China Business Law Journal reveals the law firms that have excelled in the past year
In the past year, the sporadic rebound of the pandemic in various parts of the country continued to affect production and life, and strong regulatory moves sprung up in industries such as the internet, education and real estate, which combined had accelerated market reshuffling. Amid the macroeconomic pressures, all sectors have struggled but faced these difficulties head-on. China’s legal market is a perfect footnote to companies rising to the challenge.
In selecting China Business Law Awards this year, we are honoured to witness both general practices and boutique firms leverage their strengths to expand the scope and depth of their business, continue to improve their service capabilities and, in some cases, set fresh annual revenue records.
Chinese law firms continued their overseas expansion while steadily growing across the country, opening new offices in key international cities such as Singapore, Toronto, Seattle and Vientiane, while international law firms participated deeply in a variety of major transactions both locally and cross-border, actively introducing and promoting legal talent specialising in local businesses, and successfully gaining new large local and international clients.
In traditional practice areas such as capital markets, M&A and dispute resolution, we have seen lawyers come up with innovative deal structures and flexible strategic arrangements to secure significant target amounts with their impressive strengths; while for those emerging and hot practices driven by policies, regulations and economic cycles – such as data security, criminal compliance and insolvency & restructuring – law firms opted for setting up dedicated teams in 2021, or efficiently adjusting their resource allocation to meet the rising demand for legal services in these areas in a timely manner.
As always, to faithfully pick out the top-performing firms in 2021 in each field, we conducted months of research and evaluation by collecting law firm submissions and listening to industry feedback. Eventually, we received hundreds of submissions and more than 1,000 comments from corporate executives, in-house counsel and senior practitioners. There was no fee of any kind involved in the whole process of selection.
To be specific, during the evaluation phase, firm candidates were scored based on three sources of analysis: the firm’s submissions; endorsement from client referees; and valid nominations from the industry. To truthfully reflect market recognition, internal nominations of the firms were considered invalid. Apart from peer nominations, we also received selections from government institutions, the judiciary and academia.
It is worth noting that for this year’s awards, we are pleased to see a significant improvement in the completeness of the submissions compared to previous years, not only detailing transactions and firm developments, but also sharing several quantitative metrics that assisted our research team in gaining a more detailed understanding of the firms’ achievements. This trend is particularly evident with Chinese law firms, which reflects the increasing emphasis on their business development work and the steadily growing internationalisation of Chinese firms.
This year, the China Business Law Awards adopts the same categorisation as last year’s awards, and are divided into three types: general awards; practice area awards; and industry sector awards. Each award is given to eight Chinese firms and eight international firms, with a few exceptions due to practice restrictions under Chinese law and special categorisations.
The general awards include the Golden League, Best international law firms, Best offshore law firms, Firms to watch, Notable achievers, and Pro-bono achievers.
The 22 practice areas are: Anti-bribery & anti-corruption, Asset management, Banking & finance, Capital markets (domestic), Capital markets (overseas), Competition and antitrust, Corporate compliance, Data protection and data privacy, Dispute resolution (domestic), Dispute resolution (international), Employment & labour, Government and public affairs, IP (copyright), IP (patent), IP (trademark), International trade, M&A (inbound and domestic), M&A (outbound), Private equity & venture capital, Restructuring & insolvency, Structured finance & securitisation, and Taxation.
The 15 industry sectors are: Aviation, Construction and infrastructure, Consumer and retail, Education, Energy and natural resources, Family wealth management, Fintech and blockchain, Healthcare/pharma & life sciences, Industrials and manufacturing, Insurance and reinsurance, Internet and e-commerce, Media/entertainment & sports, Real estate and REITs, Shipping, and Technology & telecoms.
It is worth noting that these awards are given to firms with a relatively wide range of services and national recognition. In response to the booming Chinese legal market, we have, since last year, introduced a separate “China Business Law Awards (Regional Awards)” to provide a more granular look at the achievements of regional branch offices and local firms. The results will be published in August.
Due to space constraints, this report only includes some of the winners’ achievements and market testimonials. It is necessary to point out that each of the winning law firms under each category is equally outstanding, and we applaud all our winners for their exceptional performance.
The winners of the Golden League, our most prestigious award for Chinese law firms, are (in alphabetical order): DeHeng Law Offices, Fangda Partners, Han Kun Law Offices, Jingtian & Gongcheng, JunHe, King & Wood Mallesons, Tian Yuan Law Firm and Zhong Lun Law Firm.
DeHeng has built a strong track record in the domestic capital market. The firm assisted China National Gold Group Gold Jewellery in its listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), becoming the first state-owned enterprise (SOE) to be listed on the A-share market among all the SOEs in the “Double Hundred Actions” for ownership reform. It also advised Eastroc Beverage Group on its SSE listing, becoming the first listed energy drink company, and helped China Railway Construction Heavy Industry Corporation, which was spun off from China Railway Construction Corporation, to list on the SSE.
As the Bank of China’s counsel, DeHeng participated in the privatisation of China Machinery Engineering Corporation by way of consolidation into Sinomach for a cash consideration of about HKD3.4 billion (USD433.2 million), which was the largest privatisation transaction for H-share companies in 2021. In addition, DeHeng helped Sichuan Development Holding in its issuance of phase I RMB2 billion medium-term notes, which is the first triple-listed bond in Hong Kong, Macau and Luxembourg.
In the field of competition and antitrust, DeHeng is also highly commended by its clients. Fu Wei, the legal counsel of Shenzhen SF Taisen Holdings Group, lists four virtues of DeHeng’s services: (1) willingness to understand the client’s business and the industry, quickly and accurately defining the relevant market and collecting relevant market information; (2) excellent communication skills; (3) timely response to the client’s needs; and (4) the ability to think from the client’s perspective and provide feasible solutions.
Additionally, DeHeng continued to expand its service scope in 2021 by setting up two new offices in Guiyang and Qingdao, while an overseas office in the Laotian capital of Vientiane was also approved.
Han Kun Law Offices and its Hong Kong joint operation continued to expand the brand’s leading position in its traditionally strong practices such as private equity and M&A, and enhanced its practice in the areas of compliance, IP, asset management and taxation by bringing in a number of legal veterans from leading international and domestic law firms last year. These key additions of partners include Luo Shaolin, Yuan Liming, Nick Shu, Wu Xiaoxue, Li Ying, Zhang Jian, Mao Hui and Chai Lu.
Shi Yuezhan, general manager of Taiji Environmental Protection Equipment, particularly recommends Zhang Yaxing, a partner at Han Kun. Shi says the firm “analyses and prepares all kinds of materials and evidence as meticulously as a public security investigation” when handling dispute matters for his company.
In the private equity sector, Han Kun has represented a wide range of institutional and corporate clients on a number of investment and financing projects. According to the firm, it has participated in more than 2,000 private equity and venture capital investments in the past four years. In 2021, Han Kun’s representative achievements include: representing Abogen in its USD720 million series C financing; representing Hillhouse Investment and Warburg Pincus co-leading the USD700 million series A financing for JD.com’s JD Property Group Corporation; and representing the well-known beverage brand Genki Forest in its series D financing.
Jingtian & Gongcheng continued to maintain its business strength in the overseas capital market, successfully completing a number of Hong Kong and US listings amid regulatory tightening, including: the HKD2.5 billion Hong Kong IPO of medical device company MicroPort CardioFlow Medtech; the HKD1.4 billion Hong Kong IPO of e-cigarette brand Relx; the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) listing of IoT cloud development platform service provider Tuya; and the listing of Chinese Q&A platform Zhihu on the NYSE.
For their busy compliance practice in 2021, in the litigation sphere Jingtian & Gongcheng represented Topsperity Securities in China’s first class action lawsuit filed by investors in the Wuyang Bond securities misrepresentation liability dispute. The firm also advised well-known companies such as China Merchants Group, improving their compliance systems.
In 2021, JunHe completed a number of milestone transactions, including: advising BeiGene to list on the SSE’s Star Market, becoming the first biotechnology company to list in Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York, and the largest IPO on the Star Market in 2021 in terms of capital raised; advising Volvo Car AB in its listing on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, which is also the largest IPO in Sweden since 2000; and participating in the first IP case in China involving the recognition and enforcement of a foreign court judgment.
As a leading law firm known for its organic growth talent strategy, in 2021, JunHe promoted a record number of 24 lawyers to partners in various practice areas, and brought in several partners from outside the firm in the sectors of dispute resolution, M&A, private equity and competition law, including David Gu, Yao Yunke, Liu Jin, Zhu Jiayin and Zhang Ke.
Ma Fengming, executive managing director of China International Capital Corporation’s (CICC) investment banking department, describes his experience working with JunHe as “a pleasure”. “We could feel the seriousness and rigour of the lawyers’ team, their solid professional skills and admirable professional conduct,” he says. “In particular, the team was able to deliver good quality with smooth communication, and was very easy to work with when drafting the prospectus.”
Tian Yuan Law Firm has further improved its national layout in the past year with the opening of new offices in Hefei and Kunming and the completion of the merger of its Hong Kong branch with local joint-operation status.
In the field of antitrust, in 2021, Tian Yuan filed a report representing JD.com to the State Administration of Market Supervision, which resulted in a record RMB18.2 billion penalty against Alibaba. The firm also advised clients on merger filings in a number of large M&A transactions, and examined hundreds of transactions for clients from the internet, private equity funds and other sectors that earlier had not filed in accordance with the law.
In domestic and overseas capital markets Tian Yuan assisted more than 60 Chinese companies to list on the A-share, Hong Kong and US markets, covering high-tech, equipment manufacturing, medical and healthcare, energy and environmental protection, consumer services, the internet and other industries. At the same time, the firm has continued to provide support for refinancing, M&A and compliance for several listed companies.
The winners of “Best international law firms” are (in alphabetical order): Baker McKenzie FenXun, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Freshfields, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, Mayer Brown, and Skadden.
DLA Piper continued to strengthen its position as a leading international law firm in 2021, completing a number of significant transactions in the areas of asset management, dispute resolution, employment law and M&A, and bringing on board a number of experienced partners in its Shanghai and Hong Kong offices including Kristi Swartz, George Wu, Russell Wilkinson and Arthur Tso.
Led by Luke Gannon, head of corporate, funds and investment management in Asia with DLA Piper’s asset management team, has remained active in the past year. According to the law firm, it has one of the highest market shares in Hong Kong/China by the number of funds, and one of the leading firms for China-based hedge funds, real estate funds and private equity funds formation work. In addition, DLA Piper expanded its market presence in the area of tokenised funds in the past year.
The firm has advised COFCO Capital Holdings, the investment arm of China’s largest grain trader and an SOE, on the formation of a fixed income fund with the leading international institutional investor as the seed investor.
The skill of Freshfields in navigating China’s complex political, regulatory and economic issues has earned it recognition from sizable domestic and international corporate clients in large cross-border M&A transactions. Among a number of representative deals, Freshfields assisted ESR Cayman on its USD5.2 billion acquisition of ARA Asset Management, Asia’s largest real estate asset management company. ESR is a leading integrated logistics real estate platform with a business focus in China and other APAC jurisdictions.
In the highly publicised bankruptcy cases of Tsinghua Unigroup and Peking University Founder Group, the Freshfields team, led by partner John Choong, represented two companies in their alleged multibillion-dollar bond default litigations. It is anticipated that the two cases will serve as examples of how Chinese companies (including SOEs) that fall into default with offshore bonds will be treated by the courts.
