IFLR Asia-Pacific Awards 2022: an interview with winners Allen & Gledhill
IFLR talks to Jerry Koh, Managing Partner of award-winning law firm, Allen & Gledhill LLP
IFLR are delighted to congratulate Allen & Gledhill for winning the following IFLR Asia-Pacific Awards 2022:
Law Firm of the Year – Regional
National Law Firm of the Year – Singapore
Securitisation and Structured Finance Deal of the Year – Bayfront Infrastructure Capital ABS Issuance
The Allen & Gledhill Network is one of the largest in the region and comprises over 650 lawyers across Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Many of Allen & Gledhill’s lawyers are considered thought leaders in their field and have worked on some of the most innovative and ground-breaking deals in the region as lead or transaction counsel.
What are your most innovative cross-border transactions?
As one of the largest firms in ASEAN, our firm is regularly involved in ground-breaking matters that are the first of its kind. This is possible because of our network, and the expertise we have across various jurisdictions. Some of our most innovative transactions last year include:
The listing of Grab on NASDAQ through a business combination with special purpose acquisition company Altimeter Growth Corp. of approximately US$39.6 billion, which was the largest-ever US public listing by a Southeast Asian company.
The US$977 million initial public offering of Digital REIT, which was the largest IPOs of 2021 in Singapore with assets in the US and Canada. This is also the first time a Singapore REIT acquired any investment located in Canada.
The issue of US$850 million notes by GLP Pte. Ltd., which was the first-ever offering of US dollar green subordinated perpetual securities by an Asia-Pacific corporate issuer and is the largest US dollar green subordinated perpetual securities offering globally to date.
The issue of S$250 million sustainability-linked notes under the US$1 billion multicurrency debt issuance programme of Surbana Jurong Private Limited, which is believed to be the first Singapore dollar-denominated sustainability-linked bond and the first public sustainability-linked bond issuance from a South-east Asian based company. This is also the first Asian sustainability-linked bond to feature a premium step-up structure at maturity.
The US$5.5 billion cash acquisition of Jardine Strategic Holdings Limited by Jardine Matheson Holdings Limited, which involved engagement with regulators and coordination across three jurisdictions, as the shares of Jardine Strategic Holdings Limited are listed on the London Stock Exchange, the Bermuda Stock Exchange, and the Mainboard of the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Limited.
Why is the Bayfront Infrastructure Capital ABS Issuance transaction so significant?
The Bayfront Infrastructure Capital ABS Issuance transaction was led by our Partners Yeo Wico and Jeanne Ong. It was a significant transaction as it reflects and advances Singapore’s role as a full-service Asian infrastructure financing hub in connecting a diverse mix of investors to infrastructure projects in the region. The sustainability tranche is also a good showcase of how Singapore can direct more private capital towards sustainable projects, and recycle capital to support a transition pathway for economies in Asia.
What were the highlights for Allen & Gledhill in 2021?
Our firm actively monitors the shifts in the local and regional business and political landscape. Understanding these shifts have allowed us to proactively identify potential areas of need for our clients, and pivot our offerings to meet these needs.
This is why in 2021, we consolidated our expertise to launch two new practices and expand the scope of two of our existing practices. Our newly dedicated Cybersecurity & Data Protection Practice, Employment, Health & Safety Practice, ESG & Public Policy Practice, and Private Wealth Practice, aim to provide clients with specialised legal services that cater to the specific needs of clients in these emerging areas. As part of this launch, our firm also organised a number of webinars which helped to address key issues that our clients may have in the areas of cybersecurity and ESG. These webinars were well attended by our clients, with many of them providing feedback appreciating our efforts, and suggesting topics that we can look to cover.
Our firm also takes a proactive stance towards technology adoption, as we recognise its importance in the process of innovation. This is why we have accelerated our digitalisation plans in 2020. Early in 2021, we launched our A&G Technology Transformation initiative, which enabled us to amalgamate our years of experience with data-driven insights. This has allowed us to formulate sound strategies and value-added solutions which helped our clients to navigate challenges posed by increasingly complex digital economies and global connectivity. In doing so, we have also been able to improve our efficiency and service standards, resulting in an overall increase in client satisfaction.
Are there any trends from 2021 that you expect to continue?
In recent years, the importance of sustainability and ESG has grown to become an integral part of business strategies today. We expect this trend to continue, and for more companies to take into consideration an organisation’s performance on sustainability and ESG issues as a way of determining their long-term value creation and potential. Companies will also increasingly look to partner with those who are aligned to their own corporate values.
Interest in sustainability and ESG has actually been growing for many years now, and will continue to grow as investors become more aware of how their decisions impact the environment and the sustainability of their business. For example, the global pandemic has accelerated the adoption of ESG and sustainable finance because of the large-scale impact on the global economy and society as a whole. This has led to greater interest in the idea of building sustainable businesses that can weather the effects of large-scale disruptions to the economy. Governments too are looking at ways that ESG will impact their local economies, and have put in place regulations to ensure that businesses conform to some measure of ESG.
More and more, we are also seeing clients who come to us looking to integrate their company’s ESG policies into the transactions that they perform. This ranges from ensuring that a transaction is within the guidelines set by a local government, to stipulating that a transaction must mitigate any negative environmental or societal impact. We see ESG as an evolution in the business environment, and one that will continue to take prominence in most, if not all future deals.
Companies therefore will need to evolve and pivot their offerings to ones that take into consideration their impact on the environment and communities they are in. Simply knowing this and undertaking tacit commitments to change however, is not sufficient. It is critical for them to understand and navigate the evolving regulations with regard to sustainability and ESG.
Recognising the importance of helping our clients in this area, our Firm expanded our scope of services to cover ESG and Public Policy and began our own ESG journey last year. In doing so, we became the first law firm in ASEAN to gain admission into the United Nations Global Compact. We also underwent a seven-month long sustainability and ESG audit in 2021 with an independent consultancy, culminating in the launch of our ESG Roadmap this year.
A key component in our roadmap revolves around our ability to partner with like-minded clients to help them navigate evolving trends and challenges surrounding their own sustainability and ESG journey. Through our own experience as well as partnerships with leading organisations, we are committed to sharing regular insights with them on these issues, and helping them succeed.
What will 2022 (and beyond) bring for Allen & Gledhill?
Our firm is always on the lookout for opportunities to bring value added services to our clients. This includes expanding our network to ensure that we are able to provide our clients with the unparalleled end-to-end services in the jurisdictions they operate in, and proactively observing the market to identify potential areas of opportunity and need for our clients.
Allen & Gledhill LLP