IFLR is delighted to announce the winning deals, teams and law firms for the 2020 Asia-Pacific awards and to offer our congratulations.
This announcement follows months of research by the team and careful deliberation by the editors and IFLR journalists that make up the internal judging panel.
The IFLR awards recognise legal innovation in cross-border transactions. To be considered, all deals must have closed in 2019 and must meet the specific criteria to be categorised as cross-border and as Asia-Pacific. We do not include signed or announced deals.
Given the difficult environment due to Covid-19 we are unable to host an awards ceremony this year to celebrate the work highlighted below. We do however believe that it is as important as ever to recognise the achievements, the legal ingenuity and potential for innovation that the market will depend on going forward.
Please also listen to our first ever IFLR APAC awards podcast, where we discuss some of the key themes from the research and reveal the winning deals and international firms.Listen on Spotify
Please note: we will be releasing a series of podcasts covering all the IFLR awards, including interviews with some of the individual award recipients. To find out more about taking part in a podcast to talk about your work please contact: James Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org
Market reform award
Anna Wu Hung-yuk
Anna Wu is the founding chairperson of the Hong Kong Competition Commission (Commission) and served in that position for seven years from May 2013 to April 2020. She has been a pioneering advocate for fair competition in the marketplace since the 1990s and has been the principal driving force behind the establishment, development and consolidation of a competition framework in Hong Kong.
Wu took the lead in laying the foundations of the Commission and guided the preparatory work for the full implementation of Hong Kong’s Competition Ordinance, heralding a paradigm shift in deep-rooted business practices in the city.
Among the many milestones under Wu’s leadership, the Commission brought six cartel cases to court and published three decisions regarding applications for a block exemption order covering practices in the liner shipping industry, banking and the pharmaceutical sectors in Hong Kong. Internationally, the Commission has established strong ties with its overseas counterparts.
Wu is dedicated to public service. She has held several influential posts, including serving as a member of the Executive Council of the HKSAR Government for more than eight years. She also previously chaired the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Consumer Council and the Operations Review Committee of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in Hong Kong.
In-house contribution award
David Chu – Credit Suisse (Hong Kong SAR)
David Chu is managing director and head of Credit Suisse’s APAC investment banking and capital markets general counsel team. He has been in that position since 2011 and he is also Credit Suisse’s general counsel for Hong Kong SAR. During his time in the role, Chu has built a highly respected team with a diverse mix of skills and backgrounds.
The team has a slightly different approach to some of its competitors and its lawyers work across multiple practice areas. However, under Chu’s leadership it has developed a strong presence in the equity capital markets, convertible bonds and high yield spaces in particular. In 2019, the team helped structure the shortlisted Serba Dinamik sukuk offering, Lippo Malls Indonesia Retail Trust offering, and Shanghai Dongzheng Automotive Finance IPO, among other deals.
Chu and his team have won several awards from leading industry titles over recent years and are praised for the standards they promote. Chu is a thought leader in the region, especially in relation to equity capital markets and high yield, as well as on issues such as corporate integrity and governance.
FIRMS OF THE YEAR
International law firm of the year
Allen & Overy
Allen & Overy wins the 2020 firm of the year award. The firm had key roles on some of most interesting and challenging transactions in almost every deal category. Highlights include Heineken’s collaboration with China Resources, Bank of China’s SOFR bond, Bright Scholar’s high yield issuance, Ping An’s acquisition of TutorGroup, the restructuring of Kimberley Hotel, and the Mong Duong project refinancing. These deals showcased new approaches for cross-border collaboration and carved open new possibilities in the high yield market and in the use of VIE structures. The firm also showed its capacity for innovation in markets such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.
US law firm of the year
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett picks up the US firm award off the back of a strong showing in the equity and private equity practices. The firm was shortlisted for private equity team of the year and led on the winning private equity deal: KKR’s acquisition of LCY Chemical. It advised KKR and Blackstone on several novel transactions in Japan, India and elsewhere. These private equity deals are especially innovative in terms of their influence on developing M&A conventions. This includes advising Blackstone on the Embassy Office Parks REIT IPO. Another highlight was acting for the underwriters in the Lotte REIT’s IPO.