In Kirkland & Ellis’ traditionally strong private equity practice, with one of the largest private equity partner teams in Asia, the law firm advised on some of the largest, most high-profile, complex and multijurisdictional transactions in the market in the past year. They included acting as international co-counsel and sole debt financing counsel to an investor consortium in the proposed take-private move of 51job, a leading provider of integrated human resource services in China, at a valuation of about USD5.7 billion.
The firm also acted as lead counsel to a consortium of investors in the proposed USD4.76 billion take-private plans of China Biologic Products Holdings, a plasma-based biopharmaceutical company; and acted for a USD1.4 billion property fund set up by Sino-Ocean Capital to acquire two grade-A office projects located in the central business district of Beijing.
The law firm advised US hedge fund Coatue Management in the USD700 million series D financing of DingDong Maicai, and acted for Centurium Capital, an existing shareholder of Luckin Coffee, which was in provisional liquidation. Kirkland assisted Centurium in its further investment in Luckin Coffee through a subscription of senior preferred shares for an aggregate investment amount of USD240 million, with an upsize right to invest up to an additional USD150 million under certain circumstances.
Kirkland & Ellis’ Hong Kong office has also brought in 13 new partners in 2021.
Latham & Watkins has a strong track record in the healthcare and life sciences sector, and has been extensively involved in not only advising issuers or sponsors on a number of high-profile Hong Kong and US IPO projects under Hong Kong, US and UK law, but also in pharmaceutical licensing transactions.
The firm’s representative capital market achievements include: advising Asymchem Laboratories on its USD917 million Hong Kong listing, the largest biotechnology IPO in 2021; advising Suzhou Basecare Medical Corporation’s HKD1.8 billion IPO in Hong Kong, the first third-generation in-vitro fertilisation genetic testing company based on next-generation sequencing technologies to list in the city; and advising on Connect Biopharma’s USD150 million and Adagene’s USD140 million listings on the Nasdaq.
Some of the industry’s biggest breakthrough cross-border licensing deals that Latham & Watkins was involved with include: advising Arctic Vision in a Greater China licensing deal with Clearside Biomedical to develop and commercialise innovative ophthalmology therapies; advising Pi-Cardia in a partnership with Venus Medtech to bring Leaflex (TM) aortic valve technology to China; advising global biotech giant Amgen in its strategic collaboration with BeiGene, in which BeiGene will commercialise 20 medicines from Amgen’s oncology pipeline and significantly accelerate Amgen’s plans to expand its oncology presence in China; and advising Corvus Pharmaceuticals in a strategic collaboration with Angel Pharmaceuticals, enabling the development and commercialisation of its pipeline of precisely targeted investigational medicines in China.
Skadden’s China practice keeps abreast of market developments and thus attracts a large number of Chinese technology companies. In the area of overseas capital markets, Skadden has swept up the market with almost all the high-profile deals in Hong Kong last year, including the secondary listings of Autohome, Baidu, Bilibili, Trip.com; the listings of NetEase Cloud Music, Weibo and JD Logistics; the HKD11.8 billion dual primary listing of Li Auto; Baidu’s USD1 billion first sustainable bonds offering; and Bilibili’s USD1.6 billion first sustainable convertible notes offering.
Under the leadership of Andrew Foster, Skadden’s competition team has for the past few years advised on regulatory filings in China for a number of top international M&A cases. The firm has been involved in eight out of the 23 conditional approvals that have been issued by the Ministry of Commerce and the State Administration for Market Regulation since 2015, including: Cisco’s USD4.5 billion acquisition of Acacia; ZF’s USD9 billion acquisition of WABCO; DuPont’s USD130 billion merger with Dow; and Freescale’s USD40 billion merger with NXP.
Offshore law firms are indispensable in overseas listings and cross-border dealings involving key jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Conyers, a full-service law firm, advised on Bermuda, BVI and Cayman Islands laws for clients with offshore needs. From January to November 2021, Conyers completed 22 IPOs in Hong Kong, including many Chinese companies under offshore structures.
Conyers advised China Resources Microelectronics in its pioneering red-chip listing on the STAR Market of Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE). The IPO marked the first Cayman company and red-chip listing on the SSE, as well as the first issuer whose par value was not in renminbi. Conyers also provided BVI and Cayman legal advice to Ronshine Service and Pangaea Connectivity Technology in connection with their HKD610 million and HKD145 million global offering on the main board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (SEHK), respectively.
Wang Yu, a partner at Anjie & BB Law Firm, having worked with Conyers on a number of private equity projects, praises the offshore firm for its expertise, fast response and sound consideration of clients’ business needs. He particularly praises Anna Chong, a partner at Conyers’ Hong Kong office, as an expert on Cayman Islands law.
Harneys acted as the Cayman Islands counsel to the Hong Kong branch of Deutsche Bank in relation to the USD1.35 billion senior multicurrency term and revolving facility agreement to Joyson Auto Safety. The significant cross-border financing was secured by assets located in 18 jurisdictions. It also advised Bank of China (Hong Kong) in relation to amendments of USD150 million term loan facility to CAR Inc, China’s leading auto rental service provider, which was guaranteed by, among others, its BVI subsidiaries.
Harneys also provided Cayman Islands legal advice to XPeng, one of China’s largest electric vehicle manufacturers, in its USD1.8 billion listing on the SEHK. XPeng became the first dual-primarily listed company in Hong Kong with a weighted voting rights structure. It also served as the Cayman legal counsel to Gracell Biotechnologies, a global clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, in its USD100 million listing on Nasdaq.
Maples Group acted as BVI and Cayman Islands counsel on a wide spectrum of capital market transactions in Hong Kong, including Kuaishou Technology’s USD6.1 billion IPO, JD Logistics’ HKD24.6 billion dual listing, Baidu’s HKD23 billlion dual listing, and Weibo’s HKD3 billion dual listing.
The team also advised Zhihu on its USD523 million listing on the NYSE; as well as advising on the laws of BVI, Cayman Islands, Ireland and Marshall Islands in CK Hutchison’s EUR500 million (USD536 million) notes issuance, Tencent’s USD4.1 billion GMTN offering, and the USD900 million preference sharing listing by SPIC Preferred Company No. 1.
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Beijing-headquartered Zhilin Law Firm continued expanding with branches in Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Xi’an and Dongguan in 2021, and switched its form of organisation to special general partnership. The 10-year old firm mainly assisted internet companies, high-tech firms, unicorn companies and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in achieving compliance in the areas of data, labour, personal information protection and anti-corruption.
Zhilin participated in the dispute over liability for damage to company interests between Beta Pharma and Betta Pharmaceuticals, recognised by the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) as a highly significant and illustrative first-instance international commercial case due to its involvement of a listed company in China filing a lawsuit against its shareholder in the US.
Zhilin also took part in a patent invalidation dispute involving Apple Computer Trading (Shanghai), the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) and Qualcomm, part of the high-profile Apple v Qualcomm global dispute; and the trademark invalidation of “Xiaomi Shijia” on behalf of Xiaomi, ending in December with the CNIPA acknowledging “Xiaomi” as a well-known trademark that should be protected as such.
Impressed with Zhilin, an in-house counsel at an AI algorithm and chip design company sums up the firm’s strengths as timely response to client needs, extensive experience in labour disputes, being able to offer practical compliance advice, familiarity with the high-tech industry, and efficient communication.
Video profile: Leadvisor Network
SGLA Law Firm grew 13 new offices in a year of marked growth by way of an “N+1” approach in transforming and assimilating local firms in Chongqing, Guangzhou, Guiyang and other regions.
SGLA notably represented Daiichi International (Holdings) HK in its copyright infringement dispute with a Jiaxing company and Shanghai Fongly Group, involving more than 170 photographic and other product-related works – obtaining a favourable ruling in the first-instance hearing. SGLA also represented a large Hong Kong trading company in recognition and enforcement in mainland China of a Hong Kong arbitration award against SanPower Group concerning a sales and purchase contract dispute.
Sunhold Law Firm more than doubled its 2020 business last year, accepting about 22,000 cases and engaging more than 160 new lawyers and counsel. Sunhold successfully defended Shijie Optical Technology in a trademark infringement and unfair competition case initiated by Xin Shiming Technology Engineering and Haoshili Technology Development, threatening more than 500 of its franchised outlets nationwide. Responding effectively to five rounds of plaintiff evidence submission, Sunhold eventually secured a court ruling after the fourth hearing that prompted withdrawal of the lawsuit.
Leaqual Law Firm represented a Shenzhen engineering company with RMB500 million (USD75 million) of creditors’ rights in HNA Group’s high-profile bankruptcy reorganisation, participating in sorting out debtor-creditor relationships, negotiation with administrators, creditors’ meetings and derivative actions. Leaqual further lent legal aid in numerous major projects such as real state undertakings, public-private partnership (PPP) investments, and commercialisation of collectively owned construction – including the creation of Fuxin Centennial International Racing Town, one of China’s first ecology-oriented development (EOD) pilots.
DOCVIT Law Firm increased by more than 200 people last year, bringing the total number of staff to more than 500. The cumulative turnover in the past year doubled year on year. The firm’s offices in Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Taiyuan have all been expanded or relocated, while a Hong Kong office was under preparation. London, New York and Singapore will further serve as essential nodes for its global market. DOCVIT has set up dividend rights and equity incentives to maintain the sustainable development of talents.
Hui Ye Law Firm has intensified its expansion last year, adding five offices in Kunming, Nantong, Shanghai (Lingang Special Area), Changchun and Nanchang, and reaching strategic intentions with varied law firms in Belgium, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland, Greece, South Africa and other countries.
To further enhance the strength of the team, Hui Ye has hired high-profile partners, such as John Wang, a Beijing-based senior partner, who was an administrative executive at High Law Partners, with a decade of work experience in the Supreme People’s Court, and with considerable influence and popularity in the field of IP. Zang Hongliang, a senior partner in the Beijing office, was the deputy head of the Malaysia Airlines MH370 Chinese claim negotiation team, and he was responsible for many complex projects in the Belt and Road Initiative. His participation enhanced Hui Ye’s civil aviation business, onshore and offshore listings, infrastructure and financing. Hui Ye focuses on raising young talent and has set up scholarships, grants and teaching practice bases in more than 10 well-known universities.
Merits & Tree Law Offices has more than 80 partners while the overall number of legal practitioners has increased from 40 in 2017 to more than 300 last year. Its annual income exceeded RMB300 million last year, an increase of nearly 50% per year. M&T strengthened co-operation with city-level law firms to make up for information asymmetry caused by unbalanced regional development, and has reached co-operative relationships with Jiaxuan Law Firm and Jiangsu Manxiu Law Firm. In the past year, M&T actively advised the regulatory authorities on capital markets and completed some initial projects such as the first green charitable trust with the theme of biodiversity protection, and the first IP asset securitisation project in Hubei province.
In 2021, the business revenue of JianLingChengDa Law Firm has significantly increased by more than 45%. The firm successfully opened its first branch in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, realising profits in the current year. Its Shanghai office was relocated to the CBD, the office space was expanded by 50%, creating a better working environment. Besides, JianLingChengDa has set up a bankruptcy claims realisation centre to meet clients’ new requirements.
Shihui Partners has formed a complete service chain from M&A, securities and capital markets, private equity, wealth management, dispute resolution, compliance, antitrust, data protection and labour. The firm has undertaken more than 1,000 projects in the past year, including JD Health International’s listing on the main board of the HKEX, the issuance of USD4.1 billion in senior notes by Tencent GMTN, and the RMB3.6 billion in series C financing by Dreame.
