghai General Motors in negotiating with the syndicate to reach a solution that would protect the interests of the borrowers while taking into account the regulatory compliance requirements of the banks.
Baker McKenzie’s banking and finance group was led by Hong Kong-based partner Simon Leung. It acts for a diverse range of clients, including commercial banks, investment banks, dealers and financial intermediaries, other financial institutions, private equity funds, mutual funds, insurance companies as well as corporate users of credit and financial products, governments and governmental agencies.
Baker McKenzie represented China CITIC Bank International as lender in connection with certain bridge facilities granted to two borrowers to support the reorganisation of an A-listed entity and a HKSE-listed entity both controlled by the same ultimate individual. In addition to the loan documentation, the firm advised the lender on issues relating to the Hong Kong and PRC securities and regulatory aspects of the reorganisation to the extent they are relevant to the lender and its interests under the finance transactions. It also assisted the lender in putting in place bespoke credit support arrangements concerning shares of the HKSE-listed entity.
Gallant has been advising the Bank of China Macau Branch for more than 20 years. In addition to reviewing contracts and handling legal matters such as cross-border credit guarantees, Kathy Lum, legal affairs of Bank of China Macau Branch, says that the firm also provided lectures on current business development hotspots in 2020, with topics including interpretation of banking and financial policies in the Greater Bay Area, practical operation and the latest policies on real estate mortgage guarantees on the mainland, coping strategies and advice on London Inter-bank Offered Rate suspension, etc.
“We are very satisfied with the service and professionalism of Gallant,” says Lum, “The firm is particularly prominent in banking and finance and is familiar with regulatory policies … [In providing legal services,] the firm values its relationship with us and listens to our needs. In addition, the firm has assigned a senior partner and with his team, who are familiar with financial and banking matters, to provide services to us exclusively.”
Mayer Brown has been involved in a number of cross-border M&A transactions for Chinese companies with significant underlying amounts in 2020. The firm acted as lead counsel for a number of Chinese banks involved in the financing sector. A legal counsel from a policy bank points out that Mayer Brown was instrumental in facilitating a project for the bank in Africa. He also recommends Hallam Chow, a Beijing-based partner and the head of projects at Mayer Brown: “He is dedicated and responsible, has good professionalism and strong communication skills, and is able to cooperate with us and give the best solution instantaneously.”
In the past year, Grandall Law Firm advised 73 issuers, which is 14% of all the companies that completed their initial offering on the Main Board, the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Board (SME Board), the Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) and the Science and Technology Innovation Board (Star Market) with a 100% approval rate as of our awards submission date. Among them, the 16 companies that passed the GEM listing committee meeting, since the implementation of the GEM registration system in June 2020, had Grandall as their legal counsel, which is 10.4% of all the companies submitted with a 100% approval rate.
Grandway Law Offices achieved notable success in the capital markets in 2020. The firm assisted 19 clients with successful IPOs, four clients with share placements and 34 clients in their refinancing projects.
In 2020, Jia Yuan Law Offices advised 11 A-share IPOs, including three on the Main Board and eight on the STAR Market, as of our awards submission date, raising a combined total of over RMB17 billion (US$2.64 million). The firms’ clients are from cutting-edge industries such as healthcare, semiconductors, high-end equipment manufacturing and information technology, including Junshi Biosciences, which made a strong debut on the STAR Market as the first pre-revenue biopharma company.
Jingtian & Gongcheng assisted 20 companies in their A-share IPOs and 15 well-known companies in bond issuances in 2020. Feng Liqiong, senior vice president and general counsel of BOE Technology Group, shares that Xiang Zhenhua, a partner at Jingtian & Gongcheng, along with his team, has been advising BOE for many years, and has assisted the company in several private issuance, corporate bond issuance, stock options and restricted stock unit projects, fund establishment and equity acquisitions.
“The firm is familiar with the relevant laws and regulations of the Chinese capital market and offered us professional and objective legal advice. It was able to thoroughly consider the client’s aspirations and propose solutions that are commercially feasible, legally compliant and forward-looking from the client’s point of view, assisting us to fully control the risks of the projects. We are very satisfied with the service and professionalism of the firm,” says Feng.
King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) has also been deeply involved in a number of important transactions in the A-share market in the past year. In the context of the Chinese government’s reform of the rural supply and marketing system, KWM represented Huatong Medicine, a company listed on the SME Board of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2015, in the ZJAMP Group reverse takeover plan. Both companies are under the Zhejiang province’s supply and marketing society system, which makes the project the first reverse takeover within the national supply and marketing system with a target amount of RMB2.57 billion (US$399.7 million). Earlier this year, Huatong Medicine changed its name to ZJAMP Group. This reorganisation of assets within the system is considered to be the first step of the assets securitisation of Zhejiang province’s supply and marketing system.
As the PRC counsel to China Bohai Bank, Commerce & Finance Law Offices assisted in its listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) on 16 July 2020, which was the largest bank IPO in Hong Kong in the past five years and the first Chinese bank IPO in 2020. On 1 October 2020, Lixiang Education was listed on the Nasdaq, in which Commerce & Finance advised on PRC laws to the underwriters and was involved in the entire listing process, including corporate restructuring, domestic due diligence, handling of compliance issues and replying to regulators.
The project manager of a bank was very satisfied with the service provided by the law firm: “Commerce & Finance has assigned experienced, qualified and sufficient lawyers to fully engage in the project. The team provided high quality and efficient professional services to the company in various aspects, including due diligence, revision of corporate governance documents, meeting support, assistance to the authorities and the exchange in filings and feedback, in strict accordance with the requirements of relevant laws and regulations, with reference to market practices, and taking into account the actual situation of our company.” He also recommends Hou Qinghai, a Beijing-based partner of Commerce & Finance.
Xu Weijian, finance director of Lixiang Education, also highly praises the firm: “The Commerce & Finance team has been with us for three years. It is able to see the core of the issues and give professional advice in a timely and precise manner, and the company is very much appreciative of the team’s capabilities and its sense of service.” Xu recommends Wu Peng, a Beijing-based partner at Commerce & Finance.
JunHe established a strong track record in the overseas capital markets in 2020, undertaking a number of high-profile projects, including JD.com’s US$1 billion bond offering, Legend Biotech’s listing on the Nasdaq, NetEase’s secondary listing on the Main Board of the HKEx, Xpeng Motors’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), ZTO Express’s listing on the Main Board of the HKEx, and China Yangtze Power’s offering of global depositary receipts (GDRs) on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
Wang Yi, an executive director and senior counsel at the legal department of Goldman Sachs, says: “JunHe meets and exceeds the requirements of us as clients, both from a professional perspective and in terms of diligence.” She also recommends Yu Yongqiang, a Beijing-based partner, and another Wang Yi, this one a Shanghai partner at the firm. “Both partners are extremely competent, providing us with professional advice and analysis on relevant Chinese legal issues. They are very familiar with all our requirements for project quality control and the services they provide exceed our expectations,” says Goldman’s Wang.
Zhang Wei, vice president and general counsel of 360 Security Technology, says that JunHe advised on a number of domestic and foreign acquisitions of the company in 2020. “JunHe has made a very significant contribution in advancing the domestic and overseas projects at the same pace, coordinating the resources and progress of various advisers, and ensuring that the transactions were concluded smoothly and on schedule,” says Zhang.
“When conducting offshore acquisitions and other capital operations, apart from the usual lawyers, auditors, financial advisers, etc., we also needed many other agencies such as business agents (company secretaries), tax agents, labour visa-related agents. Through JunHe’s legal services, we can solve the relevant problems in one-stop, and they can always match us with the most appropriate resources,” he says.
Cleary Gottlieb has been involved in a number of financing projects of Chinese companies in the Hong Kong and US capital markets: representing the underwriters in the US$3.5 billion offering of ordinary shares and the primary listing of JD Health International on the Main Board of the HKEx following its spin-off from JD.com, representing Huazhu Hotels Group in its secondary listing in Hong Kong, representing the underwriters in MINISO’s NYSE listing, and representing Burning Rock Biotech in listing on the Nasdaq as well as its concurrent private placement.
As Hong Kong and US counsel to the issuer, Sidley Austin advised the restaurant giant Yum China in its secondary listing in Hong Kong. The offering raised net proceeds of approximately HK$17 billion (US$2.2 billion), which makes it the only Delaware-incorporated company to successfully list in Hong Kong. One of the unique features was that the firm had to establish, for the first time, an SEC-registered transfer agent for the listing. This development can now be used for all future Hong Kong offerings by Delaware and US domestic companies seeking to list in the city.
In 2020, Simpson Thacher advised on nine IPOs on the Main Board of the HKEx totalling around HK$60 billion, including two of the top five largest secondary offerings in Hong Kong in 2020: representing the underwriters for Yum China and representing China’s developer and operator of high-performance data centres GDS. The firm also participated in the Hong Kong IPOs of Smoore, the world’s largest vaping device manufacturer, and POP Mart, a trendy toy company in China.
The competition and antitrust team at AnJie Law Firm is led by Zhan Hao and Song Ying, partners at the firm. AnJie was deeply involved in various first antitrust litigations of different industries, which touch base with the following issues: An e-commerce platform is allegedly abusing its dominant market position for forcing online merchants to choose only one platform as their exclusion distribution channel, which has attracted the attention of antitrust enforcement authorities, legal scholars and practitioners; the market definition in antitrust litigation, which will bring exemplary effects on future litigation and administrative investigations; how to coordinate multiple cases when dealing with multiple plaintiffs at the same time in developing response strategies and preparing evidentiary materials of antitrust litigations.
Dare & Sure Law Firm helped a number of companies winning competition and antitrust litigations. Sina Weibo v Asia Innovations Internet Technology, the first data competition case in the entertainment and social media sector, involved unauthorised data scraping. Dare & Sure represented Sina Weibo and won a favourable judgment in July 2020, which confirmed the company’s business model of relying on their user data to make a profit,and established the concept of “digital rights” and its connotation and extension, which leaves a positive significance in confirming the platform rights for social media operators.
T&D Associates is a standing antitrust law firm for Qualcomm, one of the world’s largest chipmakers. Zhao Bin, senior vice president of Qualcomm, says: “T&D Associates has repeatedly proven to be quite authoritative in its interpretation of significant antitrust-related issues, and the firm’s attorneys are knowledgeable and experienced. Their approach to solving our problems are often straightforward, concise and effective.”
Zhao says that the firm’s regular briefings are very useful, including both timely interpretation of legal and regulatory updates and in-depth analysis of relevant cases. He also recommends Ren Yong, managing partner of T&D Associates.
The clients of Tian Yuan Law Firm’s antitrust and competition department cover a wide range of industries, including the internet, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, consumer electronics, wireless communications and public enterprises, such as Sony Music, Siemens, Johnson & Johnson, Didi Chuxing Technology, Tencent, JD.com, Huawei and COFCO. In 2020, Tian Yuan was commissioned by Sony Music to handle an investigation initiated by the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) into the exclusive copyright of digital music platforms. The firm successfully assisted the client in obtaining a decision from SAMR to terminate its investigation. Tian Yuan’s antitrust team is led by Beijing-based partner Huang Wei.
In the mixed ownership reform of Southern Airlines Cargo Logistics (Guangzhou) in 2020, Fieldfisher advised the company in regard to a global antitrust review. Chen Yu, deputy manager of the foreign affairs office of China Southern Airlines’ legal department, recommends Fieldfisher’s China managing partner in Beijing, Zhou Zhaofeng: “He has served China Southern Airlines for a long time and understands its needs and actual situation, and can provide legal services that are in line with our requirements. As the lead lawyer for our compliance project and the special antitrust project, he is able to provide us at different stages with a reasonable mix of lawyers from different areas and seniorities from the firm’s global network.”