China practice of the year – international law firm
Clifford Chance proved beyond doubt that it is second to none in the Chinese market. The firm introduced several important new mechanisms for PRC issuers through the shortlisted transactions by the Agricultural Development Bank of China, China Railway Construction Corporation and China Grand Automotive Services. Its work on the VCredit high yield contributed to creating options for Chinese consumer finance. The firm also crafted a highly tailored framework between DHL and SF Holdings, Partners Group on the Dinghao Electronics Plaza acquisition, and had lead roles on challenging IPOs China’s Hansoh Pharmaceutical and China Railway Signal, the first H to A IPO on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
India practice of the year – international law firm
Latham & Watkins
Latham & Watkins picks up IFLR’s inaugural India practice award. A quick look at some of the most interesting Indian deals across the shortlists will reveal Latham & Watkins’ impact. The firm advised the banks on Bharti Airtel’s perpetual securities, the lead managers on Embassy Office Parks REIT’s IPO and Renew Power on its senior secured bonds, all of which represent firsts in the market. Beyond that, the firm worked on a slew of challenging deals including the Sterling and Wilson Solar IPO (for the issuer), IndiGrid’s qualified institutional placement, and Azure Power Solar Energy’s US dollar notes.
Regional law firm of the year
King & Wood Mallesons
KWM is at the cutting edge in China and Australia and is omnipresent through the awards. Highlights include advising ANZ Banking Group on its Sonia-linked covered bond and playing instrumental roles on Heineken’s deal with China Resources, Budweiser APAC’s IPO, Ping An’s acquisition of TutorGroup, the Bright Scholar high yield and the debt transactions by China Grand Automotive Services and the Agricultural Development Bank of China. Its work on developing structures in capital markets, structured finance and securitisation, fintech and financial regulatory also deserves recognition.
Offshore law firm of the year
Conyers Dill & Pearman
Conyers had a strong year in 2019, particularly on the Cayman structuring of many of the most interesting shortlisted deals. Among its highlights, the firm worked on the issuer side for the IPOs of Budweiser APAC and Jinxin Fertility Group. On the M&A side the team it acted for the buying consortiums in the acquisitions of eHi, which won deal of the year, and Dream Cruises. The team acted for the sellers in the innovative NWS Holdings acquisition of FTLife Insurance and worked on the Cayman law aspects of Ping An’s acquisition of TutorGroup.
DEALS OF THE YEAR
Debt and equity-linked
Bank of China Macau Branch SOFR bond
This is the first ever issuance of secured overnight financing rate (SOFR)-linked bonds in Asia. The US dollar bonds are the first public bonds out of China linked to Libor's successor floating rate. The deal had a limited number of floating rate note (FRN) precedents globally and had to contend with the absence of any standards or conventions for calculating SOFR and the interest payable on the bonds, or on disclosing risk factors. Further, the bonds were issued under a medium term note (MTN) programme that did not have SOFR-based provisions, so the mechanics had to be built into the programme. The bonds were also the first green bonds issued in Macau SAR.
Allen & Overy - Bank of China, JP Morgan Securities, UBS, Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Bank of Communications, China Construction Bank (JLMS)
Jingtian & Gongcheng - JLMS
JunZeJun Law Offices - Bank of China Macau Branch
Linklaters - Bank of China Macau Branch
MdME - Bank of China Macau Branch
Budweiser APAC IPO
Budweiser APAC’s IPO was unique. As a spinoff from a European-listed parent (AB InBev) it raised myriad legal implications, not least in terms of managing the disclosure and underwriting process. A multi-phase pre-IPO restructuring spanned brands and production facilities across the globe. The company had 40 subsidiaries in China alone, each requiring due diligence and documentation from the relevant regional authority. There was substantial structuring in India, Vietnam, Australia and South Korea, as well as in the UK and Netherlands. Market and pricing issues forced the IPO to suspend at an advanced stage. The company then disposed of its Australia business in a $12 billion transaction, before completing its IPO.
Clifford Chance – JP Morgan Securities, Morgan Stanley Asia, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas Securities, China International Capital Corporation, Citigroup Global Markets Asia, HSBC, BOCI Asia, ICBC International Securities, ING Bank, Mizuho Securities Asia and Société Générale (joint sponsors and underwriters)
Conyers Dill & Pearman – Budweiser Brewing Company APAC
Fangda Partners – Budweiser Brewing Company APAC
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – Budweiser Brewing Company APAC
Gilbert + Tobin – Budweiser Brewing Company APAC
Kim & Chang – Budweiser Brewing Company APAC
King & Wood Mallesons – Joint sponsors and underwriters
Sullivan & Cromwell – Budweiser Brewing Company APAC
Medco Energi Internasional
This is one the few bridge-to-bond financings for a public takeover on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and it marks the first Indonesian takeover of a company (Ophir) listed on any large exchange. A key challenge was that the financing, documented under New York law and for an issuer with little covenant room, had to meet the LSE Takeover Panel’s requirements. The key innovation was the successful combination of an unrestricted subsidiary (SPV issuer) and escrow mechanism enabling Medco to fund the acquisition and meet the Takeover Panel’s certain funds requirement, while the bond proceeds were only released post acquisition but without requiring Medco to draw on the bridge facility.