As an emerging law firm, Shihui is committed to developing the technical means to assist lawyers in handling their basic work including due diligence, transaction document drafting and workflow formulation.
China’s Henan province experienced flooding in July 2021, and Co-effort Law Firm transformed the Zhengzhou office into a makeshift shelter to help trapped people take refuge. A volunteer team was established by Co-effort’s lawyers afterwards to resettle victims, transfer materials, guarantee the logistics of rescuers and provide voluntary legal services after the disaster. In addition, Co-effort assists autistic children and has established a special fund specifically serving the charities that help these youngsters.
Last year, Hylands Law Firm signed a strategic co-operation agreement with the Red Cross Foundation of China to review the compliance status of this charity’s projects and control risks. This cross-field co-operation marked a new attempt between law firms and public welfare, helping to further standardise the operation and development of charitable organisations. Hylands also invested RMB1 million to set up the Beijing Legal Aid Volunteer Service Programme, and will continue to donate RMB500,000 per year to maintain its operation. This programme aims to improve citizens’ legal awareness, cultivate outstanding legal talent, and preserve the rights and interests of vulnerable groups.
Globe-Law Law Firm has been actively participating in social welfare and fulfilling social responsibilities. According to the law firm’s data to December 2021, Globe-Law has taken part in nearly 1,000 social welfare activities, donated funds and goods worth more than RMB5 million, advised in excess of 4,000 people, and conducted numerous legal publicity sessions in communities.
As a signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, Morgan Lewis has pledged to spend at least 3% of its billable hours each year on pro bono matters. All of the law firm’s lawyers provided pro bono advice last year, totalling more than 122,930 hours. Morgan Lewis aims to build the best pro bono programme among international law firms in Greater China, which leads the firm to serve more than 25 public welfare clients, including the Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Attorneys Network, the Cambodian Children’s Fund Hong Kong, Hong Kong Unison, the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association, etc.
Ropes & Gray has reviewed forced labour in Malaysia’s palm oil and electronics industries, and then worked with the international social enterprise The Remedy Project and the International Organisation for Migration to develop a set of remediation guidelines, launched at a panel for the UN Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum in the Asia-Pacific region.
Stephenson Harwood is partnering with Project WeCan, advising students who are disadvantaged in learning to empower them for pursuing higher studies and future careers. This firm has been providing free legal advice to social welfare organisations on the issue of donations and crowdfunding, including different types of crowdfunding and the due diligence process of checking with donors. Eight lawyers from the Hong Kong office have received individual awards from the Pro Bono and Community Service Awards 2021 of The Law Society of Hong Kong.
Hui Ye Law Firm has handled cases of employee fraud and commercial bribery for several major multinational companies in the past year. In one of these cases, an employee embezzled money from the company’s business, resulting in a loss of RMB8 million (USD1.2 million). Hui Ye, after being entrusted by the Chinese branch of a leading global industry player, co-ordinated the resources of its offices in Shanghai, Ningbo, Hangzhou and Zhoushan, and set up a special team covering the professional areas of customs import and export, international logistics, anti-fraud investigation and criminal business, and carefully formulated a work plan. Through effective interview methods, the suspect gave a full account of how he committed his crime. In the end, the firm cleverly used the provisions of the criminal law in the prosecution period to convince the suspect to voluntarily return the stolen goods and pay compensation, successfully helping the client to recover losses.
Jingtian & Gongcheng’s corporate investigation and anti-corruption compliance team provides a full range of regulatory compliance and anti-corruption legal services involving matters under the jurisdiction of numerous regulatory authorities including business administration, quality control, commerce, taxation, telecoms, customs, labour, education and healthcare. In 2021, the firm represented companies, shareholders and alleged criminal executives in several cases involving executive misappropriation, and active and passive bribery of private entrepreneurs to maximise benefits for clients.
King & Wood Mallesons’ anti-bribery and anti-corruption team, led by partners Wu Wei and Harry Liu, acted as special legal counsel for CGN Energy International Holdings last year, helping the client to successfully pass the certification review by the Shenzhen Institute of Standards and Technology, and obtain the ISO37001:2016 Certificate of Anti-Bribery Management System licensed by the Certification and Accreditation Administration. This certification helps the client, as the only global platform positioned for CGN’s offshore non-nuclear clean energy development, investment and financing and asset management, to better develop the non-nuclear clean energy market and participate in international competition in a more regulated manner.
For more than 25 years, Blank Rome’s partner Matthew Thomas has advised shipping clients on compliance with trade sanctions and export controls in connection with China and other countries including Russia, Cuba, Iran, Syria, and Sudan, and the firm has scored notable successes for shipping clients. Last year, the firm continued to advise COSCO’s tanker arm regarding operations on risk management compliance of international trade sanctions. Previously, Blank Rome had persuaded US authorities to lift sanctions imposed on a COSCO tanker entity.
Pinsent Masons’ white-collar crime compliance and corporate investigations practice is growing rapidly in Asia and has extensive experience in advising Chinese companies. As the compliance advisory firm for Sieyuan Electric, Pinsent Masons has assisted the company in its response to multilateral banking investigations and compliance reviews in recent years.
Zheng Dianfu, director of the company’s compliance and legal department, says: “In responding to multilateral banks, Pinsent Masons’ lawyer, Hu Yuanhang, is able to get to the point, has clear logic, excellent communication skills, and quickly understands our needs, the objectives and requirements of multilateral bank investigations, and compliance inspection officers.”
In the past year, H&T Law Firm has participated in several projects of significant value and complex transaction structures for clients such as state-owned asset management companies (AMCs) and policy banks. After being instructed by a state-owned AMC, H&T acted for a Tianjin real estate group in the acquisition and restructuring of its non-performing debts, with a total underlying amount of RMB13.1 billion. H&T conducted due diligence on the authenticity, legality, validity, cleanliness and transferability of the project’s non-performing debts, designed the transaction structure, assisted in post-investment management, and provided the client with litigation strategies and solutions to address the anticipated risks that may arise for the debtors.
JunHe’s asset management team consists of more than 30 partners, counsel and associates, and is capable of providing a full range of legal services to commercial banks, trust companies, securities companies, fund management companies and other asset management institutions in their innovative asset management businesses.
Last year, against the backdrop of China’s continued opening up of its financial market, Blackrock CCB Wealth Management was established and opened for business, becoming the second Sino-foreign asset management joint venture to be approved for business in China. JunHe acted as special legal adviser to CCB Wealth Management, and advised the client on the proposal for the establishment of the joint venture and the structure of the transaction, participated in the negotiation of the terms of the transaction, drafted and amended the transaction documents, prepared the relevant documents, and provided advice on other legal matters relating to the project.
Former Silkroad Law Firm (now Silkroad Anchorite & Sage Law Firm) has continued to rapidly grow its asset management practice, with the addition of a number of high-profile institutional clients. The firm represented a number of fund managers and investment institutions such as China Merchants Capital, the Greater Bay Area Homeland Development Fund, Korea Investment Partners, Douyu Investment, China Cinda (HK), etc., completing or participating in the establishment of a number of funds with a total size of more than RMB10 billion. It also provided assistance to a number of well-known asset management institutions covering matters such as manager registration, fund filing, change of material matters, relocation of managers, manager due diligence, fund restructuring, fund liquidation and fund partner defaults.
Cooley focuses on US dollar venture capital fund formation in the Asia market, with its practice supported closely by the Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and San Francisco offices. The firm is currently representing more than 90 Asia-based VC fund managers including: top-tier firms such as GGV Capital, Qiming Venture Partners, Gaorong Capital, Golden Gate Ventures, Source Code Capital, ZhenFund and China Renaissance Capital Investment; “new generation” VC managers such as XVC Capital, Vitalbridge Capital and Ameba Capital; and corporate-backed VC firms such as Nio Capital and VM EDU Fund I, backed by New Oriental Education & Technology Group.
Deacons assisted Fubon Fund Management (HK) to launch its inaugural leveraged and inverse exchange traded funds (L&I ETFs), and the first Taiwan L&I ETFs listed in Hong Kong. The firm assisted with the fund set-up, application for SFC authorisation and the listing of the ETFs on the HKEX.
Alan Ng, managing director of Fubon Fund Management (HK), says: “Deacons has provided professional guidance and robust support. Taking the turnaround time for replying to the SFC’s queries as an example, usually Deacons could provide us a draft within a short period of time, which eventually sped up our product application progress.”
DeHeng Law Offices’ banking and finance department is one of the leading practices of the firm’s cross-border financing businesses. In the past year, DeHeng has advised policy banks, and Chinese and foreign banks on their external cross-border financing, loan restructuring or refinancing projects. In one of the financing transactions, DeHeng acted as the lead firm for a syndicate of banks formed by the Shanghai branch of the Export-Import Bank of China and the Shanghai branch of the Bank of China to provide a loan to Highly International (Hong Kong) with an aggregate amount of USD120 million for its acquisition of a majority stake in Marelli.
Global Law Office specialises in complex structured transactions, and is able to structure security and credit enhancement packages from a structural perspective. Last year, the firm acted as legal adviser to the Singapore branch of China Construction Bank. Justin Lau Yong Yew, manager of the bank, recommended partner Jin Xing, saying that he “is very familiar with Chinese law”, and described him as “extremely professional and commercial”, and quick to respond.
Led by Qin Yuemin, a partner at Llinks Law Offices, the firm’s banking and finance practice is equipped with extensive legal and practical experience in all types of financing transactions including syndicated loans, project financing and M&A loans. It has a diverse client base, covering Chinese and foreign banks, other financial institutions, borrowers, project sponsors and export credit agencies.
Ma Teng, an in-house counsel with ICBC’s private banking department, says: “Llinks’ banking and finance team always maintains an attitude of excellence in its practice, and is able to offer professional legal analysis, explanation and advice on legal issues involved in specialised areas such as private banking, financial consumer protection, data compliance and investment in financial products. For new businesses we want to explore, Llinks is also able to provide proven analysis and insights based on our needs.”
Dorsey represented a variety of Chinese banks, foreign companies and other entities in a number of overseas financing and lending projects in 2021, as well as representing them in offshore disputes. The firm defended a US banking association in a multijurisdictional, complex legal matter involving mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in a US litigation with a favourable outcome.
White & Case’s banking and finance practice is led by partner David Li, and the team has had a strong year working on some of the largest financial transactions involving China, and playing a role in important regional cross-border transactions involving major international players in the market. For example, White & Case assisted the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in financing the Zhanatas Wind-Power Station. The wind farm is one of the largest in Central Asia, the first wind farm to be developed in Kazakhstan under a project finance structure, and the first wind farm to be developed in Central Asia by a leading Chinese energy developer.
Commerce & Finance Law Offices helped a number of Chinese companies to list on the A-share market and place follow-on offerings in 2021. In the RMB2.5 billion IPO project of Eastern Air Logistics on the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), Commerce & Finance acted as the issuer’s counsel. Prior to that, the firm had been serving the company for more than 20 years, assisting it throughout the process of introducing social capital and employee shareholdings in its hybrid restructuring reform. The legal director of the investment banking department of a leading international investment bank praised Commerce & Finance, saying “the firm’s capability and track record is unquestionable”.
Grandall Law Firm continued to maintain its dominance in domestic capital markets last year. According to the firm, of the 522 initial domestic public offerings in 2021, 75, or 14.4%, were advised by Grandall as issuer’s counsel, ranking it first among its domestic peers. Wang Zi, the legal counsel of Walden international, was “very satisfied” with the services provided by Grandall and recommended Li Qiang, managing partner of the firm’s Shanghai office.