Michael Hu, general manager at JCDecaux China, echoes this sentiment: “He [Zhou Zhaofeng] received his PhD in antitrust law from the University of Glasgow in the UK long before the implementation of China’s antitrust law, and has specialised in the antitrust law practice ever since. He is superb in the field of antitrust law, both in theory and in practice.”
Commerce & Finance Law Offices has provided compliance services to a number of industry leaders, including China Minmetals Corporation, Tencent Holdings, SF Express, Inspur Group, Huatai Securities and iFLYTEK, in the areas of establishing compliance management systems, trade compliance, and data and privacy protection. The firm has also represented a number of securities firms in connection with public bond crises involved in their business. An in-house counsel of a joint venture, formed by a foreign investment and a financial group backed by the Chinese government, comments: “[Commerce & Finance] has demonstrated its professionalism and dedication in providing advice and services on compliance in specialised areas. Their feedback on relevant issues was timely and the operational recommendations made were practically feasible.” He also recommends Li Amin, a Shanghai-based partner of Commerce & Finance.
Darren Wu, the legal director of Fibocom Wireless, recommends Guo Xiaoming, a partner of Commerce & Finance in Shenzhen: “[Guo Xiaoming] is modest, low key and pragmatic, with the elegance of a barrister. He continues to conduct forward-looking legal research in the areas of export control compliance, dispute resolution and intellectual property, leading the industry’s development and progress.”
The legal service team for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) at Young-Ben Law Firm is familiar with laws, regulations and operational practices involving all aspects of SOE operation and restructuring, and state-owned assets operation. Yang Yinghua, legal manager of Shanghai United Assets and Equity Exchange, says that the exchange, as an SOE under the Shanghai municipality, has special requirements in corporate compliance in terms of corporate governance, state capital supervision and other aspects. “A number of lawyers at Young-Ben are also members of the Shanghai Bar Association’s State-owned Assets and State-owned Enterprises Research Committee, with many years of experience in SOE compliance and investigations, and have a wealth of experience in serving SOE clients.”
“Young-Ben was able to take the initiative to understand the industry characteristics of the client, and participate in the company’s management issues in terms of making rules, establishing systems and discussing the business model proactively and thoroughly,” says Yang. He also recommends Xu Yuzhou, a senior partner of Young-Ben in Shanghai.
Zhong Lun Law Firm has extensive experience in building corporate compliance systems. In 2020, Zhong Lun assisted the China Certification & Inspection Group to build a comprehensive compliance system in line with advanced international compliance practices, while meeting the requirements of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) and the Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) compliance guidelines, in preparation for the organisation to join the International Certification and Inspection Council (TIC Council) and becoming a central enterprise. The compliance system Zhong Lun helped to build consists of structure and implementation rules for seven areas, including organisational structure, integrity, conflict of interest, confidentiality and data protection, anti-bribery, fair business practices, health and safety, and fair labour, while establishing operational, safeguard, and compliance effectiveness evaluation mechanisms.
Ge Yaohong, the executive president and general manager of KTK Group, is very satisfied with the corporate compliance service of Zhong Lun. “They are very professional. They would always conduct the investigation and understand the actual situation of the company first before making a move. Then they sorted out the problems, trained the professionals, proposed solutions, and regularly kept us updated on relevant sanctions and compliance information domestically and in other countries,” says Ge.
Baker McKenzie has handled many compliance matters in China for numerous world-leading corporations, investment banks and non-profit organisations, such as post- transaction compliance due diligence, investigations initiated by Chinese regulators, and data management and protection. Last year, Volkswagen was poised to take a 50% stake in the state-owned Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Holdings and increase its holding in the JAC-Volkswagen joint venture from 50% to 75% for around €1 billion (US$1.2 billion). The transaction is said to be the largest investment in the China electric vehicle sector, and is part of the State Council’s reform of establishing mixed-ownership systems. The firm acted for Volkswagen as regulatory compliance counsel in the investment, conducted compliance due diligence including comprehensive document review and large-scale interviews, and also led the negotiation and settlement of the relevant compliance provisions as part of the transaction documents.
Steptoe has seen an increase in mandates related to advising Chinese SOEs and private companies on navigating the regulatory compliance of the US government restricted person/party lists, including the US Department of Commerce Entity List, the US Department of the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List, and a variety of other restricted party lists. The firm advised a number of Chinese and international companies, both those on one of these lists, as well as many companies that wish to maintain a business relationship with companies on the lists, in regards to the complex effect of the listing as well as what are the restrictions and parameters, depending on its products/services, its business model, its supply chain and manufacturing base, and other factors, on which they can (or cannot) conduct business with US and non-US suppliers/customers/partners.
Hansheng Law Offices receives endorsements from several clients for the professional data protection services they provide. Han Xiao, legal manager of Keeson Technology, is very satisfied with the services provided by Hansheng: “They are professional, thoughtful and meticulous. They have a deep understanding of privacy and data protection and can also help companies establish a data compliance system, especially in GDPR compliance, in which they have extensive experience.”
Han also recommends Yao Bing, a senior partner at Hansheng in Shanghai: “She has a deep relationship with us, is very supportive and professional, and has a global perspective.”
In a local standardisation revision plan initiated by the Shanghai Municipal Administration for Market Regulation in July 2020, Gao Fuping, a senior partner of Watson & Band Law Offices, was awarded a project for his secure data circulation solution. The solution proposes a basic concept, framework, process and assessment method for legal, orderly and secure data circulation, which prevents risks arising in data sharing and utilisation by limiting the content of shared data, controlling the security level of data collection and matching, and setting up limited use data.
Yuanda China Law Firm represented several sensitive and influential cases in 2020 and assisted companies in achieving data compliance. Its clients included multinational corporations, audit firms, financial institutions and local Chinese companies, which involved cross-border data transfers, conflict of laws in multiple jurisdictions and the dealing of sensitive data containing state secrets.
Baker McKenzie has a broad practice in advising on privacy policies, data storage, retention and destruction, privacy complaints and investigations, disputes, data access requests, and transfer and disclosure agreements. The firm assisted China Eastern Airlines with the formulation and implementation of a GDPR compliance program, and advised China Eastern Airlines on various personal data protection- related matters in China such as the collection and processing of facial images for facial recognition and quick-pass check-ins at Beijing’s new Daxing International Airport.
DLA Piper’s privacy and data protection team, led by Hong Kong-based partners Carolyn Bigg and Scott Thiel, has in the past year advised multiple international automobile manufacturers on the rollout of their connected cars’ infotainment service offerings throughout Greater China and APAC, guided several international large-scale hotel chains on Greater China and APAC data protection compliance, and advised a leading consumer goods electronic manufacturer on its China data and security compliance schemes.
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain offers a full suite of data-related services, our international team regularly advise on subject access requests, data sharing and data licensing, data processing agreements, international data transfers, data handling within outsourcing agreements, data security breaches and training strategies. The firm has also co-founded ReSecure, an integrated data breach response service, providing clients with access to a combined team offering data breach management, technical forensic investigation, legal advice, notification, web and credit monitoring and public relations services.
Tian Yuan Law Firm has handled a number of cases in the past year with significant target amounts and high media attention. For example, Tian Yuan was instructed by the takeover task force of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission to represent Anbang Insurance Group in a series of civil litigation cases against its former de facto controller, Wu Xiaohui (now sentenced to 18 years in prison for capital raising fraud and embezzlement) and the associated companies under his control, many of which has a target amount over RMB10 billion (US$1.56 billion) individually. Wu had transferred huge amounts of wealth from the group through fund misappropriation, and therefore civil litigation was required to protect Anbang’s claims. Tian Yuan also acted for CITIC Guoan Group in 63 litigations at the same time, involving a total amount of RMB27 billion, including disputes over financial loan contracts and disputes over debt assignment agreements.
Lantai Partners has extensive experience in the field of dispute resolution in litigation and arbitration. The firm has a specialised practice for civil and commercial retrial cases, and has represented a large number of retrial cases before the Supreme Court and local high courts. Its clients include governments, large state-owned enterprises, central enterprises, various financial institutions, venture capital funds, internet and other information technology companies, etc. In 2020, the number of cases undertaken by Lantai’s dispute resolution team did not decrease even under the influence of the pandemic, with a major percentage coming from disputes over the control of companies, shares transfer, increase/reduction of company capital, liability of originators/shareholders, liquidation liability, etc.
Liu Jingtao, legal manager of Total-Sinochem Fuels, is very satisfied with the services provided by Lantai in the field of dispute resolution. “Lantai is able to locate the essence of the problem, resolve the relevant issues in accordance with the law and achieve better legal and social results,” says Liu. She also recommends Li Leiyong, a Beijing partner of Lantai.
Zhou Guomin, chairman of Hangzhou Tianan Investment Holding Group, recommends Gao Shulin and Lang Yunyun, Nanjing-based partners of Lantai. “The demolition and relocation compensation case between our company and the Land and Resources Bureau of Yancheng, Jiangsu, was very complicated and I admired the professional, efficient and meticulous qualities shown by the two lawyers,” he says.
TianTong Law Firm was recommended by a number of general counsel for its highly professional services. Xu Zhiyuan, deputy director of Sinopec’s legal department, and Wang Zhangyue, general manager of the China Foreign Economy and Trade Trust’s compliance and legal department, both recommends Zhu Huafang, a Beijing-based partner of TianTong. “TianTong showed a high degree of professionalism when they provide legal services to us. Their evidence summarisation is comprehensive and solid, and their solutions are professional and effective, with timely feedback and a good attitude,” says Wang.
Wang Zhe, manager of the legal review department of Zhongrong International Trust, is very satisfied with the professionalism of TianTong’s dispute resolution service. “TianTong has always been pragmatic and assiduous in the field of dispute resolution. Their publications, in-depth research and training provided, as well as the daily communication with us, all reflect the firm’s professionalism in this field,” says Wang. He also recommends Beijing-based partner Shi Rui.
Jingtian & Gongcheng handled a number of disputes involving international trade, investment, joint venture, maritime, intellectual property, real estate, finance, futures and corporate bankruptcy. In 2020, several disputes had focused on international transportation. Among them, the firm represented the French container transportation and shipping company CMA CGM in a cargo damage liability dispute with AIG Property Casualty, as well as in freight transportation disputes with various Chinese international freight forwarders.
Attorneys from Hui Zhong Law Firm acted as arbitrators in more than 60 cases in major domestic arbitration institutions as well as overseas such as the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) and the International Chamber of Commerce. In terms of litigation, Hui Zhong represented a Chinese commercial bank in a litigation against a Hong Kong commercial bank involving contractual disputes, independent guarantee fraud and counter-guarantee claim disputes before the Supreme People’s Court (SPC). This was the first case in which the SPC found that a commercial bank had committed fraud in claiming a counter-guarantee, which was of great significance in establishing rules for independent guarantee cases.
Zhenghan Law Firm has a team of 37 lawyers, including 10 partners, in its dispute resolution department, which handled cases with a total value of over RMB80 billion (US$12.4 billion). In 2020, the arrangement concerning mutual assistance in court-ordered interim measures came into effect. On behalf of a central enterprise cross-border fund, Hongqiao Zhenghan successfully handled a property preservation case in the HKIAC through the Shanghai First Intermediate People’s Court, which took only seven days from the submission of the application to the court issuing interim orders, effectively protecting the client’s interests.