Allen & Gledhill – Medco Energi Internasional
Assegaf Hamza & Partners – Medco Energi Internasional
Sidley Austin – Standard Chartered Bank, ANZ Banking Group, DBS Bank, ING Bank and Mandiri Sekuritas (underwriters)
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom – Medco Energi Internasional
White & Case – Standard Chartered Bank, ANZ Banking Group, DBS Bank, ING Bank and Mandiri Sekuritas (underwriters)
Widyawan & Partners – Underwriters
This is one of the region’s landmark take-privates of recent years. The deal, which was underway by early 2018, developed into a nine-month long battle between rival bidders to win control of eHi, with litigation and arbitration in Hong Kong SAR and the Cayman Islands along the way. The buying consortium evolved during the deal and ended with MBK Partners, US car rental company Crawford Group, Ctrip, Ocean General Partners and Dongfeng Asset Management. As e-Hi was a US-listed PRC company the transaction was structured under US take-private rules. The deal obtained first-time SEC amendments relating to public M&A, resolved challenging capital markets dynamics, and required complex governance and shareholder arrangements.
Conyers Dill & Pearman – Consortium
Fangda Partners – Consortium
Fenwick & West – Special committee
Maples Group – Special committee
O’Melveny & Meyers – eHi Car Services
Pillar Legal – Chairman
Sheppard Mullin – Dongfeng Asset Management (consortium member)
Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom – Ctrip and Ocean Link Partners
Thompson Coburn – Crawford Group
Weil Gotshal & Manges – Consortium (Chairman of eHi Car Services, MBK Partners, The Crawford Group, Ocean Link Partners and Ctrip Investment)
KKR / LCY Chemical
KKR’s acquisition of LCY Chemical had to be innovative. It was KKR’s first deal in Taiwan in over a decade and represented the largest-ever PE deal in the jurisdiction. To get there, the transaction had to negotiate Taiwan’s notoriously difficult environment for financial sponsors. The financing (fund flow mechanics) and rollover equity stake were especially complex. Unusually, the debt financing commitments were refinanced between tender offer announcement and closing. The deal introduced many new US-style merger terms, including a dissenting shareholders condition, regulatory approvals covenants, financing provisions and deal protection devices. These set a benchmark for Taiwanese merger documentation. It also overcame an uncertain regulatory process regarding commitments, labour rules and corporate governance.
Baker McKenzie – LCY Chemical
Lee & Li – Taiwan counsel to KKR
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett – KKR
This project took about seven years to piece together. It has a bespoke framework, involving a Petronas-Saudi Aramco JV for a project that sits within Petronas’s Pengerang integrated complex. The project includes six facilities – a cogeneration plant, LNG regasification terminal, air-separation unit, raw-water supply project, liquid bulk terminal, and central and shared installations – that will integrate with refinery and petrochemical production sites. The financing was closed in 2019 after a two-phase signing. The structure was unusually complex, accommodating the dual-borrower nature and baking in flexibility for future debt raisings. The two project companies can cross-subsidise each other and, for certain tranches, on-loan proceeds to each other.