In 2021, Grandway Law Offices seized the opportunity of further deepening reform in the A-share securities market, participating in 29 listings, 30 refinancings and five major asset restructuring projects, ranking it among the top law firms in China.
Jia Yuan Law Offices has also achieved good results in domestic capital markets in the past year. Dong Hui, deputy general manager of Sinopack Electronic Technology, notes that during the company’s listing, Jia Yuan “played a significant role in the success of our IPO” as special legal counsel to the issuer, and commended Huang Guobao, a partner of Jia Yuan. “Huang has extensive experience, profound legal expertise and comprehensive practice capabilities. When working with us, he has been honest, faithful, loyal, diligent and dedicated,” says Dong.
King & Wood Mallesons’ capital markets team has been involved in a number of significant domestic transactions in 2021. The firm acted as legal adviser to China International Capital Corporation (CICC), the sponsor of China Telecom’s listing on the SSE after its delisting from the US stock market, which raised RMB54.16 billion, the largest IPO of A shares in the past 10 years by amount raised, also the largest IPO of the global telecoms industry in the past 20 years, and the fifth-largest IPO of A shares to date. In the RMB20 billion refinancing project of SF Holding, King & Wood Mallesons advised CICC, one of the joint sponsors, on the largest refinancing project of a listed company in the domestic logistics industry since 2016.
Haiwen & Partners has acted for leading international and domestic investment banks or issuers in numerous offshore securities offerings. Last year, Haiwen had managed to secure some of the best deals in the Hong Kong stock market despite the sector gloom, such as the HKD23.6 billion (USD3 billion) secondary listing of Baidu, the HKD7.7 billion IPO of Linklogis, and the HKD4.3 billion H-share placement of Fuyao Glass. In addition, Haiwen advised the underwriters, Credit Suisse, on the China law aspects of the listing of Alchip Technologies on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange via the issuance of global depository receipts.
Han Kun Law Offices participated in numerous overseas capital market projects last year, with transactions covering initial public offerings of shares/deposit certificates, follow-on offerings of shares/deposit certificates and various bond offerings, and covering major hot industries such as technology, healthcare, finance and new energy. For example, the firm represented the joint sponsors and underwriters in the HKD22 billion Hong Kong listing of JD Logistics, the dual primary listing of Li Auto in Hong Kong, Guotai Junan International in the de-SPAC merger listing of PlusAI, the USD360 million NYSE listing of Waterdrop, the USD273 million Nasdaq listing of Missfresh, the financing of Meituan through a share placement and convertible bond issuance that raised a total of about USD9.6 billion, and Tencent’s USD4.15 billion medium-term note offering.
The capital markets team at JunHe comprises more than 60 partners and counsel and over 140 associates, making it the largest dedicated team within the law firm. JunHe’s overseas capital markets capabilities were highly commended by seven companies and financial institutions during our research for the awards. Yang Longsheng, executive director of Huatai Financial Holdings (Hong Kong), is very satisfied with JunHe’s services in offshore capital markets, noting in particular that “their prospectus drafting counsel have excellent experience in presenting the core competitive advantages and business model of the issuers”.
Yang recommends JunHe’s partner Zhang Ke: “She excels at understanding the business models of her clients and has an exceptionally keen judgement. She is adept at effectively communicating with both issuers and sponsors in IPO deals, and is dedicated to achieving the most favourable results for clients.”
In 2021, Davis Polk completed a number of novel IPOs on the Hong Kong stock market including: the maiden listing of Linklogis, the first SaaS company to go public in China’s supply chain finance sector; the IPO of New Horizon Health, the first early cancer screening maiden listing in China; and the IPO of Nayuki, the world’s first tea beverage listing. In the US stock market, Davis Polk managed to complete several IPOs of Chinese companies before the tightening of regulation, including Missfresh, Waterdrop, Zhangmen Education and TuSimple. As for the debt capital market, Davis Polk has also completed offerings for a number of well-known companies and institutions including CITIC Capital, Meituan, New Oriental Education & Technology Group, and Jiangsu Shagang Group.
Under the leadership of partner Wei Yingling, JunHe’s antitrust team has handled several large domestic and cross-border M&A-related competition matters in the past year, including merger filings, assisting in restructuring M&A or transaction arrangements to address competition concerns of the Anti-Monopoly Bureau, developing or reviewing competition law-related compliance solutions for clients and training clients’ staff on competition law.
The firm was recognised by 11 lawyer peers and clients at home and abroad for this area. Charles Baker, vice president and general counsel of Ball Corporation, describes the JunHe team as “very creative, responsive and business-oriented”. He also recommends partners Cao Xiang and Joe Chen.
Lifang & Partners represented a number of leading industry players in their competition litigations at various levels of court last year. The law firm represented Samsung in a global rates litigation against Ericsson at the Wuhan Intermediate People’s Court. Following the filing of the complaint, the firm filed a behaviour preservation application on behalf of Samsung for an anti-suit injunction against Ericsson, which was granted by the court. This is the second time that a Chinese court issued an anti-suit injunction ruling in the dispute of the global royalty rates for standard essential patents (SEPs).
Kevin Zhu, chief counsel of Greater China at Tetra Pak, says: “Lifang is representing us in two civil antitrust litigation cases and their services have been very timely, professional and productive.” Zhu recommended Lifang’s managing partner, Xie Guanbin, and partner Jiao Shan: “[Xie’s] experience, professionalism and knowledge are among the best among Beijing’s litigators … Jiao is fluent in English and has a thorough understanding of common law”. He adds that the pairing of Xie and Jiao was “quite good and effective” when the Chinese company communicated with its headquarters.
Merits & Tree Law Offices’ antitrust team has added well-known domestic and international companies as clients, including Tencent, Wise Road Capital, China Vanke, JOY Capital, Mitsui Fudosan, Full Truck Alliance and Tianjin Energy Group. The firm has been providing professional legal services to Universal Scientific Industrial (USI), an SSE-listed company, on competition and anti-monopoly review filings. Merits & Tree also assisted USI in completing several anti-monopoly review filings for overseas acquisitions and domestic and foreign joint ventures, including its acquisition of Asteelflash Group and the establishment of a joint venture with Taiwan’s Merry Electronics.
Shi Jinpeng, senior vice president and board secretary of USI, recommends Ye Han, partner and head of Merits & Trees’ antitrust practice, praising him for his “high efficiency, professionalism and pragmatic approach, and outstanding achievements”.
Ye was also recognised by government departments in 2021, having been externally appointed as an expert in fair competition review and competition law by the Beijing and Shenzhen market supervision authorities.
Eversheds Sutherland has continued to act for regulators and major international businesses on competition and economic regulatory matters in 2021. The law firm’s partner, Adam Ferguson, and of counsel Jocelyn Chow are recommended by Lester Lee, head of litigation at the Competition Commission of Hong Kong, who says: “Adam is one of the most easy-to-work-with solicitors I have ever come across at the commission. He is attentive, patient and knowledgeable and is often able to think one step ahead for the client. Jocelyn is diligent and hardworking, and is also extremely pleasant to work with.”
Lee cites that right before a hearing for specific discovery, in response to the opponent’s submission that the commission had not adequately particularised the documents it was seeking to discover, Ferguson was able to immediately identify for counsel the classes of documents already covered in the commission’s application, and which the opponent would clearly be in possession of.
Gide’s competition law practice has a diverse client base, composed of major global players in their respective markets including TotalEnergies, Air Liquide, Groupe Renault, MSC, Vallourec, Valeo, PSA Group, Alstom, Lacoste Alligator, and Accor.
Senior legal counsel for an international shipping and logistics group says: “Gide’s team provides clear and straight-to-the-point legal advice and strategic guidance on Chinese competition law. Their excellent skills in English make it very easy for a non-Chinese company to understand its duty under the Chinese merger regime to prepare expeditiously a merger filing with the SAMR [State Administration for Market Regulation].” He also recommends Guo Min and Zhao Jie, a partner and an associate at Gide, respectively.
DeHeng Law Offices established the Criminal Risk Control and Compliance Practice Research Centre last year, to proactively embrace the policy opportunities of the nationwide pilot of criminal compliance systems for enterprises. The Supreme People’s Procuratorate joined hands with nine departments to establish the management committee of the third-party supervision and evaluation mechanism for compliance of enterprises involved in criminal cases, and DeHeng’s partners Xu Jianjun and Wang Yinan were appointed as the first batch of experts selected nationwide for this committee. In addition, DeHeng acted as the main contributor of Jiangsu province’s Guidelines for Lawyers Engaging in Compliance Legal Services.
In response to the new regulatory requirements of the CSRC in the private equity sector in early 2021, Zhong Lun Law Firm was quick to creatively design a comprehensive set of review methods for the management conduct of private equity funds throughout the business process for Gopher Marshal Asset Management, in collaboration with accounting firms and international law firms. In the absence of clear guidelines for verification work under the new regulations, Zhong Lun conducted several rounds of communication with the regulators on the specific content of the relevant provisions and the key points of the regulators, and the determination of how they intend to review management conduct.
David Gold, founding partner of David Gold & Associates and life peer of the House of Lords, says: “The service provided was professional and knowledgeable. Despite the time difference, the firm made itself available whenever needed.” Gold also recommends the firm’s partner, Gary Gao.
ZSK Attorneys at Law’s compliance practice client base is drawn not only from its strong suit, namely top multinational and Chinese companies in the pharmaceutical industry, but also includes domestic and foreign companies and institutions such as Zebra Technologies, the British Council, Tian Ruixiang Holdings and BlueBridge Investment Holdings.
The firm received special recommendations from five of its clients in the area of corporate compliance. Brian Cahill, senior counsel at Alliance Healthcare, says that the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry has been at the forefront of domestic and international anti-corruption and anti-bribery regulation. The senior lawyers in the ZSK team, with their experience of having worked within these relevant companies, “understand the paranoia that international clients have about entering markets such as China and ensuring that they understand local laws and compliance, and satisfy their parent companies at home that their ‘overseas’ anti-corruption compliance rules are met”.
“ZSK appreciates that tension and is able to guide clients regarding compliance both locally in China and internationally,” adds Cahill.
The compliance practice at Dorsey & Whitney is led by Ray Liu, managing partner of the Beijing office. Dorsey advised a leading US dairy supplier on China trade compliance issues in connection with its business restructuring. The company had planned to change its corporate form for commercial considerations, but the alterations would impact the validity of its licence to export its dairy products to China. Dorsey performed comprehensive legal analysis on the regulatory issues in China in connection with the company’s intended business restructuring and assisted the client in adjusting its restructuring plan to avoid significant disruption to its China operations.
Ryan Fisher, vice president, deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer of Ingevity, says: “Ray Liu is an excellent lawyer and … they have spent many hours getting to know how we operate, and [understanding] our issues and concerns.
“Ray in particular understands the legal and business issues confronting multinational companies doing business in China,” says Fisher. “He is exceptionally well versed in advising on government interaction issues as well as commercial matters.”
Steptoe has seen an increased demand for advice related to various US restrictive sanctions lists, as well as in regard to the US Office of Foreign Assets Control and Department of Justice investigations into sanctions violations. In addition, the firm has advised many major Chinese clients in relation to investigations by multilateral development banks, and compliance with the sanctions they have imposed, helping clients to avoid financial losses and eradicate any negative impact on the general image of Chinese companies.