DLA Piper has been involved in over 20 injunction applications, 15 winding-up proceedings and five applications for the appointment of provisional liquidators in 2020. The firm represented Commercial Bank of China (Asia) (ICBCA) in a Hong Kong High Court action to recover a defaulted loan of more than HK$1.5 billion (US$193 million) from a subsidiary of Lerthai Group, with Lerthai Group itself and its chairman as guarantors, and successfully obtained a judgment of the approximate amount from the court. The firm also assisted ICBCA in devising a strategy to enhance the possibilities of recovering the debt, and explored options regarding the assets of the defaulted borrower and/or guarantors, in the US and British Virgin Islands.
Dorsey handled several high-profile cross-border lawsuits in 2020 involving prominent Chinese entrepreneurs in the US, as well as defending two Chinese individual executives in an insider trading case brought by the US SEC. The SEC alleged that “illegal and highly profitable trading in securities” were carried out and a number of Chinese financial institutions were involved in multijurisdictional disputes with immense target amounts.
The labour law team of Hui Ye Law Firm is led by Shanghai-based senior partner Zhou Kaichang, which is also one of the earliest labour law teams established in China consisting of nearly 100 lawyers, many of whom have participated in the legislative research of China’s Labour Contract Law, Labour Dispute Mediation and Arbitration Law and related judicial interpretations, and have been invited to participate in the formulation or research of national or local labour policies and arbitration and litigation rules. In an inter-regional employee relocation project involving a large number of employees, a change in business of the overseas parent company involved the transfer of contracts of thousands of employees in China from the company to employment agencies or labour dispatch companies. Hui Ye helped the company devise a set of communication and enforcement strategies targeting different groups of employees, which eventually ensured zero labour disputes.
Sophie Wang, China labour and employee relations manager at Continental China, recommends Hong Guibin, a senior partner of Hui Ye in Shanghai: “He has professional and solid knowledge of labour laws, and can provide practical and hands-on solutions from the client’s perspective.”
MHP Law Firm acted for a subsidiary of a multinational weeder manufacturer in China in its plan to cease production and implement redundancies, with 190 employees out of a total of 200 to be let go. Prior to the redundancy, the firm assisted the overseas head office in formulating a redundancy plan, drafting various related documents and represented the subsidiary in communicating with local authorities. During the implementation stage, the firm assisted in negotiating with the employees, signing agreements with the majority of affected workers on the day the redundancy was announced, communicating with the remaining employees on their relocation, drafting relevant legal documents and providing legal services on the follow-up process, which ensured for the client that the task was done within the set time frame. The firm’s quick action proves to have significantly helped the client reduce the potential legal risk from the subsequent Covid-19 pandemic.
PW & Partners’ labour law team has been rooted in this market in the Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau Greater Bay Area since 2004, and is familiar with the local employment environment and policies, having established stable relationships with local governments, labour law research groups and human resource organisations. The firm provides dedicated labour law services to clients including Mars Wrigley (China), Suning.com, Mead Johnson, BYHEALTH, Revenco, Guangzhou Shipyard International Company and the Guangzhou Commodity Exchange.
In a restructuring project of a German-funded company represented by PW & Partners, the company decided to reduce some of the production line positions and improve operational efficiency by scaling back the hierarchy within, due to the overseas head office’s request to streamline the organisational structure to slash human resources costs. All of the affected employees had more than 20 years of service and it was difficult to reach an agreement on the termination of the employment contract on the basis of the statutory economic compensation standards.
To ensure compliance, the firm formulated a detailed labour termination plan for the company and assigned three senior associates to conduct on-site negotiations, which ultimately led to its successful completion with minimal legal risks and costs that was highly recognised and praised by the company.
O’Melveny has handled a significant number of contentious and non-contentious employment matters in China in 2020. Notable highlights include acting for a well-known media company to successfully resolve a number of complex claims by former employees and advising on the employment aspects of several large M&A transactions (e.g., the sale of the Time and Fortune media brands by Meredith and the acquisition of Maestro by Lantronix). The firm also acted for leading corporations and financial institutions such as Aon, Meredith, Oliver Wyman, Lombard Odier, RELX, Star Entertainment, RGP and BlueFocus, on their Asian employment matters.
In 2020, China Commercial Law Firm participated in the drafting and consulting of the Regulation on Sanya Yazhou Bay Science and Technology City, Hainan Free Trade Port. China Commercial conducted research on legislation of typical regional governance-oriented statutory bodies such as the Qianhai Authority. The regulation was submitted to the Standing Committee of the Sixth People’s Congress of Hainan province at its 24th meeting and received a unanimous vote. The regulation is the first key park legislation after the Hainan Free Trade Port completed the Master Plan for the Construction of Hainan Free Trade Port.
Guantao Law Firm serves as the long-term legal adviser for national ministries and commissions including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, etc. Guantao has provided a large number of specific legal services for clients of government agencies, involving law and regulation revision suggestions and arguments, government information disclosure and social stability risk assessment. In 2020, the number of administrative litigation and administrative reconsideration cases undertaken by Guantao exceeded 200. Guantao also participated in drafting a large number of administrative legislations, and it reviews over 300 government regulatory documents annually.
In 2020, the number of administrative litigation cases in which Kangda Law Firm represented administrative organs as parties ranked first in Beijing and many of these cases were of great instructive importance.
Last year, Kangda undertook work on Research on the Procedural Issues of Rectification and Investigation of Illegal Group Rental Housing commissioned by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the project of Analysis and Research on the Review and Litigation Cases of Administrative Performance in Chaoyang District commissioned by the Chaoyang District Judicial Bureau, and participated in the legislative proofing of the Beijing Housing Lease Regulations.
In the 2020 Chongqing municipal government special bonds, ZHH & Robin provided specific legal services for 191 bond schemes, including the Chongqing Municipal Rail Transit Project, the Chongqing East Railway Station Comprehensive Transportation and Water Hub Project, the Guangyang Island Yangtze River Economic Belt Green Development Demonstration Project, etc., issuing RMB35.7 billion worth of bonds.
Dorsey is familiar with government affairs and the firm has represented a number of multinational foreign-invested entities in various government investigations (in cooperation with local companies) in mainland China, including tax inspections, environmental inspections and other government-driven investigations by local governments. In all of the above matters, Dorsey has assisted clients in achieving zero, or lower, penalty results.
Landing Law Offices handled a number of cases involving the intellectual property rights of well-known film and television works in 2020. Among them, the firm represented in the music work copyright infringement dispute for Naxi Love Song, which won a favourable ruling in the final judgment of the Zhejiang Provincial High People’s Court, setting a record for the highest compensation of RMB700,000 (US$108,400) for a Chinese single.
The copyright team at Sinofaith IP Group is led by vice general manager Yu Fei. According to Lai Qiqi, vice president and general counsel of Wuhu 37 Interactive Entertainment Network Technology Group, Yu has the charisma and the ability to lead a team to solve major difficult and complex issues for clients. Lai is very satisfied with the service provided by Sinofaith: “The way they handled several projects ultimately met our highest expectations.”
Bai Huaizhi, vice president of Visual China Group, shares that they have engaged Sinofaith to handle the infringing use of its images by a pirate website. “The analysis of the case [by Sinofaith], the development of a strategy to defend our rights, the implementation of the rights protection plan and the communication and negotiation with the relevant parties all reflect the professionalism and strong execution of the firm,” Bai says.
CMS China assisted an entertainment company on a nationwide (Hong Kong included) roll-out of theatres and productions across China. The scale of the project is immense with much of the rights in question involving copyright, including dramatic, musical and literary works, film, etc., which also involves entertainment law.
Wilkinson & Grist has defended the copyrights of a number of foreign companies in China in 2020. Pasty Chan, director of legal and business affairs at Universal Music, says, “They [Wilkinson & Grist] are responsive and quick to action. [Their] advice is always well thought through taking into account practical feasibility, showing that they understand our company’s needs and priorities.” She also recommends Mena Lo, a partner at the firm.
Dorothy Ho, legal counsel at Galaxy Entertainment Group, also recognises the firm’s quick response and recommends Annie Tsoi and So Kwokyue (KY So), partners at Wilkinson & Grist: “They are experienced in ceasing online IP infringements in China with a high success rate.”
China Patent Agent (HK) represented Pfizer and succeeded in defending its patent before both the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) and Beijing Intellectual Property Court in November 2020. The case was listed as one of the CNIPA’s top 10 patent re-examination and invalidation cases of the year, as it is believed to be of high guiding value in the clarification of the rules and thoughts for the allocation of burden of proof where there is controversy over an advantageous technical effect.
Lifang & Partners represented Xiaomi Group in its series of patent disputes with Coolpad Group, helping the client to invalidate a key patent of Coolpad’s wholly owned subsidiary Yulong Communication Technology in 2020, resulting in the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court dismissing Coolpad’s lawsuit against Xiaomi based on the patent, and ultimately leading to all litigation cases brought by Yulong in 2018 to be dismissed.
Twelve Tables Law Firm, a boutique firm, added in 2020 four partners with great industrial experience, three of whom have worked in patent examination at CNIPA. The firm handled patent-related litigation matters for a number of leading companies from the telecommunications, internet and industrial manufacturing industries, as well as conducting patent due diligence for top investment banks for their investment and M&A projects.
Rouse acted for German kitchen and bathroom products company Hansgrohe, and won a design patent dispute with a sanitary ware factory in Ningbo of Zhejiang province over the latter’s display of product pictures on their online store, which are identical to the client’s. The case was selected by the Zhejiang High People’s Court as one of the top 10 intellectual property cases of the year. Unlike normal acts of displaying products on an online store, this case involved whether the display behaviour of the store’s product image has the attributes of an offer invitation and belong to an act of promised sales, and will serve as an important reference for future cases under the current e-commerce environment.
Steptoe won endorsement from multiple in-house counsel for its achievements in patent litigation. Liang Junhui, head of IP at Autel Robotics, says that Steptoe has extensive experience in patent litigation in US district courts and the US International Trade Commission (ITC), and has mastered, and can flexibly apply, the relevant rules. “The firm [Steptoe] is well versed in patent invalidation and infringement determinations, and has good control on costs,” says Liang. He also recommends Timothy Bickham, a partner at Steptoe based in Washington and Beijing.
Lei Yun, head of the IP centre at Guangzhou Shiyuan Electronic Technology, highly appreciates the professionalism and dedication of Steptoe: “The firm [Steptoe] understands the Chinese culture very well and is able to provide very competitive solutions to Chinese companies in dealing with some disputes, especially overseas disputes, including litigation cost control, settlement strategies, etc., and is able to provide very practical solutions that are in line with Chinese companies.”
In the past year, An Tian Zhang & Partners has helped pave the way for a number of foreign clients to enter the Chinese market by defending their trademark rights in China. In June 2020, the firm successfully helped Novacel, the famous French film manufacturer, to win cases against the trademarks registered by its former Chinese employee’s company. A former employee left its Guangzhou office and established a company in the same industry in 2007 and filed the same marks in 2008. Novacel then lodged its case and a timely review, but did not get any support in administrative procedures and the later litigation process. The firm helped the client to bring the case to the SPC with detailed evidence, and demonstrated the client’s use and fame for the mark and name “Novacel” in the field as well as showing the long-standing connection between the former employee and the adversary.
Corner Stone & Partners represented Mars Foods (China), the Chinese subsidiary of a well-known US pet food manufacturer Mars, in a series of trademark and unfair competition cases between the client and Guangzhou Shangxun. The firm won a favourable ruling from the Guangdong High People’s Court in October 2020 upholding the brand name rights of the client. The final judgment found that Guangzhou Shangxun had intentionally clung to the reputation of Mars’ brand name and that its alleged infringement constituted unfair competition. Earlier, Guangzhou Shangxun registered the trademark “Mars” and “MARS” in Class 31 for pet food and animal litter under China’s classification of goods and services, for publicity when participating in the “Second Asia Pet Aquarium Expo 2015”, and publicised and reported on the two trademarks on the official website of the event. It also sells pet foods that use the two trademarks in its online store. The case proved that, in the face of obvious infringement of the brand name of a company by a registered trademark, the rights holder does not need to wait for the trademark in question to be invalidated before bringing an infringement action.