Christopher & Lee Ong – Lenders
Milbank – CESCE, JBIC, Kexim, K-sure, NEXI, SACE and UKEF (export credit agencies) and AmBank Group, ANZ, Banco Santander, Bank of China, BNP Paribas, China Construction Bank, CIMB Bank, Citi, CA-CIB, DZ Bank, HSBC, ICBC, Intesa Sanpaolo, JP Morgan, Maybank, Mizuho Bank, MUFG Bank, National Bank of Kuwait, Natixis, OCBC Bank, Société Générale, Standard Chartered Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, United Overseas Bank (together: lenders)
Shearman & Sterling – Petronas
White & Case – Saudi Aramco
A meaningful restructuring of Maxpower Group had failed to materialise over several years, with investigations by the US Justice Department (DoJ) complicating any attempt to reorganise the debt. The case involved a diverse group of 16 international and Indonesian banks (including state banks) and operations across Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar and the Middle East. It used a weakness in the financing documentation to build a plan that could pass with only majority lender approval, rather than the higher thresholds under Singapore of Indonesian law. This enabled the reduction of Maxpower’s debt through several phases, including a haircut for exiting lenders and a sale of convertible debt, and the ultimate sale of Maxpower to InfraDaya.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher – Maxpower and Infra Daya Energia
Linklaters – Standard Chartered Private Equity
Umbra – Indonesian lenders
Structured finance and securitisation
PeopleFund P2P loan securitisation
This is the first ever securitisation of peer-to-peer (P2P) loans out of Korea, if not all Asia, and it made PeopleFund the first marketplace lender in Korea to receive foreign funding. The securitisation was led by Lending Ark Asia, a credit division of CLSA Capital Partners. The deal harnessed a vast number of lenders providing loans to a vast number of borrowers through the PeopleFund platform. The structure had to accommodate a constantly revolving asset, with an ever-changing collateral pool backing the bond. The notes were also Korean won-linked, requiring investors to enter into a cross-currency market swap outside the deal to hedge against won-USD exchange risk.
Dentons – Lending Ark Asia Secured Private Debt Fund and CLSA Capital Partners
Shin & Kim – CLSA Capital Partners
TEAMS OF THE YEAR
Debt and equity-linked
Allen & Overy
Debt and equity-linked is always a competitive category but Allen & Overy this year showed an impressive capacity for innovation across a broad swathe of sectors and southeast Asian jurisdictions. The team’s standout work included this year’s winning deal, the Bank of China Macau Branch SOFR bond. The team also advised the dealers on the PTT tender offers (Thailand) and the Vietnam Prosperity MTN programme. Other notable work included roles on Bangkok Bank’s tier two subordinated notes, Bank of China’s Kai Xuan debt, and Muthoot Finance, the first international bond by an Indian private sector non-banking financial company to debut in the 144A/Reg S market.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
The Freshfields equity team is second to none in the market. Over recent years it has worked on some of the most pioneering and challenging IPOs, a highlight here being the China Tower IPO of 2018. Few teams can operate at this level. In 2019 the team did it again, this time acting as lead counsel to Budweiser APAC on its HKSE IPO. Its performance impressed many peers and market commentators. Another highlight saw it advise the underwriters on ESR Cayman’s IPO. Elsewhere, the team acted for the banks on novel IPOs by China Merchants Commercial REIT, Jinshang Bank, and Topsports International.
Sidley Austin’s high yield team often appears on some of the region’s most complex offerings. The clearest examples of this from the past couple of years include advising on the debt offerings and exchange offers by Kaisa Group and Evergrande Group. In 2019, the firm acted as lead counsel to the underwriters on the winning Medco Energi Internasional high yield offering, which financed its acquisition of Ophir. The deal faced and resolved a broad spectrum of challenges in Asia, the US and the UK, in terms of public M&A rules and the issuer’s own dynamics – and used some untested mechanisms.
Weil Gotshal & Manges
It was a highly competitive field in M&A with a wide mix of transaction types on the shortlist across multiple sectors. In the end the take-private of eHi takes the accolade and Weil Gotshal’s role advising the buying consortium plays a key part in its team win. On display in this role is the team’s ability to leverage off and harness expertise across different practice areas and jurisdictions, and to streamline this into a successful acquisition strategy. The deal approach and structure had to overcome myriad complications and the firm’s private equity experience no doubt played a part.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
The Simpson Thacher team is no stranger to this award. The team often advises KKR, putting it in a great position, and has an ability to manage complex deals, for example the 2018 acquisition by KKR and SinoCare of HeTia in China. This year the firm had the lead role advising KKR on its acquisition of LCY Chemical, which introduced significant deal innovations in Taiwan. The firm also advised Blackstone on its acquisition of Ayumi Pharmaceutical. The deal marked Blackstone’s entrance into Japan and had to introduce a new deal structuring approach to the market. The team also advised KKR on its Indian acquisitions of EuroKids Group and Ramky Enviro Engineers.
Milbank had a great year across the spectrum, especially in anything relating to the Philippine market. Project finance was a very tough category, with many of the top projects teams across the region closing on novel project financings. Milbank takes the accolade thanks to its roles advising the vast lending syndicate to Project RAPID, this year’s winning deal. The team was also retained by the lenders to advise on the financing for the Jambaran-Tiung Biru Gas Field Development and the Riau IPP in Indonesia. These projects together introduced several untested structures that will develop financing approaches across the region.