DHH Law Firm has provided compliance advice on a number of innovative fintech products in the past year. In the matter of small and medium-sized enterprises financing a service project jointly developed by Bank of Communications, China Mobile and China Telecom Shanghai Ideal Information Industry (Group), DHH made a comprehensive assessment and provided a compliance report from the perspective of protecting the privacy and data security of the relevant subjects. The project eventually became one of the first applications of the Shanghai Fintech Innovation and Supervision Pilot Project.
Luo Liuhu, data protection officer at Kingsoft Cloud, notes that all members of the digital business compliance team of DHH hold international privacy professional certifications and have a deep understanding of data compliance governance for financial and internet enterprises.
He also recommends Chen Guoyu, a senior partner at DHH, and says that in 2021, Chen led her team to help Kingsoft Cloud obtain TrustArc Enterprise Privacy Certification in just two months, highlighting her “strong professional skills and responsible service attitude”.
Lifang & Partners has provided compliance advice to a number of leading technology and foreign companies in the past year. For example, the firm set up a data compliance system for Tencent, provided compliance services for Sina Group in relation to the protection of personal information of minors, provided quarterly reviews of data privacy protection issues in China for a German data company, and advised Lenovo Group on compliance matters related to its cloud platform.
Zhang Haiyan, legal counsel at SK Hynix Semiconductor (China), says: “Lifang has a high level of expertise in the area of privacy and data protection, and a thorough understanding of and experience in developing laws and regulations.” He also recommends Qin Ying, a partner at Lifang.
Zhong Lun Law Firm’s privacy and data protection team, led by partners Chen Jihong and Ni Yongjun, has advised a number of leading domestic and foreign companies in the past year. Matters included: establishing a response mechanism for personal information rights based on existing business forms; providing cybersecurity due diligence in clients’ different stages of pre-merger and acquisition; and analysing the core transaction terms related to China’s cybersecurity issues of significant risks and sustainability; and establishing cybersecurity and data security systems for pre-IPO companies.
Mayer Brown’s team has handled upwards of 100 data privacy and cybersecurity matters in light of the National Security Law, Cybersecurity Law, Data Security Law, Personal Information Protection Law, and the new requirements imposed under the Schrems II decision issued by the Court of Justice of the EU. The firm also advised cross-border clients on user data and personal data laws, and regulations across Asia, and handled advocacy before privacy regulators. In addition, Mayer Brown conducted assessments of the legal landscape in these jurisdictions for clients to be able to carry out their intended cross-border data transfers.
Commerce & Finance Law Offices’ dispute resolution department continued to grow in 2021, having represented a large number of major, complex and difficult cases in the Supreme People’s Court, various regional High People’s Courts, Intermediate People’s Courts and Maritime Courts, with an aggregated disputed value of tens of billions of renminbi in one year, covering industries such as industrial manufacturing, the internet and e-commerce, healthcare/ pharmaceutical and life sciences, media/entertainment and sports.
In a complex bond transaction dispute involving a financial institutional client with an underlying amount of more than RMB600 million, the firm clarified the different legal relationships in the matter within a short period of time, and formulated and advanced the litigation strategy for the client for several series of cases, making the client the earliest group of investors to receive an effective judgment on the dispute. The client, a large domestic brokerage firm, had established dozens of asset management schemes that held the bonds in question, with a large number of retail investors behind these schemes. Commerce & Finance eventually recovered a large number of losses for the client, defending the interests of many retail investors and avoiding the occurrence of a mass public incident.
Led by Chen Yaoquan, Peng Qing and Wang Feng, partners at TianTong Law Firm, the dispute resolution team is equipped with core members who all graduated from renowned law schools with extensive practical experience. The team specialises in handling disputes in banking and finance (including new types of financial transactions such as asset managements and trusts), disputes over the shareholding and control of companies, construction and industrial real estate disputes, commercial contract disputes, and securities compliance and litigation.
Du Wenhong, from the legal and risk management department of China Tourism Group, says: “TianTong has co-operated with us in several legal dispute resolution cases, they have an excellent team of lawyers and a proven work method, and we are satisfied that each case has achieved a good result.”
With three partners, boutique firm Tiger Partners represented clients in a total of 75 dispute resolution cases in 2021, of which 13 involved more than RMB100 million, and the firm’s cumulative recovery for clients amounted to over RMB600 million, representing a 100% increase in business volume from 2020. In addition, the firm has added a number of new major domestic clients including a large investment institution, a domestic sanitation giant, a domestic mobile power leader, a well-known industrial fund and a significant domestic financial and real estate investment enterprise.
Zhong Lun Law Firm, led by partner Cao Lijun, was involved in a number of major cases in the domestic dispute resolution field last year. In a dispute brought by a minority shareholder of Minmetals Hanxing Mining against the company to confirm the invalidity of a corporate decision, Zhong Lun acted for the company. The case, which involved RMB1.1 billion and a number of complex and typical issues such as the criteria for determining “abuse of shareholders’ rights” by a majority shareholder, and whether a capital increase by a state-owned enterprise should be assessed. The case was remanded twice and the court ultimately held that whether and how a company increases its capital is a matter of corporate autonomy, and that dilution of equity does not mean infringement of rights and interests, and thus dismissed all the claims made by the minority shareholder.
Hui Ye Law Firm acted for a Chinese executive in a labour contract dispute between he and his international employer. The case was litigated for RMB160 million and went through various levels of Chinese courts before being tried by the Supreme People’s Court last year. As the payment arrangement agreement between the multinational company and the Chinese executive had agreed to be governed by the Hong Kong courts, the decision in this case will be valuable as an important reference on whether the mainland courts will have jurisdiction over such disputes in the future.
In the past year, Hui Zhong Law Firm acted as an agent, co-agent or expert witness in Chinese law in more than 100 completed and ongoing cases involving a total amount in dispute of nearly RMB60 billion. At the same time, six of its partners acted as presiding arbitrator, sole arbitrator or side arbitrator in more than 10 international cases administered by overseas international arbitration institutions.
In the high-profile sports arbitration case between the World Anti-Doping Agency and Sun Yang, Hui Zhong was one of three law firms retained by Sun to represent him in the application for setting aside the previous awards and a re-hearing before the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, and to represent him in the Court of Arbitration for Sport for re-arbitration proceedings. Ultimately, Hui Zhong worked closely with two other Swiss law firms to successfully set aside the previous decision and substantially reduced the punishment for Sun in the re-arbitration.
Several partners in the dispute resolution team at JunHe have extensive experience in international commercial arbitration, having served as arbitrators in major international arbitration institutions for many years. A number of lawyers are also qualified to practise in the US, Hong Kong and other countries or regions. In the area of litigation, JunHe has assisted many internationally renowned companies for their litigation matters in the Chinese courts in the past year, with favourable progress and results.
For example, in a case in which a multinational food giant applied to the Shanghai Second Intermediate People’s Court to set aside an arbitral award between it and another multinational food giant, the claimant put forward a total of seven grounds for setting aside the award, covering a wide range of circumstances. Representing the respondent, JunHe skilfully and innovatively interpreted the relationship between the two documents at the heart of the award and its arguments were upheld by the court, which ultimately dismissed the claimant’s request for setting aside the case.
With a particular focus on international arbitration in the construction and engineering, and infrastructure and energy sectors, in 2021 Pinsent Masons represented a number of large Chinese companies (particularly SOEs) in some of the most complex and high-stakes arbitrations, and has further expanded its reach to support clients in their disputes in “Belt and Road Initiative” countries such as those in the Middle East and Africa.
Wilkinson & Grist successfully defended an appeal to the Court of Final Appeal concerning a dispute on the development of a valuable piece of land in China that involved complex issues on the jurisdiction and power of the Hong Kong court and the enforcement of a foreign arbitral award. Ultimately, the Court of Final Appeal dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal. Wilkinson & Grist notes that this decision will be a reference case for the winning party in an arbitration to seek alternative relief via damages under common law in situations where the losing party in an arbitration fails to honour the arbitral award.
Baohua Law Firm has provided fully integrated legal services to a well-known Sino-foreign auto parts joint venture between 2019 and 2021, helping the company to achieve phased redundancies of several thousand employees.
The associate general counsel of the Chinese subsidiary of an international luxury goods group, which has been working with the law firm for almost a decade, says: “Baohua has provided highly professional support and proposed enforceable solutions, both in assessing the impact of the new labour law on the company, and in resolving specific labour cases.” She also recommends partner Dong Runqing.
East & Concord Partners has established a long-term service relationship with a well-known domestic financial technology company, and has represented all subsidiaries of the client group and its branches in labour disputes across the country, involving an amount of about RMB6 million. After winning the first successful judgment for a number of labour disputes arising from the company’s business contraction, East & Concord laid a good foundation for a number of other local litigations in the series of disputes. At the same time, the law firm has made efforts to facilitate mediation in cases where the client’s employer has violated the employment rules, and there have been no unsuccessful judgments.
Fangben Law Office has handled redundancy matters for a number of companies in the past year. The law firm advised Jinhuasheng Paper Industry and Gold Hongye Paper Group on redundancy matters involving 1,000 and 3,000 employees, respectively. In addition, while advising on the restructuring of a company, Fangben assisted in dealing with employee employment contract disputes arising from the transfer of its business and personnel during the restructuring.
Jon Newton, managing director (China) of Contrinex, says: “Fangben has supported our operations across the different cities we operate in … Fangben has been a pivotal partner in helping us navigate the regular changes in regulations, and most importantly in developing plans and procedures that have furthered our staff welfare and ensured smooth restructuring and streamlining of our operations.”
Claire Zhao, a partner at Faegre Drinker, has a particular focus on staffing issues arising from acquisitions and other reorganisations, strategic employment counselling, resolving labour disputes, employee hiring and termination, immigration, mass layoffs and labour unrest, establishment and enforcement of company policies, advising on labour union issues, and drafting and negotiating collective contracts.
Andrea Randall, a partner at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, undertakes all types of Employment Law work, but is best known for bonus disputes, breach of contract claims, terminations and seeking/resisting injunctions in relation to confidential information, post-termination restrictive covenants and team moves.
The chief operating officer of a venture capital fund, commends Randall: “She’s smart without being smug, completes work in a very reasonable timeframe, and charges are well worth it, which is not something I can say for all law firms.”
ETR Law Firm has acted as legal adviser to nearly 100 departments in Guangdong province, including the Guangdong Provincial People’s Government, Guangdong Provincial Department of Justice, Guangdong Provincial Department of Education, Guangdong Provincial Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, and the Guangdong Provincial Department of Human Resources and Social Security. Last year, ETR was commissioned by the Judicial Bureau of Huadu district to compile a report and analysis of frequently asked questions on disputes over the rights and interests of members of rural collective economic organisations and administrative cases. The report provided a compartmentalised reference for the whole Huadu district and its subordinate towns and streets in handling relevant disputes and administrative cases in accordance with the law.
DeHeng Law Offices’ government and public affairs practice is rooted in providing high-quality and efficient legal and extended services to the central and local governments at all levels, and their functional departments, judicial organs, social organisations and public welfare organisations, etc. It also takes into account public interest legal services and actively carries out legal aid and public interest voluntary services.
The firm’s clients include the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health, the Administrative Department of the General Office of the State Council, the National Energy Administration, the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, the National Council of Social Security Funds, the Legal Expert Committee on Legislation of the Beijing Municipal People’s Government, the National Information Centre, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
As standing counsel to the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), DeHeng advised on the decision-making stage in the case of JD.com reporting Alibaba to the SAMR over alleged abuse of dominant market position. DeHeng provided written legal advice to the SAMR and, ultimately, the administration decided to open a case and issued a sky-high fine to Alibaba in 2021.