Liu Shen & Associates represented Apple Corps, the bearer of the intellectual property rights of the Beatles, in an opposition to a trademark application filed by a third party who had taken the Beatles’ name, and both the first and second instance of the administrative proceedings found that the plaintiff had a merchandising right for the Beatles’ name and rejected the third party’s trademark application on that basis. The case was the first time a Chinese court had held that the merchandising rights of a band’s name should be protected by law.
One of a series of trademark disputes in China for New Balance with a Chinese company Qierte, represented by Wanhuida Intellectual Property, came to an encouraging end in March 2020 in a retrial proceeding before the SPC. The court issued two retrial decisions, which withdrew the Beijing High People’s Court rulings and determined, due to the similarity of New Balance’s cited trademarks, the two disputed trademarks of the “N” logo registered by Qierte were invalidated. The SPC rulings may serve as precedents for similar cases where bad faith demonstrated in the way a registered trademark is used may have an impact on the determination of the mark’s similarity.
ELLALAN provides global IP portfolio management and enforcement for Alibaba Group, handling both contentious and non-contentious trademark, copyright, domain name and trade name matters in over 80 jurisdictions, except for mainland China. With over 40,000 trademarks, the group has one of the largest trademark portfolios in the world.
Wilkinson & Grist has been advising multinational food manufacturer the Kraft Heinz Company for many years. Alexandra Zottola, the company’s legal counsel who manages trademark matters, says Wilkinson & Grist is her go-to law firm for all trademark and copyright matters in the region. “The team at Wilkinson & Grist know our portfolio inside and out, and they handle all of our matters with such diligence and speed that I often forget that they have many more clients than our company alone.”
In particular, she recommends Annie Tsoi, a partner at Wilkinson & Grist. “If she [Annie Tsoi] was involved in an ongoing matter that started before I joined the company (whether a prosecution matter or an enforcement matter), she always provides me with a brief summary to bring me up to speed, concisely but thoroughly addresses the current status, and then proposes strategic solutions and next steps,” she says.
AllBright Law Offices represented a number of Chinese companies in foreign countervailing and anti-dumping investigations in 2020, alleviating significant tax burdens for clients. AllBright acted for Chinese photovoltaic company Canadian Solar, which was able to considerably reduce its countervailing duty rate from 11.59% to 5.02% through litigation in the US courts with a target amount of US$1.733 billion.
Shen Guoming, general manager of the development strategy department of Jushi Group, says that the company has a long-standing relationship with AllBright’s international trade team, which he considers to have a high overall competence, and praises the team’s dedication: “Because many trade remedy cases are often time-sensitive and extensive, the team were fully committed and worked overtime for most of the time.” He also recommends Xiang Dong, a Beijing-based senior partner at AllBright.
Jincheng Tongda & Neal’s international trade team is led by Beijing-based managing partner Yang Chen. Last year, the firm represented Benxi Steel Group in the final judicial review of the anti-dumping investigation of hot-dip galvanised steel sheets in Malaysia, which was the first case in which a Chinese company successfully eliminated anti-dumping measures in Malaysia through a full circle judicial review process.
Steptoe continues to be involved in the most high-profile and difficult trade disputes between the US and China in 2020. The firm has a robust international trade practice that includes all aspects of international trade and investment, including anti-dumping and countervailing duty trade remedies, trade policy, customs, and WTO dispute resolution. Yolanda Ren, legal manager of Wuxi Suntech Power, says that one of the reasons why the company looks to Steptoe is because its team has experience in winning similar cases. “When they represented us in our case against the European Commission, the team was highly professional and responsible, and was able to defend our rights against the European Commission lawyers,” she says.
Ren also recommends Bao Yongqing, a senior associate at Steptoe’s Brussels office: “He [Bao Yongqing] is able to give constructive advice directly to his clients and also saves costs on related litigation proceedings from the perspective of clients.”
AllBright Law Offices has been involved in a number of M&A cases with huge target amounts in the past year, among which the firm assisted China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) in its equity acquisition project of five shipping companies with a target amount of RMB37.4 billion (US$5.8 billion). As the legal adviser of the acquirers, AllBright has been involved in the project since 2017 when CSSC introduced debt-to-equity investors as a listed state-owned enterprise (SOE). In addition to due diligence and preparation of transaction documents, the firm also assisted in drafting various relevant documents required by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) and securities regulators, and offered legal opinions on the application for administrative permits from the China Securities Regulatory Commission for the project.
Guantao Law Firm participated in several significant investment and financing projects for large SOEs, listed companies and private companies in 2020. China National Petroleum Corporation, with the assistance of Guantao, achieved a 29.9% shareholding through its equity investment in and sale of its pipeline business to PipeChina, making it the biggest shareholder of PipeChina. The total transaction value is over RMB260 billion (US$40.3 billion).
Llinks Law Offices’ inbound and domestic M&A practice covers a wide range of acquisitions and disposals of state-owned assets, private companies, subsidiaries and branches, tender offers, mergers, joint ventures and strategic alliances, as well as leveraged buyouts. James Guo, director of the board and manager of the China office at American Securities, says, “[The legal services of Llinks are] professional, pragmatic, efficient and client-oriented,” He recommends Selena She and Collin Shi, partners of Llinks in Shanghai.
Li Yutong, legal counsel at Sinochem International, thinks that Shi is “an outstanding investment and M&A lawyer” and he is “very satisfied” with the firm’s services in a number of acquisition projects for the company. “Llinks is a professional, dedicated and innovative law firm that provides us with integrated commercial legal solutions and is a very reliable partner,” says Li.
Tian Yuan Law Firm’s clients from its M&A practice include leading companies in various industries, such as China State Construction, China Nuclear Power Engineering, Ping An Insurance, CITIC Group, Huawei, Tencent and Sequoia. In Sinochem Energy’s project of releasing 20% equity and introducing five strategic investors that Tian Yuan advised on, the total investment amounted to RMB11.55 billion (US$1.8 billion), making it largest project of introducing strategic investors in an SOE reform initiative led by the State Council.
Wang Na, head of Sinochem Energy’s legal department, says: “Tian Yuan was able to offer advice and options based on our actual situation and in accordance with laws and regulations, allowing the company to reap the maximum commercial interests.” She also recommends Tian Yuan’s Beijing-based managing partner Zhu Xiaohui and partner Xu Liang.
CMS China’s cand M&A practice area group, led by Shanghai-based managing partner, Ulrike Glueck, handled China-related matters for a number of leading European multinationals in 2020 in connection with their M&A, establishment of joint ventures, wholly owned foreign enterprises and holding companies, legal due diligence, restructuring, corporate finance, spin-offs and other projects.
Nie Xin, general counsel in greater China of Schaeffler Group, says: “The services provided by CMS excelled in terms of speed, quality and price/performance ratio, and we fully recognise their professionalism and industrial insight.”
Partners Lin Zhong and Chen Zhijun at Chen & Co Law Firm led cross-border M&A transactions. In 2020, with the new requirements for existing cross-border share swap laws and regulations after the implementation of the Foreign Investment Law, Chen & Co assisted Universal Scientific Industrial to acquire 100% of the shares of the second largest electronic manufacturing services company Financière AFG SAS, before, the shares were held by foreign investors. This deal is the first cross-border share swap case for a listed company, which passed the review of the M&A restructuring committee of the CSRC.
Commerce & Finance Law Offices acted as the legal counsel in China in the project in which Weichai Power acquired 80% of the German company Aradex AG. Aradex AG is a leading company in the research and development of high-power frequency conversion and power supply equipment. This project encountered the stricter national security review institution from the German government. Commerce & Finance coordinated between the clients, German lawyers and German government departments and provided legal opinions to the German government, which finally enabled this project to pass the German national security review.
In 2020, Grandall Law Firm provided legal services including due diligence, M&A scheme design and deal agreement negotiations to many large enterprises’ cross-border M&A transactions. The deals involved legal and tax issues of different countries and the value of many transactions reached billions of RMB. In one of the deals, Grandall represented Jiangsu Expressway Company to form a consortium to acquire 51% equity of the third Bosphorus bridge and Istanbul northern ring motorway. This project was achieved through different companies forming a Hong Kong joint SPV, with a complex deal structure. This is also the largest cross-border investment project undertaken by China in Turkey and the first overseas highway M&A project of China.
King & Wood Mallesons participated in a number of high-value transactions last year, providing legal services to clients including large state-owned enterprises and large Sino-foreign joint ventures, providing them with multifaceted cross-border M&A strategies. Last year, King & Wood Mallesons represented Shenzhen Capital Holdings in its acquisition of 29.74% of shares of China International Marine Containers and became the largest shareholder. King & Wood Mallesons says it was a complex transaction with multiple procedures. The transaction involved a cross-border acquisition of H shares and was associated with five domestic and foreign-listed companies at the same time, which required corresponding procedures to be made to comply with the rules of the Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong stock exchanges. This transaction achieved cooperation between central and local state-owned enterprises.
Orrick’s M&A team with China-focused members consists of 30 lawyers who assist clients with cross-border transactions. Over the past year, Orrick has had new engagements from major Chinese SOEs. Myra Kang, managing director of Sino-EU Link Srl, commented: “Their team has extensive expertise in representing Chinese companies investing in Europe, often anticipating and avoiding risks in advance, putting Chinese companies and investors at ease throughout the transaction process. The landscape of outbound investment is changing for Chinese investors, and the Orrick team skilfully and seamlessly helps Chinese companies understand these changes and stand to gain.” She recommends Betty Louie, a partner at Orrick.
Baker McKenzie FenXun has provided legal services to leading companies in various sectors, such as Evergrande Health, State Power Investment, Jinjiang International Group and Tencent Holdings. The firm also publishes M&A-specific publications to guide Chinese clients through the challenges of multijurisdictional M&A transactions.
Private equity and venture capital is one of the core services of Han Kun Law Offices. Last year, Han Kun provided legal services to top-ranking investment firms and unicorn enterprises, such as Hillhouse Capital, Huaxing Growth Capital, Lilly Asia Ventures, Genesis Capital, Eastern Bell Capital, Yuanfudao and Sinovac. In the year of covid-19, Han Kun represented Sinovac in its over US$500 million financing for the development of its covid-19 vaccine.
Llinks Law Offices not only represents domestic and foreign angel investors, venture capital funds and private equity funds in the establishment of funds and subsequent project investment, management and exit, but also helps domestic and foreign startups from various industries, to provide legal services for their various rounds of financing needs from the startup to the pre-listing stage, which is well appreciated by clients. A client from a financial holding company commented: “[We are very satisfied with Llink’s services], in the previous cooperation, they provided tips for the legal risks which may be caused by business conditions.”
The client recommends partner Colin Shi, saying that he is “highly professional and experienced in the field of equity investment and has a clear structure when preparing relevant investment documents”.
Cooley has significant growth in the private equity/venture capital business in China, has been working on more than 100 new financing deals, representing both company and investor clients, especially in the areas of life sciences, fintech, new consumer, edtech, SaaS, big data, AI, online retail and other high technology sectors.
A client from a venture capital firm was very satisfied with the services and commented: “Cooley has rich experience in the PE/VC industry in the US, from fund foundation to investment and financing transactions, and has brought these experiences and professional services to China and combined them well on the ground, with obvious advantages in handling cross-border transactions, financing, securities, M&A and other transactions.”