Allen & Overy
Allen & Overy undoubtedly has one of the premier restructuring teams in the region and it further swelled its ranks in 2019 at the senior, middle and junior levels. One of the cases that reflects its ability to manage complex and delicate restructurings is the shortlisted Kimberley Hotel project. The restructuring involved complex and novel issues in terms of capital structure, debt restructuring mechanics, the dynamics of receivership, and stamp duty exemption rules. The work also included running an auction for the asset, not to mention delicate negotiations between parties.
Structured finance and securitisation
King & Wood Mallesons
King Wood & Mallesons has been a force in the region for structured finance and securitisation and 2019 was no different. To illustrate this, the team worked on the launch of a new category of derivatives warrants on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange known as ‘inline warrants’. This offers an entirely new listed product to investors. The team also worked on the asset-backed note (ABN) deal between Far East Horizon and China Resources SZITIC Trust. This represents the first financial leasing receivables securitisation product listed on the Bond Connect.
Financial services regulatory
Herbert Smith Freehills
Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) wins the award for the second consecutive year. In 2019, HSF became one of only a few international firms to secure approval to form a joint operation in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, which will allow it to manage China-related regulatory work through a single relationship. The team is in high demand in contentious regulatory work and in a particularly high-profile case, the firm is advising an advisor in relation to an SFC investigation enquiry into transactions stemming from the 1MDB scandal. The team has worked on several complex investment rounds (including for Go-Jek) and has been at the forefront of fintech regulation and the SFC's internal investigation disclosure.
Allen & Overy
In one of the firm’s biggest ever pro bono projects, involving 44 lawyers, Allen & Overy partnered with Hong Kong SAR’s Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to produce an unprecedented report entitled The Recognition and Treatment of Relationships under Hong Kong law. Researchers reviewed over 1,700 provisions across 537 Ordinances and identified over 100 instances across 21 areas of law and government policy of inconsistent applications of differential treatment according to relationship status. Published in June 2019 after 12 months of research, the report details, for the first time, the serious impact of differential treatment based on relationship status, offering a solid basis for potential reform. This was a true highlight of pro bono work in 2019.
IN-HOUSE TEAMS OF THE YEAR
HSBC was one of the most prolific banks in the debt markets in 2019 and it presented its in-house team with some novel challenges. Highlights are as varied as the LG Chem green bonds, the Mong Duong 2 bond refinancing, ANZ Banking Group Sonia-linked covered bond, Bharti Airtel perpetual securities, Renew Power high yield and Serba Dinamik sukuk offering, among others. The breadth of the work is notable as is the team’s capacity for handling innovative structures and demands across a broad spectrum of deals. In all, the bank worked on at least 10 shortlisted transactions.
Goldman Sachs picks up the equity team award for the second year running. The banks’ legal team has dedicated lawyers focusing on equity capital markets operating out of all the region’s key hubs. Among the team’s highlights were the legally novel and complex IPOs by ESR Cayman IPO and CStone Pharmaceuticals, both shortlisted. The team also worked on the China Railway Signal IPO, the first H to A IPO on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, and on the IPO by Topsports International. Other notable equity work included Sea’s NYSE follow-on offering and SDIC Power’s GDR offering.
RISING STARS OF THE YEAR
Kris Desrosiers – Weil Gotshal & Manges
Kris Desrosiers is an of counsel in Weil Gotshal & Manges’ corporate team who has been based in Hong Kong SAR since December 2016. In 2019, he was lead associate on TPG and OTPP’s acquisition of Dream Cruises from Genting, shortlisted for private equity deal of the year, and the take-private of eHi, this year’s winning M&A deal. In both deals, he led on the drafting and negotiating of the key transaction documentation, as well as on the complex purchase price adjustment mechanics, minority interest protection provisions, and some matters of first impression. He also acted as lead associate in Advent International’s acquisition of BioDuro.
Viola Jing – Allen & Overy
Hong Kong SAR-based Viola Jing is an of counsel based in Allen & Overy’s Asia restructuring and recovery group. She is a fluent English, Mandarin and Cantonese speaker who combines contentious and non-contentious, and litigation and restructuring skills. She has an impressive track record on complex restructurings. In 2019, she acted as lead associate in the restructuring of The Kimberley Hotel, advising Industrial and Commercial Bank of China as senior secured lender and, subsequently, PwC as the receivers on security enforcement and the sale of the hotel. This role presented myriad novel challenges in a difficult situation. She also worked on CW Group’s provisional liquidation.