Kangda Law Firm has a capable team of government and compliance consultants with extensive practical experience in government information disclosure, administrative enforcement, disposal of state-owned assets, government procurement, civil petitions, housing expropriation and demolition, real estate registration, public housing management, administrative permits and administrative penalties. Kangda’s clients in Beijing include the National Audit Office, the SAMR, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the General Office of the Beijing Municipal People’s Government, the Beijing Municipal Finance Bureau and the Chaoyang District Judicial Bureau.
In recent years, Squire Patton Boggs’ China team has worked with its global experts in the public policy practice to assist a number of Chinese companies with management of their overseas business and political risks, including conducting regulatory and compliance auditing, training programmes, implementation of strategy, public relations and government lobbying, brand management and media protection, and so on. The firm’s cross-border team’s efforts have achieved good results and therefore helped these Chinese companies to navigate both business and political challenges during the hardest times of their business histories.
For example, Squire Patton Boggs advised a leading Chinese telecoms company facing severe sanctions from the US government on handling media relations in the European market to minimise potential risks to its business operations and maintain a positive business image. The firm also assisted the client in monitoring policy and legislative developments in the US market, and providing a proactive risk management plan.
Haiwen & Partners advised Universal Beijing Resort on the licensing of a massive amount of music from China and abroad for public use in the widely anticipated theme park and holiday destination. The deal concerned licensing of music from China, the US, UK, Germany and Japan, involving an array of laws, regulations, licences and permits. Haiwen further advised the resort on its negotiation with the China Audio-Video Copyright Association, especially regarding the remuneration for phonogram producers under the newly revised Copyright Law.
Co-effort Law Firm advised Tencent in its copyright dispute with Lizhi over audio for The Three-Body Problem, the popular science fiction novel written by Liu Cixin. Co-effort argued that Lizhi FM, a podcast platform, distributed unauthorised audio for the novel in broadcasting sessions. Broadcasting a novel in a live stream format is a new form of infringement. Considering the massive number of infringing audio materials and streamers, Co-effort opted to file a lawsuit against the platform and, innovatively, collected evidence via blockchain. The case ended with the court supporting Tencent’s claim for RMB5 million in damages.
Tencent was represented by DeHeng Law Offices in a separate case over a “video game map” infringement. With the defendant’s financial statistics disclosed in its annual report as the basis for calculation, and considering the hefty contribution of maps in first-person shooters to the success of the genre, such as the game map in question, the court made the first-instance decision that the defendant should compensate by awarding damages of more than RMB45 million. “Video game maps” are now recognised as standalone work under the protection of the Copyright Law.
DLA Piper advised Cisco in civil actions against unauthorised sales of its licence keys on Taobao.com, reaching a favourable outcome where the infringer ceased its infringements and paid damages in a settlement. DLA Piper further assisted the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in devising and implementing an enforcement strategy in respect of infringement of GIA trademarks and copyright in Hong Kong and mainland China.
ELLALAN advised the Hong Kong Karaoke Licensing Alliance, representing multinational labels such as Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music, in its copyright licensing dispute with Neway, Hong Kong’s biggest karaoke chain, before the Hong Kong Copyright Tribunal. ELLALAN also represented Louis Vuitton in its lawsuit against Belle International, whose collection of sneakers launched in Hong Kong and mainland China were strikingly similar to the designs of the LV Archlight Sneakers.
“ELLALAN always gives quality and to-the-point advice,” says Amy Zhang, group legal adviser at PCCW. “The team seems to have this ‘can do’ attitude, and are quite happy to tailor-make their systems or templates to meet a particular client’s needs.”
King & Wood Mallesons represented Novartis, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, in responding to invalidation applications from 11 companies since the launch of Entresto (Sacubitril/valsartan), its heavyweight heart failure medication, in China. After three years of contention and negotiation, eight companies withdrew their applications. With the China National Intellectual Property Administration announcing in July 2021 its rejection of the remaining three applications, the patent of Entresto remains valid.
Sanyou Intellectual Property Agency scored a series of victories in major IP litigations in 2021, including its successful representation of Oerlikon Textile in the patent invalidation dispute before the Supreme People’s Court (SPC). In this case, selected by the SPC in its annual list of model cases, the court affirmed the rule that “conception of invention should be considered in recognition of distinguished technical features”. Sanyou further advised a Spanish company in a second-instance hearing before the SPC’s Intellectual Property Court, which overturned the first-instance ruling and found the defendant guilty of infringement. As the infringed product was a large piece of equipment sold only to specific groups, the plaintiff found it challenging to present evidence.
Describing Sanyou as “an organisation with a strong focus on clients’ needs”, Herbert He, IP manager at Oerlikon, says: “We are very satisfied with the fruitful co-operation with Sanyou, in terms of fighting against copycats, performing FTO analysis, filing new patent applications, etc.”
Mayer Brown represented a number of Chinese clients across diverse industries in section 337 litigations at the US International Trade Commission (ITC) as well as patent infringement cases in US district courts, with many involving high-profile technology and complex cross-border issues. This caters to the growing number of Chinese companies making outbound investments and expanding their presence in international markets, many of which are caught up in international disputes before the ITC.
Wilkinson & Grist acted for Apple, IBM, Koninklijke Philips, Abbott Laboratories and many other reputable brands in handling and managing their patent and design portfolios locally and worldwide. In June 2021, it successfully assisted Coupang, a Seoul-based e-commerce company, in obtaining the first standard patent granted by the Patents Registry in Hong Kong to date under the original grant patent system, which was launched in December 2019.
JunHe’s trademark practice focuses on rights affirmation and protection. In January 2021, JunHe, aided by Kim & Chang, helped SD Biotechnologies, a listed South Korean cosmetics developer and manufacturer, recognise and enforce a prior South Korean court judgment in China, under which the defendant transferred all infringing trademarks in China to SD. This was the first time an IP-related foreign ruling was recognised and enforced in China. As China and South Korea did not enter into any treaty on judicial mutual assistance, JunHe needed to overcome significant challenges in confirming reciprocity and the servicing of documents.
Jackie Zhang, senior legal counsel at Johnson & Johnson Medtech, praises JunHe for its service quality and professionalism. “They are quick in understanding clients’ needs and locating the crux of any issue,” she says. “JunHe’s team seeks to solve problems from their client’s standpoint and they actively look for different approaches.”
In 2021, Landing Law Offices handled more than 100 trademark civil disputes, as well as more than 200 cases involving trademark applications, administrative authorisations and rights affirmations. Highlighted cases include the “DORCO” trademark and unfair competition dispute over Dorco, a South Korean shaver developer, which became the first case in China where both the clause on damages and punitive damages were applied. Another case involved the “Yiming” trademark and unfair competition dispute initiated by Zhejiang Yiming Food, which involved a novel form of online infringement of using another’s registered mark as a search keyword to attract traffic.
Video profile: Corner Stone & Partners
Liby, a Chinese washing products manufacturer, engaged Beshining Law Office to initiate eight series of litigations against multiple infringers selling knock-off products on e-commerce platforms. Some 18 infringing sellers and workshops were banned and paid damages. Apart from trademark invalidation and opposition cases, Beshining advised a number of companies in bringing their brands overseas, including assisting Jahwa conduct overseas registration and preparations for many of its brands.
CMS China advised Yunnan Baiyao in actions in the High Court of Hong Kong for passing-off of and infringement against the “Yunnan Baiyao” and “云南白药” trademarks in Hong Kong; and Baidu Online Network Technology in similar actions involving the “Baidu” trademark.
Vivien Chan & Co represented and advised international and well-established brands in intellectual property filing and protection strategy, oppositions and other recordal applications, infringement litigations and enforcement actions. The firm represented numerous renowned multinational companies including Abu Dhabi National Oil, American Airlines, MGM Studios and Yves Saint Laurent.
DOCVIT Law Firm represented international freight forwarding agents in the Pelješac Bridge logistics project in Croatia. Pelješac Bridge, a 2,440-metre long, 22.5-metre wide cable-stayed bridge designed to connect the Dubrovnik exclave to mainland Croatia, completed freighting in May 2021 and was connected in July.
Zhong Lun Law Firm participated in the investigation for protective measures against imported aluminium foil in Thailand. In May 2020, two Thai aluminium foil companies initiated an investigation against imported aluminium foil with Thailand’s investigative agency, while Chinese products account for more than 70% of Thailand’s aluminium foil imports. Representing the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association and 10 aluminium foil companies, Zhong Lun co-operated with local firms to address the situation. In September 2021, the government of Thailand decided to terminate the investigation and impose no protective measures, ensuring China’s continued unimpeded exports of aluminium foil.
In addition, Zhong Lun represented Fangda Carbon and affiliated producers in responding to the anti-dumping investigations against China-origin graphite electrodes initiated by the Eurasian Economic Union – comprising Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia – based on an application from the EMP Group. In September 2021, Fangda Carbon and affiliated producers were granted minimum tariff rates in the industry, securing a valuable export market worth hundreds of millions of renminbi.
Video profile: Globe-law Law Firm
In December 2020, the Canada Border Services Agency launched an anti-dumping and countervailing investigation against upholstered chairs originating or exported from China and Vietnam. AllBright Law Offices represented seven Chinese and Vietnamese companies. Although in September 2021, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal found the dumping and subsidising in question to have caused injury to the industry, after considerable efforts from AllBright, the market position and competitive advantages of the seven clients were satisfactorily upheld.
In Australia’s anti-dumping and countervailing investigation against copper tubes from China, AllBright was engaged by China’s Ministry of Commerce to counter the scrutiny in co-operation with Moulis Legal, an Australian law firm, amid deteriorating diplomatic relations between the nations. In November 2021, the Australian Anti-dumping Commission terminated the investigation after concluding that no particular market situation was identified, and no dumping of copper tubes was found for Chinese companies.
Paul Hastings adopts a sophisticated approach to international trade compliance and advises clients on the full spectrum of global trade issues. The firm advised a US Fortune 500 company and a leading Chinese tech manufacturer on trade sanctions, Entity List designation and tech-related investigations amid the ongoing US-China trade war.
Steven Wilkinson, a principal in the Asia-Pacific practice of global specialist risk consultancy Control Risks, having worked at length with Paul Hastings, highlights the professionalism of Shaun Wu and John Tso, a partner and of counsel at the firm, respectively. “Their exceptional skills and ‘team’ approach has made complex engagements far easier to navigate and bring to a satisfactory resolution,” he says.
Jincheng Tongda & Neal helped Sino-Ocean Group, along with Swire Properties, successfully bid for 99.79% equity in Beijing Xingtaitonggang Properties in a public listing for sale conducted by the Beijing Rural Area Equity Exchange. The project, neighbouring the Indigo complex, is expected to attract RMB23 billion of investment in its expansion. Jincheng Tongda & Neal also represented the Shenzhen-listed Global Top E-commerce in its RMB2 billion disposal of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Patozon Network Technology, to a consortium that included Xiaomi, Tencent and ByteDance.
Shihui Partners represented Jingdong Century Trading in China Mobile’s strategic placement of A shares. In addition, in the acquisition by Lanxin Growth Consulting Management of 6% equity in Ganso, a bakery products manufacturer, Shihui provided legal counsel to the buyer. The deal, with a consideration at RMB250 million, allowed the transferor, Gold Seed International, a foreign investor, to exit the venture.