Gunderson Dettmer represented a large number of Chinese startups on their financing rounds in the past year, such as WeRide, a mobility company powered by AI technology and Robotics, and Zuoyebang, an online education company. Gunderson Dettmer advised on the Series B+ financing of WeRide last year, which received a US$200 million investment from a large-scale bus company Yutong Group.
Tony Han, the CEO & cofounder of WeRide, is very satisfied with their cooperation: “They [Gunderson Dettmer] know very well about the Cayman structure and domestic investment matters, and can give very professional advice and help us coordinate with the investors. They also have a very good understanding of the market situation. They can actively cooperate with the business side to make decisions.”
Proskauer’s private equity practice has a broad spectrum of deals from buyout, growth equity, PIPEs and debt financing to restructuring, exit strategies and secondaries. Last year, Proskauer advised the Greater Bay Area Homeland Development Fund in its first private equity investment in a financial technology group based in Hong Kong and the PRC.
Partner Chen Mingxia is in charge of the restructuring & insolvency and special assets investment practice of Chen & Co Law Firm. Chen has handled the first insolvency and liquidation case of a financial leasing company in China and other influential cases both domestically and abroad.
Dentons has participated in many restructuring projects of large state-owned enterprises in the past. At the end of 2019, when Tonghua Iron and Steel Group’s shares were insolvent, Tonghua Intermediate Court decided to accept the restructuring applications of 14 of its enterprises. Dentons completed the work including audit, evaluation, solvency analysis, claim filing review, program design, restructuring plan formulation and creditors’ meeting vote within 36 days. Dentons received a total of 2,210 claim filings and accepted claim filings amounting to RMB65.86 billion. The restructuring plan is currently being implemented. The case was highly praised by the work report of the Supreme People’s Court.
Restructuring & insolvency and special asset disposal is one of the core business areas of Hylands Law Firm. In the Jinggong Group bankruptcy and restructuring case, Hylands accepted the commission of Jiangsu Taihehui investment management. In the case, Jingong Holdings issued financing instrument products to investors and entrusted Jiangsu Taihehui Investment Management as the underwriter and trustee, after which the issuer and its group had a serious debt crisis. Hylands filed a lawsuit to the court, and during the litigation, Jinggong Group and its subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy.
Zhu Xiaowei, the client of Tahone Capital (subsidiary company to Taihehui) particularly recommended partner Xu Yu: “Our company recognises the professional ability of Xu Yu and his team in this case to solve the needs of customers. [He has] a professional theoretical level and innovative spirit to maintain the legitimate rights and interests of our company to the maximum extent.” The team communicated with the bankruptcy administrator and requested recognition of the creditor status of each bondholder and give them voting rights. The case involved more than 2,000 natural persons as creditors and attracted great attention in the local area. The case is ongoing.
Winners Law Firm was elected as the vice president of Tianjin Bankruptcy Administrators Association, and was rated as the first-class administrator for enterprise bankruptcy cases. Winners provided legal services for many creditors in the insolvency cases of Bohai Steel Group.
Kirkland & Ellis’s restructuring and insolvency team serves companies, bondholders and banks, covering a full range of litigation and non-litigation restructuring work within the same team. Kirkland & Ellis continues to bring talent to the team in this area, with restructuring partner Neil McDonald joining in 2014 and insolvency specialist Kelly Naphtali, who joined in 2016.
The asset securitisation legal service team of Jingtian & Gongcheng has rich experience in credit asset securitisation regulated by the People’s Bank of China, corporate asset securitisation regulated by the Securities Regulatory Commission, asset-backed notes regulated by the National Association of Financial Market Institutional Investors and project asset-backed special plans regulated by Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission. Jingtian & Gongcheng participated in the CICC-Hangzhou CBD Investment Group-Hangzhou International Conference Centre asset-backed special plan (Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities, or CMBS). The securities were successfully issued on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, with the RMB2 billion issuance gaining a AAA rating, with a 3.98% interest rate. This is the largest CMBS and the first single SPV structured CMBS in Zhejiang province.
In 2020, SG & Co PRC Lawyers provided legal services for many asset securitisation projects of famous enterprises as issuers, including China Construction Bank and the Agricultural Bank of China. In 2020, SG & Co provided legal services for asset securitisation projects.
In the Guanggu environmental ABS project, JunZeJun Law Firm was the adviser, providing full legal services from asset selection, the design of transaction credit enhancement methods, formulation of transaction plans and legal analysis, writing of transaction documents, as well as the issuance of model demonstrations and legal opinion. This project is a new type of underlying asset, as there is nothing like it in the issued securitisation products sector. The successful issuance of this project provides environmental protection enterprises with early realisation of future charging rights and reduces the capital pressure of environmental protection enterprises.
V&T Law Firm has participated in many large-scale asset securitisation transactions, many of which are complex in structure and involve various types of transactions, for example, the China Capital Management-Golden Spark long-term rental apartments phases 1-8 asset-backed special program is based on the operating income of the long-term rental apartments transformed from urban village properties in Shenzhen. The Ping An Securities-Jiayuan Technology asset-backed special plan was approved by the SSE and obtained a no-objection letter. This project is the first supply chain ABS product with “dual transfer” of receivables and commercial acceptance bills in the market, which is of great significance to the inclusion of notes in the scope of underlying assets of ABS projects. V&T acted as the special legal adviser.
The finance team of Harneys advises on all types of cross-border securitisation and structured finance transactions, involving traditional assets to emerging assets, such as pharmacy and health care receivables, trade receivables, aircraft loans, fintech and transportation. Harneys says that they are known for advising on the most innovative of structures, many of which were the “first of their kind”.
DeHeng Law Offices’s tax law centre have undertaken a large number of tax-related cases, involving such fields as false invoicing, audit requests to pay back large amounts of personal income tax, asset disposal tax planning, flexible employment platform compliance planning and social e-commerce platform compliance planning. DeHeng assisted in the case of an equity investment partnership enterprise, when the equity exited the taxation authorities abolished the locally implemented taxation preferential policy. When the taxation authorities requested that the client pay millions of RMB of personal income tax, DeHeng communicated with the inspection bureau according to the principle of administrative law and advocated that a 20% tax rate should be applied, and DeHeng has achieved initial results in favour of the client.
FenXun Partners serves in the areas of international tax planning and structuring, M&A taxation, personal income tax, tax compliance and dispute, trade/distribution/customs, and transfer pricing. The firm has served many leading companies of different industries in the past year and gained appreciation from clients. Andre Loy, a senior director of finance at Synopsys commented: “Their advice is not purely theoretical, but is practical. They have experience from the authorities/compliance perspective so that is very helpful.”
Huashui Law Firm has been invited by the National People’s Congress, the State Council, the Ministry of Finance, the State Administration of Taxation, the Ministry of Justice and other authorities as an expert representative to participate in various tax legislation and revision seminars, such as the Tax Collection and Administration Law, the Personal Income Tax Law, the VAT Law, etc. The firm is committed to providing legal services in the field of fiscal and tax law, such as administrative dispute resolution, criminal defence, risk management and tax planning.
Jincheng Tongda & Neal (JT&N) served clients from different industries, such as real estate, automotive, internet and chemical etc. JT&N submits verification applications and evidence for clients, submits written opinions to tax authorities, requests tax authorities to verify and grant input tax credits, and strives for clients’ legitimate rights and interests.
CMS China’s tax practice area group is led by Gilbert Shen and clients recognise the firm’s expertise. Adam Cai, a tax director from Voith Group (China and East Asia) commented: “They spared every effort to negotiate with the tax authorities on behalf of the client to strive for a most favourable tax treatment.”
Gide offers legal services to clients, including Fortune 500 and brand-name European companies. Last year, Gide advised on a number of European industrial manufacturing companies in the area of PRC taxes, taking the company’s short to medium and long-term development into account.
In 2020, Dentons completed several important transactions in the aviation sector, including representing Everbright Financial Leasing in the purchase of seven Boeing 737-800 aircraft, the financing and leasing project of eight aircraft between AVIC International Leasing and Air China. The total amount of the transaction exceeded US$300 million.
The aviation team of Anli Partners represented Airport Construction Engineering in the construction of overseas projects. The ongoing projects include: the Pakistan New Gwadar International Airport project and Glo-Djigbe New International Airport project in Benin. The former one is a landmark project in the China-Pakistan economic corridor, the latter project has an investment of US$796 million. Besides, the firm has won cases on behalf of various clients in claims for custom duty and VAT advancement, claims for management contract arrears, and labour disputes between airlines and pilots.
Aviation is a core practice area for KaiRong Law Firm. In addition to continuing to represent Malaysia Airlines and its insurers in claims and litigation in China about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 in March 2014, the firm has also represented several domestic and international airlines, such as American Airlines, Cathay Dragon, Cathay Pacific and Etihad Airways.
A&L Goodbody has advised in many significant transactions, which has attracted much attention in the market in 2020. The firm advised CCB Leasing International Corporation DAC (CCBLI) to its joint venture with Norwegian Air Shuttle. CCBLI is a fully owned subsidiary of China Construction Bank, an industry leader in banking, financial services and leasing. It is the world’s second largest bank by asset value. It was also awarded Deals of the Year 2020 by China Business Law Journal.
At the same time, Holman Fenwick Willan’s (HFW) expertise and work continue to be recognised by the industry. AVIC International Leasing’s representative, who has been working with HFW for more than six years, recommends the firm’s partner Justin Sun. “[He] is one of the few Chinese in the aviation leasing law firm, with incomparable advantage in local knowledge and PRC laws related to Chinese leasing companies,” the person says.
Fieldfisher’s expertise in the sector is widely recognised by clients. China Southern Airlines recommended Zhou Zhaofeng, the managing partner of Fieldfisher China. “[He] is an expert in compliance, antitrust and data protection, as well as the aviation industry. He can provide solid and practical legal advice,” says the China Southern Airlines’ in-house counsel Chen Yu.
Boss & Young has been involved in several major projects in 2020. Lu Guofei, a partner of the firm, provided legal services for the renovation project of Shanghai’s famous historical buildings, the building of Shanghai Municipal Council in international settlement and the Shanghai Municipal Council building. The project was jointly undertaken by the Shanghai and district governments and was implemented by Shanghai Bund Old Building Investment and Development Company, a joint venture between Shanghai Land Group and Huangpu District Government’s Bund Investment Group. After the completion of the renovation, the project will integrate office, commercial and cultural industries and will become a new historical and cultural landmark on the Bund.
A client from Shanghai Bund Old Building Investment and Development Company recommended Lu and Qin Rui, saying: “Lu specialises in real estate development and construction related laws and has extensive experience in comprehensive services. He is professional. Qin has rich experience in the same field and works conscientiously and responsibly.”
East & Concord Partners has advised on several billion-yuan transactions in 2020, among which the firm participated in a RMB9 billion (US$1.39 million) Wenzhou Municipal Railway S1-line PPP (public-private partnership) project undertaken by Zhejiang Communications Investment Group. According to the People’s Daily, the project is the first TOT (transfer-operate-transfer) mode rail transit project in China. Besides, the firm also provided legal opinions on Yangtze River protection projects, including sewage treatment, water treatment and sustainable development PPP projects.
DHH Law Firm also has a long-standing reputation in this field. A representative from China Resources Group (Beijing) was satisfied with the firm’s services, saying that the firm “takes into account all the issues that the client can consider, applies its expertise in litigation disputes, and is highly recognised by judges.”
Another referee from an international investment company recommends Zhang Zexian, a senior partner of the firm, saying: “[He] is familiar with laws and regulations in construction, and has rich practical experience. He has helped us to reach a new level in compliance and his team members showed professionalism under Zhang’s leadership.”