Xuelin (Steve) Wang – Davis Polk & Wardwell
Steve Wang is an of counsel in Davis Polk & Wardwell’s Hong Kong SAR office. He has played a pivotal role in shaping many of the jurisdiction’s biotech and life sciences IPOs; bolstered by his PhD in genetics and cell biology. In 2019, he played an instrumental role in CStone Pharmaceuticals IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKSE) and Douyu’s US IPO. He has previously worked on HKSE IPOs by Innovent Biologics and BeiGene. He has also advised on a significant number of US and Hong Kong SAR equity transactions covering the new economy space, including biotech/healthcare, TMT and education.
Christina Chiang – Lee and Li
Christina Chiang is a senior attorney at top tier Taiwanese law firm Lee and Li. She was the lead associate in KKR take-private of LCY Chemical, where she advised on deal structure and transaction documentation, as well as conducting legal due diligence and managing a complex regulatory approvals process. The transaction, which this year is winning private equity deal of the year, required heavy involvement from Taiwanese counsel due the complex multi-stage approval process for the acquisition and the novel regulatory considerations. Chiang is a specialist in private equity and venture capital.
Wen Soong – WongPartnership
Wen Soong is a lawyer in WongPartnership’s corporate and M&A practice in Singapore. Soong had some impressive roles in 2019. She worked on Yanlord Investment’s mandatory general offer for United Engineers and WBL Corporation. These deals raised considerations that were unprecedented under the Takeover Code, and Soong played a key role in liaising with the Securities Industry Council of Singapore (SIC) to devise an appropriate transaction structure. She also had a lead role in Temasek’s acquisition of D’Crypt, cryptographic tech company. The transaction involved complex shareholder arrangement and listing considerations.
Anita Karina Sungkono – Hadiputranto Hadinoto & Partners
Anita Karina Sungkono practises in top tier Indonesian law firm Hadiputranto Hadinoto & Partners. She reached senior associate level after only seven years and over 2018 and 2019 had an impressive series of roles in complex project financings. One highlight included being heavily involved in advising the sponsors in the first high-speed rail project in Indonesia, connecting Jakarta-Bandung. The deal included a first-of-its-kind concession agreement signed by the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation. Sungkono was also lead associate on the project development and financing for one of the largest renewable energy IPPs in Asia, the Tolo Wind Farm Project.
MOST INNOVATIVE NATIONAL FIRMS
Gilbert + Tobin
Gilbert + Tobin wins the award for most innovative Australian firm of the year. The firm handled complex legal work on an impressive range of novel cross-border deals. It managed the Australian law aspects of Budweiser APAC’s IPO on the HKSE and integrated with the listing, advised AB InBev (Budweiser’s parent) on the divestment of Carlton & United Breweries to Asahi Group. In other work, the firm advised Pacific Equity Partners on its sale of Allied Pinnacle to Japan’s Nisshin and managed a large divestment by Brookfield as part of its acquisition of US-based Genesee & Wyoming.
King & Wood Mallesons
King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) appears on eight shortlisted transactions. The firm worked on Budweiser APAC’s IPO, the winning equity deal, with a challenging role advising the underwriters. The team also worked on Jinshang Bank’s HKSE IPO and the Huatai Securities IPO, the first under the Shanghai-London Stock Connect. KWM had key roles on shortlisted debt capital market transactions by Bright Scholar Education, China Grand Automotive Services and Agricultural Development Bank of China and corporate deals involving China Resources, Dinghao Electronics Plaza and TutorGroup. Its presence on legally innovative transactions across IFLR’s practice areas is second to none.
Debt firm of the year: China – Jingtian & Gongcheng
The Jingtian & Gongcheng capital markets practice always has a high profile in the awards across the debt and equity areas. This year, the team wins the debt award, in part off the back of its role advising the joint lead managers on the winning Bank of China Macau Branch SOFR bond. It also advised the underwriters on China Railway Construction Corporation’s securities and represented VCredit on its high yield offering. Away from the shortlist, the firm had notable underwriter-side roles on iQiyi’s convertible notes and Bank of China’s Kai Xuan debt and Belt and Road bonds.