Global Law Office has about 100 partners dedicated to corporate and M&A practice, having undertaken a significant amount of M&A cases last year, often creatively. Global advised Primavera Capital in its acquisition of the Greater China business of Mead Johnson from Reckitt Benckiser Group; Luxvisions Innovation Technology in the acquisition of more than 370 million shares in the Hong Kong-listed Cowell E Holdings; and Luxsan Precision Technology (Jiangsu), an affiliate of the Shenzhen-listed Luxshare Precision, in acquiring 100% of shares in Wistron’s subsidiaries, Wistron Investment (Jiangsu) and Wistron Infocomm Manufacturing (Kunshan), engaged in the assembly of iPhone and other Apple products.
White & Case advised Nestle Waters’ sale of its water business lines to Tsingtao Brewery, a highly complex cross-border transaction that used different laws to govern different agreements. It also advised BVCF Management, China’s first US dollar fund that focuses on life sciences and healthcare, in its USD61 million sale of shares in Novast, a China-based pharmaceutical company that develops and commercialises generic drugs for the worldwide market.
Involved in a number of M&A transactions notable for their scale, complexity, value and high-profile nature, Gide in 2021 consolidated its client base including newcomers in the Chinese market and large French multinational groups. Gide advised Air Liquide Advanced Technologies on the establishment of a joint venture with the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Science, which aims to boost the development and manufacturing of helium refrigeration systems, supporting the evolution of large scientific research experiments in China.
Paul Weiss advised Wanda Sports & Media (Hong Kong) in its tender offer to acquire all class A ordinary shares of Wanda Sports Group, including those represented by American Depositary Shares, and assisted Wanda Sports Group with delisting from the Nasdaq. Paul Weiss also advised a DCP Capital Partners-led group of investors in the take-private acquisition of 51job, a China-based provider of integrated human resources services, from the Nasdaq. Under the current deal structure, DCP, Ocean Link Partners and Rick Yan, co-founder and CEO of 51job, will purchase the issued and outstanding common shares of the company.
AllBright Law Offices provided legal services throughout the transaction of a global materials technology group setting up a joint venture with a domestic enterprise, including designing the structure of the transaction, conducting negotiations with the business partner, drafting and revising the transaction documents, and participating in on-site negotiations with local government departments on matters such as environmental compliance, production capacity and government subsidies. The project was valued at RMB1 billion.
JunHe’s corporate and M&A team, comprising hundreds of lawyers across offices nationwide, has been involved in major transactions that have changed the business landscape in China and around the world, and continues to receive industry recognition and client accolades.
Chu Weiqiang, legal counsel of China National Chemical Agrochemical Corp, was very satisfied with the service provided by JunHe. “The dovetailing lawyers were able to truly mobilise resources from all practices of the law firm including M&A, financing, antitrust and even dispute resolution to provide a full range of professional legal services, ensuring unified co-ordination and seamless management of the legal work for the project, allowing us to truly experience the advantages and convenience of hiring a full-service law firm.” Chu recommends He Fang, a partner at JunHe.
King & Wood Mallesons acted as the lead counsel in the domestic and overseas M&A restructuring of Japan’s Futaba Industrial, assisting the client in sorting out the overall structure of the transactions involved and, through numerous negotiations with its joint venture in Taiwan, eventually obtaining absolute control of the mainland subsidiary through a series of M&A restructuring proposals, while reducing the shareholding of the Taiwan subsidiary. This has made a significant contribution to the client’s future development in China.
Freshfields advised Li & Fung Group on the USD3.6 billion sale of LF Logistics to Maersk, the shipping giant. Freshfields also advised Temasek, the Singapore sovereign wealth fund, which jointly owns LF Logistics with Li & Fung. LF Logistics is a leading logistics services provider, offering both contract logistics services across Asia and freight management services globally, and operating 223 warehouses in 14 countries across the region.
Latham & Watkins has advised MBK Partners, the largest Northeast Asia-focused private equity fund, on its RMB6.05 billion acquisition of four ocean theme parks in China from Hong Kong-listed hospitality group Haichang Ocean Park Holdings. The four ocean parks operate in four of China’s first-tier cities – Wuhan, Chengdu, Tianjin and Qingdao.
Commerce & Finance Law Offices specialise not only in acting as lawyers for financiers (target companies), but also in providing legal services to investors. The law firm specialises in private equity investment transactions, fund manager registration, and the establishment and filing of various funds such as private equity investment funds and industrial investment funds. The firm assisted Fiture, a home fitness brand, to close its USD300 million series B round of financing in a very short period of time, which became the largest of its kind in the global sports and fitness sector.
Global Law Office currently has more than 250 lawyers handling all types of private equity/venture capital matters. The law firm has represented many leading foreign and domestic VC and PE funds for their portfolio investments in China, covering a wide range of industries, in addition to the formation of VC and PE funds. Global also regularly supports various onshore and offshore companies with its private equity financings.
An in-house counsel of a leading international private equity firm recommends Liu Xianlai, a partner at Global, and describes him as “professional, efficient and rigorous”.
Haiwen & Partners’ practice in this area, led by the firm’s managing partner, Zhang Jiping, includes representation of prestigious international and domestic private equity funds such as Hillhouse Capital, Bain Capital, BlackRock, KKR & Co, Temasek, Sequoia Capital, The Carlyle Group, Warburg Pincus, IDG Capital, TPG and Primavera Capital Group, and the investment arms of institutions such as China International Capital Corporation, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank.
Cooley’s VC/PE practice in China keeps growing significantly, a balanced representation of both company-side and investor-side clients, especially in the areas of life sciences, fintech, new consumer, edtech, SaaS, big data, AI, insurtech, online retail and other high-technology sectors. The law firm represented VISEN Pharmaceuticals, a Chinese biopharmaceutical company that is committed to the treatment of endocrine-related diseases, in its USD150 million series B financing.
About 80% of Kirkland & Ellis’ 900 corporate lawyers practise primarily in private equity. The firm is one of the largest private equity partner teams in Asia and is dedicated to complex private equity transactions including leveraged buyouts and other M&A, private investment in public equity and joint ventures. Kirkland & Ellis acted as lead counsel to a consortium of investors in the proposed USD4.76 billion take-private of China Biologic Products Holdings, a plasma-based biopharmaceutical company.
AllBright Law Offices acted as the administrator in the personal bankruptcy settlement proceedings of Zhang Yuansheng, which were concluded by the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court. This is the first personal bankruptcy case in Shenzhen, and the first in China to be concluded in which the debtor and the creditor reached a settlement. After China’s first local legislation on personal bankruptcy, the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone Personal Bankruptcy Ordinance, came into force on 1 March 2021, Zhang submitted an application for personal bankruptcy settlement to the Shenzhen court under the guidance of a working group of the Shenzhen Bankruptcy Administration. After a hearing, the court decided, on 16 July 2021, to accept Zhang’s application for personal bankruptcy settlement and appointed AllBright as the bankruptcy administrator.
Dentons China acted as the legal adviser to the investor, Tianjin Rongcheng Xiangtai Investment, in the bankruptcy restructuring of 44 companies, including Tianjin Property Group. The law firm took the lead in organising the overall plan of the investment work, and co-ordinated all parties to promote the smooth implementation of the delivery and transfer of the subject’s assets. During the process, Dentons ensured that investors’ interests were protected and actively communicated with the court, bankruptcy administrator, creditors and other parties, making sure that the asset transfer was in step with the post-delivery strategic operation plan. The case involved assets of more than RMB80 billion and liabilities in excess of RMB250 billion.
Zhong Lun Law Firm acted as the administrator in the bankruptcy reorganisation of Shandong Quanlin Group and promptly formulated a modern management system for the debtor after taking over, and reviewed the claims in accordance with the law. The firm actively responded to the expectations and demands of the creditors. It balanced the interests of all parties to the greatest extent by establishing a multi-level shareholding platform and implementing a circuit breaker to the guarantee in the reorganisation plan, as well as obtaining the support of creditors of the financial institutions. It was the largest bankruptcy case in Shandong province, with 23 affiliated enterprises included in the scope of the substantive consolidation, and a debt size of nearly RMB50 billion.
DLA Piper’s insolvency and restructuring team, led by practice head and partner Mark Fairbairn, has been involved in a number of high-profile restructuring and insolvency projects in the past year, acting for leading global financial institutions and troubled corporates. The law firm acted for the joint provisional liquidators of a beverage company in relation to its cross-border insolvency and the recognition of its powers in Hong Kong and the US under chapter 15 of the US Bankruptcy Code. The case involved USD3 billion.
In 2021, Hansheng Law Offices was entrusted to provide legal counsel for dozens of institutions and enterprises in the field of asset securitisation and structured finance. In the China Baowu Group Blockchain Tongbao series asset securitisation schemes, Hansheng acted as legal counsel to the project, offering constructive advice on the difficult issues that arose, and organising and co-ordinating communications among all parties to promote its successful completion. The series of schemes are all innovative asset securitisation projects, using blockchain technology to empower multi-level suppliers with their own high-quality core enterprise credit and alleviate the financing problems of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Jia Yuan Law Offices has provided legal services in relation to transaction structure design, verification of underlying assets and drafting of legal documents for 105 asset securitisation products with a total value of RMB158.44 billion, which won high recognition from clients for its diligence, professionalism, efficiency and stability. The No.2 Longyuan Power Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff Green Asset-Backed Special Scheme, for which Jia Yuan acted as legal adviser, was the first “carbon neutral” asset securitisation project to be listed on China’s domestic exchange.
Jincheng Tongda & Neal provided legal services for the registration, issuance and transaction structuring of the RMB10 billion Huatai Asset Management – Yongle No. 1-30 Asset-Backed Special Scheme, which improved the efficiency of the issuance while meeting the commercial needs of the client.
Harneys’ finance team advises on all types of cross-border securitisation and structured finance transactions involving the most traditional of asset classes to the full range of emerging and bespoke assets, including pharmacy and healthcare receivables, trade receivables, aircraft loans, fintech and transportation.
Latham & Watkins focuses on complex and bespoke derivatives and structured products instead of low-margin, high-volume transactions. In addition, the law firm advises on non-contentious financial services, regulatory matters and the regulatory aspects of derivatives and structured products transactions involving financial institutions. It is also heavily involved in advocating for clients and influencing regulation, assisting market participants, trade associations and other interested parties in responding to proposed rules by the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, the Asia Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.
In 2021, DeHeng Law Offices undertook a large number of influential tax cases in the areas of tax audit response, representation and defence against the determination of false invoicing, tax planning for M&A and restructuring, tax compliance for services platforms in the film and television industry, tax planning for equity incentives, civil litigation for tax priorities, etc. DeHeng represented a client in a venture capital investment partnership, which was in the process of withdrawing the equity invested, when the tax authorities suddenly abolished the local tax policy that had been in force. The authorities required the client to pay several million renminbi in personal income tax. After repeated and thorough communications, the tax authorities accepted the law firm’s arguments and gave up on recovering the relevant tax.
Dentons China represented a listed company in a tax-related administrative dispute against the tax inspection authority in respect of a reduction in the holding of restricted shares, and obtained a final judgment in favour of the client in second instance proceedings last year. The amount in dispute exceeded RMB50 million.
In a criminal case concerning a coal purchasing and selling company in Heilongjiang province for the offence of falsely issuing VAT invoices, Hwuason Law Firm greatly reduced the sentence for its client. Previously, the sentencing recommendation of the public prosecution was 11 years. After the trial in the Harbin Municipal Daoli District People’s Court, a first instance verdict was rendered on 1 June 2021, adopting the defence opinion of Hwuason, correcting the charge of the prosecution and sentencing the client to two years’ imprisonment for the offence of illegally purchasing VAT special invoices. After the sentence was handed down, the client was immediately released from the court as he had already served two years in criminal custody.