Ashurst has a strong client base including both PRC and international companies across the Asia-Pacific region in Africa, Latin America, and Europe, including major commercial banks and state-owned enterprises.
The team advised on a term loan facility to be provided by ICBC and the Export-Import Bank of China to Kafue Gorge Lower Power Station (KGL) in Zambia as the country’s first major PPP project. The transaction involves multiple syndicates financing different aspects of the project. Ashurst acted as legal counsel to the English Law.
Pinsent Masons started its construction practice in Hong Kong 37 years ago, in response to massive infrastructure programmes in China. Last year, the firm was involved in the Mexico City subway construction project and the Red Sea tourism mega project in Saudi Arabia.
The first one was the first overseas PPP project of a CRRC consortium led by CRRC Hong Kong, and a landmark Belt and Road project. The second project, once completed, it will cover 11,000 square metres of islands, beaches, desert, mountains and volcanic areas. The two deals in construction won Deals of the Year 2020 in China Business Law Journal.
Zhihe Partners’ services in consumer & retail are led by senior partner Lu Zhaoyu, whose team helped Mengniu Dairy improve its sales management capabilities and provided an optimised equity management mechanism to improve the client’s corporate governance structure. The firm’s services in the consumer goods and retail sector have been recognised by the client.
“[Zhihe is] familiar with the operation model of the fast-moving consumer goods industry and is able to provide legal service solutions in the context of corporate reality,” says a legal director from a retail industry.
Haiwen & Partners has been involved in a number of high-profile deals in this industry. The firm represented Chinese furniture retailer Easyhome in its non-public offering of A shares, which was completed on 2 December 2020. The total amount of funds raised is RMB3.595 billion (US$559 million). Haiwen & Partners’ team also acted as the PRC legal adviser to the joint sponsors and underwriters in Blue Moon Group’s HK$9.576 billion IPO in Hong Kong. Blue Moon, known as China’s Procter & Gamble, is a household care company.
Joint-Win Partners has had a good performance in 2020 in this industry. As an example, the firm represented Regal China to handle a trademark case for its brand, and “with their very professional and efficient assistance and advice, the case has been carried out quickly”, says the referee of the company.
Gide China has a long-standing reputation in the consumer and retail sector. The firm advised clients in food and beverage, agriculture, luxury goods, supermarkets and so on. Last year, Gide advised Gant, an American Swedish clothing brand, on the acquisition of the distributor LongGoal Group to further control its brand growth in China. The firm is also advising Lacoste, a French clothing company, on its expansion in China, including drafting and reviewing all lease and distribution agreements.
Withers has been engaged in several important deals in this area. The firm advised its clients in large-sized acquisitions, retail sales, cross-border licensing and so on. Withers also represented Lever Style Corporation, the apparel engine behind digitally native and conventional premium fashion brands, in its listing on the Main Board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Morgan Lewis represented Anta Sports Products in a HK$778 million investment into the Chinese company by Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon. This transaction follows the firm’s work in connection with Anta Sports Products’ US$5.39 billion leveraged buyout of Finland’s Amer Sports Corporation through a voluntary public tender offer.
In 2020, Tian Yuan Law Firm completed numerous transactions in capital markets, investment and financing, and M&A in the field of education.
For example, the education technology company Chuanzhiboke Education Technology was listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in January 2021, becoming the first private education company in China to be listed on the A-share market.
The education company is delighted with the service and professionalism of Tian Yuan. “Our campuses are in nearly 20 cities across China. [Tian Yuan] gave us professional help on the compliance requirements in our IPO, in terms of the qualification of school operation, firefighting, as well as the nature of the land and housing ownership of the leased site,” says the chief financial officer of the company.
According to the firm, previous education companies listed in China were done through M&A or shell listings, and this project became a landmark project after the revision of the Law on Promoting Private Education.
Tian Yuan and CM Law Firm represented IDG Capital and Tencent, respectively, in the investment in online education platform Yuanfudao. To date, Yuanfudao has completed seven rounds of investment and is the first unicorn company in China’s K-12 online education sector.
CM Law Firm also acted as the corporate counsel in the US$66 million Series C+ financing round for China online parenting education service platform “Kaishu Story” in February 2020. After the completion of the financing, the firm continued to assist the company with the structuring of the dollar financing and post-series C financing. After completing the financing, the firm continued to help the company structure the dollar financing and the post-series C dollar financing.
Clients widely recognise Global Law Office’s services in the education sector. A client of an education technology group recommended Global Law Office, saying, “[The firm] has provided us with legal services including intellectual property protection, dispute resolution, and capital market-related services, which are satisfactory in terms of professionalism, efficiency and effectiveness.”
The firm also advised Minsheng Education Group on its acquisition of a 51% interest in Wenda Electronics through its Chinese subsidiary, thereby indirectly holding the same percentage of interest in the operation of Wenda College and Tianhang College in China. According to the firm, Wenda College, once an influential private educational institution in China, was the first university in China to enter bankruptcy and restructuring.
Pinsent Masons has advised some key players in the industry. The team advised China Education Group (CEG) on its strategic partnership with an American international university in London to purchase shares in INTI Education Group in Malaysia. CEG is a global higher and vocational education group with footprints in China, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Skadden and Kirkland & Ellis have completed several significant deals in education, especially in capital markets. The two firms and Tian Yuan were all involved in the US$288 million IPO of 17 Education & Technology Group, an education technology company in China, on the Nasdaq in December last year. The IPO is the largest ever for an education company listed in the US.
Skadden also represented New Oriental Education & Technology Group in its US$1.3 billion secondary listing of common shares and Neusoft Education Technology in its US$134 million IPO of ordinary shares and listing in Hong Kong. While Kirkland & Ellis represented Sunny Education, a wholly owned subsidiary of 17 Education & Technology in its US$100 million Series D pre-IPO financing.
Zhong Lun Law Firm has provided legal services for several large-scale transactions in the energy industry. For example, the firm provided legal services for Chifeng Jilong Gold Mining’s acquisition of an Australian mining company and Hunan International Cooperation Fund Management’s Egyptian photovoltaic acquisition project.
An engineering technology company is delighted with the firm’s services and recommended Liu Zhengyi of the firm. “The firm provided all-around services for our coal-fired power plant project in Cambodia, including cross-border M&A and international engineering contracting,” says the in-house counsel. “Liu’s positive working attitude, strong professionalism and quality work was recognised by our team members.”
Sunshine Law Firm has completed several notable deals in 2020 in the energy sector. For example, the firm represented Yunnan International and AVIC International to complete the acquisition of a 32MW solar power plant in Bangladesh with law firm DFDL in Bangladesh. Besides, the firm participated in the wind power project undertaken by China Energy Construction Group Guangdong Electric Power Design Institute in Zhanjiang, the first offshore wind power project built by EPC (engineering procurement construction) in China, enhancing the development of the country’s offshore wind power industry.
With the development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Jincheng Tongda & Neal (JT&N) provided legal services for many Chinese companies to expand their business overseas. The firm acted as the sole PRC legal counsel to China Energy Investment in its shale gas project in the US and China Copper in its proposed acquisition of copper and nickel mines in Zambia.
According to JT&N, the deal value of the first project is around US$83.7 billion and that of the second project is approximately US$1.836 million.
Broad & Bright had been involved in several vital projects in the energy industry, particularly in the oil and gas sector. The firm’s clients include China’s state-owned energy companies such as China National Petroleum Corporation, China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, and CITIC Resources, and independent energy companies such as EOG Resources, AAG Energy, and Far East Energy.
Taking two representative deals as an example, the firm represented AAG Energy in its Sino-foreign coalbed methane projects in China and represented SDIC Chuangyi, a wholly owned subsidiary of the State Development and Investment Corporation, in its investment in Ming Yang Smart Energy Group’s wind power industry chain.
Pillsbury has been prominent in infrastructure projects, strategic investment, and commercial transactions for leading energy companies in China and abroad. One of Pillsbury’s representative deals is that the team represented China Nuclear Power Engineering Corporation in legal and compliance matters related to overseas’ projects, including the ITER project.
The company recognises the firm’s work and says: “[They] have a very dedicated and pragmatic team of professionals who have been providing professional, efficient, and business-relevant services to us… They can mobilise lawyers from offices in Beijing, Shanghai, London, Washington, and Tokyo to respond to our group and subsidiaries’ requests.”
Shearman & Sterling acted as the sole international legal counsel to PetroChina on the Brazil Integrated Oil & Gas project in 2020. It is the largest integrated oil and gas project in the western hemisphere and the largest project in Brazil involving foreign investment. Also, the firm advised the Silk Road Fund, the designated sovereign wealth fund for its US$300 million and RMB2 billion (US$309 million) loan to Uzbekistan’s state-owned company Uzbekneftegaz to develop various oil and gas assets in the country.
Landing Law Offices’ practice in family wealth management includes family matters, inheritance, family and corporate governance, succession planning, and private wealth management. The team’s capabilities have been recommended by several clients, including a female entrepreneur who hired the team as her legal adviser and regarded the firm’s senior partner, Zhang Huan’e “one of her most trusted friends”.
An aviation practitioner also recommended Zhang, saying, “I have recommended her to many of my pilot friends because of her professionalism and dedication. Indeed, pilots seldom have time to take care of private legal matters, and there is a great need for a good lawyer like Zhang with professional knowledge and dedication in family wealth management.”
Lantai Partners provides legal services to financial and insurance institutions such as China Development Bank, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of Beijing and BOB-Cardif Life Insurance, mainly involving customised wealth inheritance solutions, legal advice, and in-house training for their high net-worth clients. The firm said that in 2020 it had over 100 litigation and non-litigation cases involving family wealth inheritance and management.
Clients have also recognised the wealth planning team of Hylands Law Firm. A client from a well-known art gallery found the firm to be professional and exploratory in “exploring the integration of art collection and family financial management”. The client recommended partner Yun Dahui, who “has a wide range of influence in the industry” and “is very socially responsible and has both professionalism and management skills”.
Stephenson Harwood provides high net-worth clients with integrated advice. The cooperation between the private wealth team, corporate team, immigration and trust litigation team and offices in different locations provides the clients with a one-stop service. The firm also offers seasoned families, entrepreneurs, and investors advice on trust structure planning, personal investment and tax in different jurisdictions.
Harneys’ Asia family wealth management team is led by Singapore partner Nicola Roberts and is supported by a team of 11 partners and associates from the Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai offices. Roberts joined the firm in January 2019 from our direct competitor Ogier as a partner in the litigation, insolvency, and restructuring team. And the Shanghai managing partner Vicky Lord has expertise in high-value contentious trusts and probate litigation. She has acted for trustees, beneficiaries, and third parties across a range of complex disputes.
Fangda Partners has performed well in the fintech and blockchain sectors. The firm acted as the sole legal counsel to the establishment of the first wholly foreign-owned fintech company in China, HSBC Fintech Services in Shanghai. According to the firm’s website, they also handle the domestic and international businesses of Ant Group, reportedly the world’s largest fintech company.
Also, Fangda Partners represented Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing in the acquisition of a 51% equity interest in Ronghui Tongjin Technology, a specialist financial markets technology company. Fangda Partners once represented Ipreo in its joint venture with Hundsun Electronics, and in its collaboration on electronic bookbuilding solutions for bond syndication in mainland China. Ipreo is a global provider specialising in fintech solutions, profiles and analytical reports.