Equity firm of the year: China – Fangda Partners
Fangda Partners wins the 2020 equity team of the year award. The firm’s corporate and equity practice is ever-present in the awards. In 2019, it advised Budweiser APAC as issuer on its HKSE IPO, this year’s winning equity deal. The firm also had issuer-side roles on the IPOs of Jinxin Fertility Group and CStone Pharmaceuticals. A seminal piece of work also saw the firm Huatai Securities on its IPO on the London Stock Exchange (which won Europe’s equity deal of the year). The IPO involved detailed work on the framework surrounding the Shanghai-London Stock Connect project.
Corporate/M&A firm of the year: China – King & Wood Mallesons
King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) picks up the corporate team award this year. The firm worked on a mix of notable transactions. Among the most complex was advising China Resources Enterprise and China Resources Beer on its wide-ranging long-term strategic cooperation agreement with Heineken Group, which required complex cross-border considerations and detailed work on novel public M&A, governance, trademark licensing and other issues. The firm advised the sales of Dinghao Electronics Plaza and TutorGroup. Highlights also included its role on GTA Semiconductor’s privatisation of ASMC, via a merger by absorption, and Masterwork Group’s acquisition of a stake in Heidelberger Druck.
Hong Kong SAR
Tanner de Witt
Tanner de Witt wins this year’s most innovative Hong Kong SAR law firm. The firm has had a strong record on aspects of some of the most challenging restructurings involving the jurisdiction over the years. For example, in 2017 the team advised Kaisa Group on the multijurisdictional restructuring of its offshore debt, which won the 2017 restructuring award. One of the firm’s notable roles in 2019 was acting for the purchaser, China Cinda, on the restructuring of Kimberley Hotel. The project was uniquely demanding and confronted the firm with a raft of off-script challenges.
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
It was a highly competitive Indian market in 2019 with several of the top Indian firms on shortlisted deals. Emerging just ahead this year is Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Over 2019, the firm helped structure several market firsts. Among them was the Embassy Office Parks REIT IPO, Bharti Airtel’s perpetual securities, Renew Power’s high yield offering, and the Azure rooftop financing. Other highlights were the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board bond, a ground-breaking municipal-level high yield offering that took almost a year to develop, and KKR’s pathfinding acquisitions of EuroKids Group and Ramky Enviro Engineers.
This year’s winner for Indonesia comes from outside the top-tier firms and goes to new entrant Umbra. The firm makes an impressive debut, with involved roles on two shortlisted transactions. The firm advised PT Pertamina EP Cepu and Trustee in its capacity as sponsor on the Jambaran-Tiung Biru Gas Field Development. It also advised the Indonesian lenders on the restructuring of the Maxpower Group, this year’s winning restructuring project. Umbra had a pivotal role on the debt restructuring and the resultant acquisition of Maxpower Group, now called PT Infra Daya Energia.
Nishimura & Asahi
Japan’s market is always extremely competitive. Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, Mori Hamada & Matsumoto and Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu all impressed. This year’s winner is Nishimura & Asahi. The win primarily reflects the firm’s M&A work in 2019, where it advised Nippon Paint Holdings on its acquisition of publicly listed Australian company DuluxGroup and Nisshin on its acquisition of Allied Pinnacle. The firm was also the lead architect of Takeda’s landmark acquisition of Shire. Other highlights include its long-running work for Works Applications and Toshiba Corporation, and its role advising Wendel Group in CITIC Capital’s acquisition of Nippon Oil Pump.
Adnan Sundra & Low
Adnan Sundra & Low is a well-established top-tier Malaysian law firm which played a key role on two shortlisted deals involving the Malaysian market. The firm advised the joint bookrunners on the Serba Dinamik sukuk offering, which represents a first-of-its-kind in Asia and is a key precedent deal for the Malaysian market. Its other awards highlight was advising Thailand’s national oil company PTT Exploration and Production Public Company on its acquisition of Murphy Oil’s Malaysian oil and gas operations: a bellwether deal for cross-border national oil company transactions.
Rajah & Tann Myanmar
Rajah & Tann Myanmar wins this year’s most innovative Myanmar firm of the year. The key highlight was the firm’s role advising Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance on its JV agreement with AYA Myanmar General Insurance. This was a first-of-its-kind in Myanmar in a sector that was previously barred to foreign participants. The transactions required bespoke structuring and careful work relating to an uncertain regulatory landscape. Among other issues, the regulations permitting Myanmar general insurance and foreign insurance providers to form JVs was in constant flux. A two-phase deal was pieced together, combining a capital investment with a wide-ranging strategic alliance.