Han Kun Law Offices advised its clients, including WeBank, AiBank and Tenpay, in their financial regulatory matters and the development of innovative financial products. WeBank became China’s first privately owned bank in December 2014 when it received its banking licence. The bank is backed by companies such as Tencent. AiBank is the first state-controlled internet bank jointly launched by China CITIC Bank International and Baidu, approved by the State Council, and led by the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission. Tenpay in cooperation with WeChat, is one of the first large professional third-party payment companies to obtain the Payment Business Permit from the People’s Bank of China.
Commerce & Finance Law Offices has been well recognised by clients and peers for its performance in the fintech and blockchain sectors. As the transactional lawyer, the firm advised on the completion of a Hong Kong blockchain investment fund’s multibillion-RMB acquisition of MyToken, a global cryptocurrency news platform, in March 2020. The acquisition is one of the highest value M&As in the blockchain sector. With a highly complex and innovative scheme, the completion of the transaction has taken more than a year. The deal is a good reference for industries dealing with traditional assets and overseas funds.
Commerce & Finance Law Offices has advised a wholly owned fintech company of a state-owned bank, on the setup of a joint venture company ai-finance with a private artificial intelligence enterprise Elens Data and the project’s core management team.
Helen Feng, CEO of ai-finance, says, “[Commerce & Finance’s team] is very familiar with the fintech sector and has been very responsible during the process. They are experienced in balancing the interests between state-owned and private parties and risk controls. They have proposed innovative solutions to solve problems and hastened the establishment of the joint venture.”
Stephenson Harwood has participated in a number of representative deals in the sector. For example, the firm advised FundPark, an emerging fintech company that operates an online trade financing platform, in developing its standard factoring and security documents. The deal involved not only traditional trade finance issues but also the migration of financial documents onto an electronic platform and the related risks, says the firm.
PacGate Law Group provided legal services for several pharmaceutical companies in 2020, garnering high praise and recognition among its clients.
Chen Yiyou, the chairman and executive director of New Horizon Health is extremely satisfied with PacGate’s work. “From the day the company was established, PacGate has taken charge of our legal work. The team assisted us through seven rounds of financing and pre-IPO processes. During the past eight years, the firm has demonstrated excellent business abilities, professionalism and unparalleled customer service,” says Chen.
Global Law Office also completed several significant deals in the area. The firm participated in the US pharmaceutical company Amgen’s acquisition of a 20.5% stake in Chinese biotech company BeiGene. Global Law Office acted as one of the PRC legal counsel to BeiGene in this US$2.7 billion deal. The transaction is reportedly the largest cross-border US-China biotechnology deal to date.
Besides, the firm also represented Chinese vaccine company CanSino Biologics in its cooperation with US pharmaceutical company Pfizer. The firm says, it marks a significant milestone in which a Chinese vaccine company is leading research.
Last year, Cooley and Goodwin represented I-Mab Biopharma in granting AbbVie an exclusive licence worldwide, excluding China, to develop and commercialise I-Mab’s anti-CD47 monoclonal antibody, lemzoparlimab, with US$180 million upfront, up to US$1.74 billion in milestone payments and double-digit royalties.
Cooley’s team was also recommended by the CEO of Legend Biotech, Huang Ying. “I am satisfied with the service provided by the Cooley team on their knowledge in the field of securities and listing, their experience in working with regulators and their customer service,” she says.
A referee from a China biopharmaceutical company, who chose to be unnamed, also recommends Cooley, saying: “The [team] is able to draft, revise and negotiate legal documents to as good as they can within tight project timelines. They have a business mindset and are familiar with the life sciences sector.” The referee also recommends Christina Zhang, the partner in charge in Cooley’s Shanghai office.
Goodwin’s life sciences team has set their footprints on some significant deals, from financing, M&A, and capital markets, to collaborations and licensing. For example, the firm represented Apollomics in its US$124.2 million Series C financing led by Ping An Capital and represented Impact Therapeutics in forming a joint venture with Junshi Biosciences in China to develop and commercialise a PARP inhibitor for the treatment of cancers in Greater China.
Sidley Austin’s practice covers drug development initiation, IP protection, PE/VC financing, licensing, IPOs and M&As. For example, Sidley Austin acted as the Hong Kong and US legal counsel in Chinese surgical instruments company Kangji Medical’s US$404 million IPO in June 2020.
According to the firm, the IPO was completed within five months amid the pandemic. The Hong Kong public offering was oversubscribed by 988.22 times. Established in 2004, the company is the largest domestic minimally invasive surgical instruments and accessories provider in China.
Apart from IPO deals, the team also completed several fundraising deals. For example, the team advised a US fund management company OrbiMed Advisors on more than 30 investment deals in the healthcare industry in 2020 and advised Deep Longevity’s Series A financing. Deep Longevity is developing AI systems to track human ageing and extend productive longevity.
JunHe focuses on providing a full range of services to industrial manufacturing clients. The firm’s representative transactions include: Samsung Display’s sale of its Suzhou Gen 8.5 LCD production line and its strategic investment in TCL China Star Optoelectronics Technology, China North Industries Corporation’s issuance of US dollar bonds through its overseas subsidiary, and the establishment of a joint venture in China between Volkswagen and Dupu New Energy Technology.
Industrial manufacturing is a key practice area for the DHH Law Firm. In 2020, the firm handled several commercial disputes, including a contract dispute between Korea’s largest car parts manufacturer, Mando Corporation, in its subsidiaries and joint ventures in Chongqing, Suzhou and Ningbo, and a large equipment procurement dispute between a large Nordic equipment manufacturer and steel and mining company, Valin ArcelorMittal Automotive Steel.
A client of DHH Law Firm considers its services in industrial and manufacturing to be outstanding. “[DHH] has provided legal services directly or indirectly to manufacturing plants located in Beijing, Chongqing, Shenyang and other places,” the client says. “After in-depth research and analysis of the internal management and processes of the manufacturing industry, the firm has always been able to give objective and comprehensive analysis of the various inquiries made by our company, and its opinions are not limited to mechanical responses to legal terms.”
Kewei Law Firm’s industrial team is led by Cathy Liu and Frances Xu. Kewei’s team provide commercial insight and legal advice from the consent and planning process, through to construction, financing, operation, maintenance and ultimately the refinancing or sale of major projects and assets. Last year, the team advised a few international companies in areas such as car parts marking, ophthalmic optics in dispute resolution, arbitration, and compliance in China.
As an international law firm headquartered in Germany, CMS China has a strong performance in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. CMS China’s Shanghai office is led by Ulrike Glueck, the managing partner of the office, who has key clients in manufacturing, machinery, and engineering, automotive and the TMC (travel management companies) sectors.
For example, CMS China and CMS Germany advised Freudenberg Group’s Klüber Lubrication München on its acquisition of TRAXIT International to further expand its lubricant business. TRAXIT International is one of the largest wire drawing lubricant manufacturers in the world, and has manufacturing sites in Germany, China and the US.
Faegre Drinker has advised more than 100 manufacturing companies in China on legal and regulatory issues encountered in their operations in China, the firm says. The industries covered include agriculture, chemicals, energy, technology and automotive. In 2020, the firm assisted a well-known US automotive company and a leading US chemical company for their business operations in China.
Jincheng Tongda & Neal (JT&N) completed several first-of-its-kind transactions. The firm assisted Allianz SE in the establishment of Allianz China Insurance Holdings, making the newly set-up company the first foreign-owned insurance group in China. The transaction was valued at approximately RMB2 billion (US$310 million). In addition, the firm assisted Chubb in the acquisition of its shares in Huatai Insurance Group from nearly 10 shareholders, making the latter the first Sino-foreign joint venture insurance group. Chubb became the controlling shareholder of the insurance company with a US$1.75 billion investment.
Wintell & Co is recognised by clients in the field of insurance and reinsurance. The referrer from Starr Property & Casualty Insurance (China) Company’s claims department highly recognised the firm’s services, saying, “During the five years of cooperation with Wintell & Co, they handled all cases professionally with satisfactory results, helping our company avoid great losses.”
The client adds, “The lawyers were working diligently and dealt with the various difficulties actively, and eventually made the case, which was perfectly handled with great professionalism.”
AnJie Law Firm also has a good performance in this area. The team comprises nearly 30 experienced Chinese lawyers and foreign consultants. Its representative transactions include providing legal services for the establishment and investment of the China Life Insurance-China Railway Construction Infrastructure Fund, a transaction valued at RMB28.01 billion (US$4.35 billion), of which around half of the capital of RMB14 billion (US$2.17 billion) was from the China Life Insurance Company.
Insurance and reinsurance remain a crucial area of practice for Ince. The firm represented the People’s Insurance Company of China (PICC), China Pacific Insurance Company, Ping An Insurance and COSCO Shipping Captive Insurance. In marine insurance, the clients of the firm also included some leading P&I (protection and indemnity insurance) clubs and hull and machinery insurers.
Dorsey represents PICC, the largest property insurance company in China and Asia, as well as several insurers, in a variety of major civil actions, product liability litigations, coverage disputes as well as regulatory consultation matters in the US and Canada.
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (RPC) continues to maintain its leading position in the insurance and reinsurance sectors. RPC recently represented an accountancy firm in a US$1.95 billion case after a Chinese plantation conglomerate alleged that the audits conducted by the accountancy firm were negligent, which had caused substantial losses.
RPC says, this ongoing claim is one of the largest and highest-value litigations currently going through the Hong Kong courts.
Han Kun Law Offices has been recognised widely by key players in this area last year. The firm’s most notable deals include representing China’s largest online classified advertisements site 58.com in its US$8.7 billion privatisation deal. The deal is by far the second largest go-private deal of a Chinese concept stock company.
The firm also represented KE Holdings in its US$2.1 billion US IPO and US$2.05 billion public follow-on offering. KE Holdings is an integrated online and offline platform for housing transactions and services in China. Apart from that, Baidu completed the issuance of an aggregate of US$600 million notes due 2025 and US$400 million notes due 2030 on 7 April 2020. Han Kun Law Offices acted as Baidu’s PRC legal counsel.
TransAsia Lawyers advised a few international companies in their China market entry. For example, the firm advised Airbnb in China on product and policy adjustments to the rapidly changing travel, movement and business restrictions as a result of covid-19, including products, legal terms, risk profiling and data compliance.
EdX is also a client of TransAsia Lawyers. The firm advised on a long-contemplated China partnership and expansion for edX, a non-profit, open-source company providing free online courses from universities globally.
Branch, a mobile measurement and deep linking platform, is extremely pleased with TransAsia Lawyers’ services. The head of legal at Branch says, “As we think through our company’s next steps in China, we have been grateful not only for the firm’s legal expertise but for in-depth knowledge of what is actually happening on the ground, and “what’s on the market” as to how other companies similar to us handle the types of issues we are facing.”
Meanwhile, the referee from Alibaba is happy with ELLALAN’s services. Angela Li, the head of soft IP at Alibaba says, “They are keen to learn and try to understand our fast-changing business and offer assistance to us if needed.”
Latham & Watkins is advising Tencent in a landmark public company transaction combining three market-leading businesses in the online games livestreaming industry in China: Huya, DouYu and Penguin e-Sports. The deal is valued on a combined basis at more than US$10 billion and gives Tencent majority control in the combined company.
The Paul Weiss team is led by Betty Yap, the managing partner of the China practice and Judie Ng Shortell, a partner of the firm’s corporate department. The firm acted for DiDi Chuxing Technology, a leading mobile transportation platform, in the approximately US$1.2 billion spin-off and fundraising by its bike-sharing business.
The firm also advised Chinese retail giant Wumei Holdings in its €1.9 billion (US$2.3 billion) acquisition of Germany’s Metro AG retail, wholesale and cash and carry operations in China, including its majority interest in some 45 subsidiaries.
|PRC FIRMS||INT FIRMS|
|Anli Partners||Bird & Bird|
|Boss & Young||Greenberg Traurig|
|Chance Bridge Partners||Kirkland & Ellis|
|Hylands Law Firm||Latham & Watkins|
|Jincheng Tongda & Neal||Morrison & Foerster|
|RICC & Co||Paul Weiss|
|TA Law Firm||Rouse|
In 2020, RICC & Co achieved notable success in the fields of media, entertainment and sports. The firm represented one of the major investors, CMC Inc, in the negotiating and contracting for an investment in the Shanghai Legoland Resort project, which was officially signed in Shanghai in November 2020. The total investment amount was US$550 million.
The firm also provided legal services for the movies produced by Shanghai PMF Pictures and the equity financing was valued at RMB270 million (US$42 million). The actual control of Shanghai PMF Pictures is under a well-known Chinese writer, director and race car driver Han Han.
Apart from that, RICC & Co also acted as the external legal adviser to Magic Electric Information Technology and Xiecheng Tourism Network Technology. Magic Electric Information Technology is the operator of the Chinese video platform Bilibili.
Hylands Law Firm’s media-related practice is led by partner Yu Rong, Tao Shan, Liu Yingzi and He Wei, covering the entire industry chain in the film and television sector. Yu, who was selected as the A-list lawyer by China Business Law Journal in 2019, has provided legal services to well-known clients such as NBA, CocaCola (China) and Kodak (China).
The firm also undertook several complex transactions in 2020, including purchasing overseas game IPs, risk controls for original web series, MCN joint venture establishment projects and cultural derivative development projects.
In 2020, Yuanhe Partners assisted Bertelsmann Music Group, one of the world’s top four music rights companies, to complete a deal with NetEase Cloud Music. The two parties will reportedly cooperate in music rights, music IP development and performances. Yuanhe’s team also represented entertainment company Qin’s Entertainment won a contract dispute with music-sharing platform YinYueTai. Other deals the firm represented include the procurement and development of overseas game IPs and compliance during gaming production.
In media, entertainment and sports, Latham & Watkins mainly focuses on commercial licensing, outsourcing and procurement, and M&A and growth capital investments in China. The selective deals in 2020 that the firm has completed include advising Tencent Music Entertainment Group’s minority investment and business cooperation with Wave XR , a US- based virtual concert company assisting artists in live performance avatar creations.
Latham & Watkins also represented Bilibili in its strategic investment in Huanxi Media, a company principally engaged in media and entertainment-related businesses.
Kirkland & Ellis has participated in several transactions in this sector. The team represented Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, as a selling controlling shareholder, in the proposed US$497 million voluntary general offer by a consortium. The firm also advised Morgan Stanley as financial adviser to the special committee of the board of directors of Sina Corporation, a leading online media company in China, in the privatisation of Sina. The privatisation was completed in March this year.
Zhong Lun Law Firm has been fruitful in real estate investment and REITs, including the completion of the issuance of the ICBC Credit Suisse Asset Management-China Energy Engineering Group Wind Power green asset-backed special plan in October 2020 and the completion of the issuance of the China Jinmao-Chongqing Jinmao Longyue asset-backed special plan in February.
The first transaction, amounting to RMB725 million (US$112 million), is the first new energy infrastructure REIT and the first green REIT in China. The firm says, the project diversified the types of REITs and enhanced the development of financial innovation for new energy asset securitisation. The latter one, with a value of RMB400 million (US$62 million), is the first UPREIT in China. It draws on the structure of UPREITs in the US to optimise the tax structure, which is a unique innovation in the securitisation field.
Zhang Huaici, the director of Jinmao Capital says, “Zhong Lun can indeed be considered as one of the most authoritative law firms in China in terms of REITs, and the professional opinions issued by Zhong Lun are highly recognised by regulators and investors.”
Boss & Young is led by partner Lu Guofeiand its team is recommended by clients. “The firm has demonstrated a prompt and timely grasp of legal updates and changes in real estate and REITs … providing clients with useful and professional advice,” says a senior in-house counsel of a Chinese manufacturing company. The company was involved in a land dispute with the local government.
Tahota Law Firm completed several high-quality transactions in the real estate sector in 2020. The firm provided special legal services to Vanke (Chengdu) in its proposed acquisition of a portion of Chengdu Chengrui Real Estate , a transaction valued at approximately RMB3.962 billion (US$615 million). In addition, the firm also handled several cases such as an execution objection involving an amount over RMB91 million (US$14 million) and group litigation valued at RMB90 million (US$13.96 million).
The firm also provided legal services for Longteng Real Estate Group, which intended to acquire 51% of equity of a tourism resources development company in Chengdu. The land under the name of the target company is on Xiling Snow Mountain of Dayi county and is in a giant panda nature reserve. The specific regional division of the nature reserve has not yet been officially announced.
Therefore, it is not clear to Longteng whether the target land can be developed and what purpose it can be used for, and the equity of the target company is pledged and sealed up. This project is closely connected to the policy decisions on the national park and giant panda nature reserve.
Wang Jing & GH Law Firm has been focused on city renewal projects for years. The team is led by Sam Wong, the director of the firm, with over 20 people, consisting of former judges, former practitioners of famous real estate companies, lawyers, and project managers. Currently, the team has provided legal services for over 30 renovation projects of old villages in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.
The notable deals in which Mayer Brown were involved, and completed last year, include advising a pension fund sponsor in the US$147.3 million acquisition of a minority interest in an offshore joint-venture company, which beneficially owns an office and retail redevelopment project in Shanghai.
The deal is significant as the firm needed to deal with the client and liaise with law firms in three other jurisdictions advising the client to comply with the 30% rule, a restriction on the percentage of voting shares that federally regulated pension plans are permitted to hold in a company, which is unique to pension funds in Canada. Besides, the team also need to deal with the client’s internal legal counsel and its special counsel advising on anti-trust issues for this investment.
Paul Hastings has a leading Greater China real estate practice, and regularly advises international investors, developers and financial institutions on cross-border transactions, including fund formation, senior and mezzanine financings, joint ventures, and acquisitions and the disposition of various types of real estate.
The firm represented SDP Investment, a real-estate investment management company, in the formation of a joint venture with an international institutional investor for the RMB4 billion (US$620 million) acquisition of U-Show Plaza in Beijing. This is one of the largest acquisitions with foreign investment in the Beijing real estate market since the global outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic.
Besides, the firm jointly represented Proprium Capital Partners and its co-investor in the formation of a US$500 million joint venture with China SCE Group Holdings and FUNLIVE Holdings to invest in high-quality rental apartment projects in gateway cities in China.
In March 2019, the 300,000-ton Marshall Islands tanker “Nerissa” was sold twice, and Wang Jing & Co represented one of the buyers, a Liberian company, to apply to the Qingdao Maritime Court for the arrest of the vessel, to claim security from the shipowner. By communicating with the court and the shipowner, the firm avoided arbitration and reached the goal of buying the ship, thus resolving the risk of a series of lawsuits. The case was noted in the annual work report of the Supreme People’s Court in September 2020 due to its international impact.
A client from Shanghai P&I Services says they particularly recommend Huang Hui, the director of Huang & Huang Co Law Firm. The client comments, “[Huang’s] experience, professionalism, service, dedication, thinking, wisdom and attitude in all aspects of case handling reflect a high level rarely found in the domestic maritime and maritime lawyer community.”
Zhuhai Port Holdings’ representative, who chose to be unnamed also recommends Huang: “Huang travelled between Zhuhai and Guangzhou many times, actively participated in our meetings, and represented us to communicate with the other parties about the settlement plan outside [Guangdong province], and defused the significant risks for us.”
According to Huang & Huang, the firm has represented dozens of maritime and maritime business cases such as ship collision, sinking, salvage and rescue, grounding, pollution removal and prevention, as well as container leasing and lease disputes in 2020, among which there are four cases of RMB100 million (US$15.45 million) and more than 10 cases of RMB10 million (US$1.55 million) in deal value.
Established in 1979, Ince has worked continuously on areas such as admiralty, dry shipping, shipbuilding, ship finance, maritime infrastructure, marine insurance. Rosita Lau, a shipping-focused partner at Ince, was recommended by a representative from River Trade Terminal. Having worked with Lau for more than 20 years, the client says: “ [She] has shown her professionalism, knowledge and experience in maritime laws and I am very satisfied with her capabilities and responsibilities.”
Reed Smith’s shipping litigation team is known for work in areas like dry shipping, charterparty disputes, bills of lading disputes, ship sale and purchase disputes.
The firm says, it has advised China COSCO Shipping, the largest shipping group globally, on US$5.7 billion of delivery financing, restructuring, and refinancing, lease financing and deliveries of 142 vessels, various term loan facilities and multiple marine container financings since 1997.
Guantao Law Firm represented a subsidiary of China Mobile International, winning a HK$5.6 billion (US$712 million) tender for one of the most expensive industrial sites in Hong Kong in terms of value to build a high-profile data centre. According to the firm, the industrial site was priced at approximately HK$5,967 (US$768.25) per square foot of floor area.
In addition, Guantao Law Firm was also involved in Datang Telecom Technology’s major asset restructuring project, Shaanxi Fiberhome Communications Group’s non-public issuance of deliverable bonds, Guangdong Champion Asia’s non-public issuance of shares and Tencent v iFLYTEK’s text-to-speech technology copyright infringement dispute.
CM Law Firm assisted Fulu Holdings, a digital goods and services provider, to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, raising HK$890 million (US$114.587 million) in total. Fulu Holdings mainly provides third-party virtual goods and services, starting with game top-ups and later expanding phone bills, data and video membership, while providing services such as digital goods sales, online store operation services and the online marketplace.
The firm says, as the PRC corporate lawyer of Fulu, CM Law Firm assisted the company in completing the domestic VIE restructuring and listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, with the unclarified policies and changes in permission of virtual games and digital goods trading.
Notably, CM Law Firm also participated in the signing of a definitive binding agreement between Baidu and Joyy to wholly acquire the domestic live streaming business of Joyy.
The deal was valued at approximately US$3.6 billion. As the PRC legal counsel to the seller, CM Law Firm assisted Joyy and Baidu in reaching the agreement and the restructuring of the long-standing live streaming platform, YY Live, under Joyy within a short period of time.
JunHe has completed numerous deals in the IT and telecommunications sectors in the past year. The firm represented Xiaomi Group in a targeted panda bond issuance in the China interbank bond market, JD.com in a US$1 billion bond issuance, Innolux Corporation in a US$300 million zero-coupon convertible bond issuance, NetEase Group in a listing on the Main Board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Meituan in an offshore US dollar bond issuance.
Cleary Gottlieb achieved notable success in the technology & telecoms sector in 2020. The firm represented Lenovo Group in a US$650 million notes offering, a US$350 million notes offering under its US$3 billion medium-term note program, and in a US$1 billion notes offering and a concurrent tender offer for two series of its notes and an issue of preferred shares of its subsidiary.
The team also represented OneConnect Financial Technology in a US$356.4 million SEC-registered follow-on offering of American Depository Shares (ADSs) and represented iClick Interactive Asia Group and a selling shareholder in an SEC-registered follow-on offering of ADSs.
Wilson Sonsini represented the US IPO and concurrent private placements for the real-time technology company Agora, for a total value of US$512.5 million. Agora is also the technology provider behind hit audio app Clubhouse.
The firm also represented the US IPO for Ebang, an application-specific integrated circuit chip design company and a leading manufacturer of high-performance Bitcoin mining machines, for a total offering size of approximately US$100 million, and its follow-on offering of US$21 million. Besides, Wilson Sonsini represented workforce operational solution platform Quhuo’s US$33 million US IPO.Quhuo’s clients include Meituan and Didi.