Bell Gully made a notable impression in the New Zealand market in 2019 in relation to M&A. The firm advised Vodafone Group on its sale of Vodafone New Zealand to Infratil and Brookfield Asset Management. It was the largest M&A transaction of 2019 and a complex piece of work. The firm also advised Fletcher Building on the sale of Formica Group to Amsterdam-listed HAL Trust and in a landmark scheme of arrangement deal, acted for Apax Partners on the takeover of e-commerce company Trade Me. A fourth highlight was advising Resolution Life in relation to its acquisition of AMP's wealth protection and mature businesses.
Kabraji & Tallibuddin
Kabraji & Allibuddin wins the most innovative Pakistan firm of the year award. Among its shortlisted projects, the firm represented a lending consortium, comprising the IFC, Meezan Bank, Bank Al Habib, Bank Alfalah and DEG, on the financing for the Super Six Wind Projects. The deal represents an innovative platform financing approach. The firm also advised TPG Global on the complex Pakistan law aspects of its formation of its Evercare Fund and acquisition of three healthcare companies owned by the Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund. This was coordinated with a global acquisition by TPG of Abraaj’s healthcare funds.
Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles
The Philippines firm of the year goes to Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles. The firm played instrumental roles on two shortlisted deals this year, both of which were pathfinder deals in their respective areas. The firm advised Udenna Corporation on its JV with China Telecommunications Corporation to win a bid to secure a third telecoms licence. It also acted for Warburg Pincus on its acquisition of Converge ICT Solutions. Another notable deal saw the firm advise the joint lead managers on first-ever public Swiss franc-denominated benchmark bond issued out of the Philippines, for the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).
Allen & Gledhill
Allen & Gledhill scoops up this year’s Singapore firm award for another consecutive year. The firm operates at the top of the Singapore market across the board and has been pioneering across multiple practice areas. One shortlist highlight was its work advising Medco Energi Internasional in relation to the high yield financing as part of its acquisition of Ophir, which won high yield deal of the year. The firm also advised Lippo Malls Indonesia Retail Trust Capital (LMIRT Capital) on its ground-breaking high yield offering. One of the firm’s notable Singapore-Myanmar deals was Singapore Petroleum Company’s acquisition of Shwe Taung Energy.
Bae Kim & Lee
Bae Kim & Lee breaks a winning streak by Kim & Chang that has spanned the history of the awards. It was a competitive category with an impressive portfolio of novel transactions by Kim & Chang, Shin & Kim and Lee & Ko. One of Bae Kim & Lee’s standout deals was its role advising Lotte REIT on its IPO, the first ever international REIT IPO out of the jurisdiction. The firm also acted for Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction in relation to its cross-border debt restructuring. Other notable deals included representing Donga Tanker on its restructuring and advising LG Display on its convertible bonds.
Lee & Li
Taiwan was a fruitful jurisdiction for legal innovation. Tsar & Tsai Law Firm and Lee & Li both led the way, but Lee & Li takes the accolade. The firm was Taiwanese counsel to KKR in its acquisition of LCY Chemical, this year’s winning private equity deal. It also advised JC Flowers in relation to the acquisition of Jintex. A real highlight was offshore wind. The firm advised the sponsors on the Formosa 2 (Hai Neng) Offshore Wind Project and Yunlin offshore wind farm, and also acted for Ørsted (issuer and guarantor) on the first ever NTD bonds issued by a foreign company in Taiwan.
Weerawong Chinnavat & Partners
Thailand was one of the most dynamic markets in the region. Weerawong Chinnavat & Partners (WCP) played a big role in several of the most challenging and impactful transactions. Among its highlights, the firm was Thai counsel to PTT, the state-owned listed oil and gas company, on its shortlisted tender offers and concurrent new bond. Away from the shortlist, the firm advised Asset World Corp on its IPO and pre-IPO restructuring. WCP also acted for Global Power Synergy on its majority acquisition of Glow Energy, an enormously complex deal that featured several legal firsts, especially in respect of antitrust considerations.
VILAF had another fantastic year and wins the most innovative Vietnam firm of the year award, even against strong local competition. Among its highlights the firm advised AES-VCM Mong Duong in relation to its landmark project refinancing and high yield bond, which required careful navigation through local law regulatory requirements. In a similar vein, the firm advised Sumitomo Corporation on the Van Phong 1 Thermal Power Plant project, which tested almost every aspect of Vietnam’s energy regulatory framework. The firm also provided Vietnamese law advice in the ICG Strategic Equity / Affirma Capital secondaries transaction.