CMS China’s tax practice is led by consultant Gilbert Shen and supported by partners Nicolas Zhu and Ulrike Glueck. In the past year, CMS China advised a number of European multinational companies on Chinese tax law in relation to a variety of corporate business activities such as payment of service fees in China (including modification of the relevant documents to the tax authorities for the payment of taxes and changes to the service agreement for future transactions), capital increases to factories in China, and intended supply chains factoring in the financing plan.
Gide’s tax team provided tax-related advice on a range of transactions, including group reorganisations, M&A tax planning and structuring, joint ventures and major projects, project financing, business establishment and operation, tax-efficient financing, tax compliance, transfer pricing, tax audits and disputes, subsidies and preferential treatments, tax treaties, and tax reform issues. In addition, the firm advised on individual income taxation, customs and foreign exchange controls in China.
During the restructuring of a French luxury cosmetic company’s business in China, Gide offered the following taxation-related analysis: the VAT treatment of the exported R&D services should be provided by the Chinese subsidiary to the French parent company or other foreign subsidiaries, in particular the export VAT exemption and/or zero VAT rate regime, in order to better plan the company’s VAT regime; the tax implications for the transfer of e-commerce business from one Chinese legal entity to another; and how its Chinese entity should distribute dividends to the parent company.
Dentons China completed several major transactions in the aviation sector in 2021. The firm represented AVIC Leasing in a financial leasing project with Air China, involving 24 aircraft and a business value of USD1.5 billion. The firm also negotiated with Standard Chartered Bank on behalf of SPDB Financial Leasing and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Agricultural Bank of China to complete the transfer of six Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
The aviation team of Hui Ye Law Firm is led by partner Zang Hongliang, who served as the deputy head of the Malaysia Airlines MH370 Chinese claim negotiation team from 2014 to 2016. Zang has extensive professional experience in aviation law. Last year, the firm performed well in the fields of business jet transactions, aviation dispute resolution, overseas airport construction and general airport construction, and aviation law training for professional institutions.
Due to the pandemic, air passenger traffic has decreased, as opposed to an increase in cargo traffic. Bocom Leasing reviewed the trend and converted two passenger planes that were returned from the airline, turned into cargo planes and leased to China Postal Airlines. Passenger-to-cargo aircraft leasing under this model was the first attempt in China. King & Wood Mallesons advised Bocom Leasing and was committed to completing various government approval and regulatory procedures to achieve a seamless handover.
A&L Goodbody completed the largest M&A transaction in the aviation leasing industry last year. It advised General Electric on a USD34 billion merger of its GE Capital Aviation Services business with AerCap. A&L Goodbody also dealt with new energy sources in the aviation industry. Its client ICBC Aviation Leasing leased two new operational aircraft models to Air France and Airbus in the first long-haul flights using biofuel to date, promoting the sustainable development of the aviation industry.
Stephenson Harwood was appointed by ICBC Leasing to manage legal issues of more than 50 aircraft in 10-plus jurisdictions across the Asia-Pacific region. The firm has acted for ICBC Leasing in a sale-and-leaseback with Asiana Airlines, including 10 Airbus aircraft valued at more than USD2.2 billion. The deal was under deep negotiations between Stephenson Harwood and the airline for possible risks and liability allocations.
Watson Farley & Williams specialised in airline restructuring. It advised bondholders on Virgin Atlantic’s GBP1.2 billion (USD1.5 billion) restructuring and recapitalisation plan. The firm was proactive in setting aviation standards, advising the Aviation Working Group on the industry’s environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) principles, the design and build of the Global Aircraft Trading System, and the application of the Cape Town Convention. The Aviation Working Group is an independent, not-for-profit organisation made up of representatives of major companies in aviation manufacturing and financing.
AllBright Law Offices represented subsidiaries of China Construction Eighth Engineering Division in various urban construction projects, including the Urumqi airport expansion and Suzhou urban renewal.
The first is an important step to paving the “Silk Road in The Air”, while the second project attracted investment of RMB20.2 billion (USD3 billion).
One of AllBright’s clients, Ping An Construction, especially recommended partner Liu Fei, saying: “Liu is highly professional and has extensive practical experience in the field of construction and infrastructure. She has served various forms of enterprises in this field and all kinds of demands and difficulties are clearly understood.”
V&T Law Firm advised Shimao Group on an acquisition of more than 70 properties of Fullsun International with a total transaction value of more than RMB200 billion, which is the largest real estate acquisition in China in recent years.
V&T has handled many PPP projects in the construction industry in the past year, such as the PPP project in the Yanqing competition zone for the Beijing Winter Olympics and Winter Paralympic Games, the PPP project for the Wuhan Metro Line 12, the longest circle subway line in China, and the Fenhe ecological restoration and protection project, the first PPP case judged by “civil dispute”.
City Development Law Firm specialised in litigation and dispute resolution in this sector. Last year, City Development advised the China Nuclear Industry 23 Construction, the largest nuclear engineering installation company in the country, on its biggest arbitration dispute since its establishment, valued at more than RMB560 million. The law firm also represented a state-owned enterprise contractor resolving an international engineering case in the Belt and Road Initiative.
White & Case also focused on infrastructure projects connected to the Belt and Road Initiative. It advised the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China on financing for a wind-power station in Kazakhstan. This project will be one of the largest wind farms in Central Asia when completed, and the first renewables project in Central Asia to be funded by the AIIB.
Gide was proactive in energy infrastructure projects in Europe. It advised Chalco Hong Kong on its bauxite mining extraction in Guinea, with an initial investment value of about USD706 million. The first phase of construction included transport and transhipment equipment by sea and land. Gide drafted financing agreements for infrastructure, advised on taxation, and implemented due diligence.
MinterEllison acted for Hong Kong Ocean Park in an arbitration, defending a prolongation and overbudget claim by the Tai Shue Wan Water Park project. The claims were submitted by Aedas, one of the leading multinational architectural companies. The arbitration involved expert evidence from disciplines such as architecture and design, programming and accounting, and was finally settled satisfactorily under the mediation of MinterEllison.
Haiwen & Partners has carried out a number of impressive transactions in the consumer and retail sector. One of the most notable was representing Hillhouse Capital’s acquisition of Philips’ home appliance business last year, with a transaction value of EUR3.7 billion, which was one of the largest M&A transactions of the year. Haiwen advised Hillhouse Capital on PRC law about the deal and conducted due diligence on Philips’ home appliance business.
White & Case excelled at handling complex, multijurisdictional matters, ensuring the success of retailers and manufacturers across both emerging and mature markets. The firm advised Nestle on the sale of its China water business to Tsingtao Brewery last year, one of the most complex M&As during the pandemic. The advisory team involved three partners and 12 other lawyers from three practice areas and five regional offices to complete the deal.
Herbert Smith Freehills mainly served big-ticket M&A in this field. Last year, it represented Sun Art Retail Group in a USD3.6 billion acquisition by Alibaba and advised China Resources Capital on an acquisition of majority stakes in the parent company of City Super, a high-end supermarket chain.
Yenlex Partners participated in 10 significant financings in this sector. In the USD300 million series B financing of FITURE, a Chinese smart fitness company, Yenlex represented two investors while balancing the commercial demands of 20-plus transaction entities. The firm also represented 5Y Capital in investing in Rivsea, clearing the way for the restructuring of the children’s complimentary food brand. The investment and financing director of EROAD HK, Jing Fang, recommends Yenlex’s partner Todd Zhao, saying that he “accurately pinpoints the core debates in a transaction”, and “helped us complete many complex or difficult projects”.
Kirkland & Ellis has a strong client base ranging from the world’s largest corporations, private equity investors and venture capital portfolio companies. One of Kirkland’s big-ticket deals was advising Amer Sports, a Finnish sporting goods company, along with its investor consortium ANTA Sports, FountainVest Partners, Anamered Investments and Tencent, in the sale of Amer’s Precor division to Peloton for USD420 million.
CM Law Firm’s consumer and retail business is led by partners Wu Xiaoliang and Wei Xiaoping. They tap into their familiarity with clients’ business models and market needs, cross-border knowledge and global vision to expand clients’ exposure in emerging markets, and assist them in transforming from single to multiple-channel market platforms. CM helped food and catering companies to expand their business steadily, such as advising on Onion Global’s listing on the NYSE.
ETR Law Firm counselled nearly 300 schools or education-related government departments and enterprises. One highlight was advising the Israeli government on a loan for the “Construction of Sponge City” project led by Guangdong Eco-Engineering Polytechnic and designed for flood management through sustainable urban drainage systems. The case was the first of its type in China to loan from a foreign government, and involved a number of legal provisions unprecedented in the education system.
At the same time, ETR attached great importance to educational norms and legislation. It was the legal adviser of a Guangdong legislative project that supervised off-campus education and training. Based on its own experience, ETR has published brochures summarising 54 common legal risks in operating schools and teaching. What’s more, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Justice and universities have all worked with ETR to offer masters programmes to cultivate legal talent.
Commerce & Finance Law Offices has participated in several education companies’ transactions in capital markets. Its clients included the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission, the New Higher Education Group, the Gench Education Group, Cathay Media and Education Group and other listed companies.
Sun Wei, a partner in the education sector at Commerce & Finance, worked together with Eric Chow & Co, a Hong Kong associate, to advise Edvantage Group on an acquisition of Sichuan New Concept
Education by one-stop cross-border services to solve the variable interest entity (VIE) structure problem. Liu Yi Man, executive director and CEO of Edvantage Group, said: “[The transaction] was pressed for time, but Sun and his team proved their professionalism in resolving issues with the HKEX and SFC [Securities and Futures Commission].”
As the Sino-foreign co-operative education model has gradually gained popularity in China in recent years, Anli Partners last year became the perennial legal adviser of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, the first Sino-foreign co-operative university with independent legal person status in China. Anli provided legal advice for the school’s affiliated enterprises, education funds, trademark registration maintenance, etc.
Many education companies have been affected internally and externally by China’s “double relief” policy and US regulation, which caused some companies to be withdrawn from the US capital market. Morgan Lewis advised China Distance Education on its USD308 million privatisation and delisting from the US bourse.
Some, however, bucked the trend. Morgan Lewis represented an English training service provider, Meten International Education Group, in a merger with EdtechX Holdings Acquisition, a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). This transaction was one of the large-scale SPAC mergers across Asian markets last year. The firm also acted as counsel for Warburg Pincus and GIC in a number of education venture financings.
Dentons China struck several major deals last year. One was to provide consultation for the project of ecological management and restoration in the Zongling mining area in Nayong county, with the China Railway Culture and Tourism Investment Group investing capital. The project involved 26 coal mines with a total investment of RMB39.5 billion. Mao Yamin, the legal counsel of Shaanxi Provincial Expressway Construction Group, praised Dentons China as “well prepared, and [we were] very satisfied with the outcome” concerning its advice on a sizable litigation case.
JunHe advised on China’s largest equity financing of a non-listed company, in which China Reform and many others invested in CGN Wind Energy. In the project of a scientific industrial park established in Wuzhou, Guangxi, for new materials, in the face of a complicated industrial planning and transaction structure, JunHe demonstrated the compliance and commercial feasibility of the transaction to ensure its legality, and met the client’s commercial expectations.
As of 2021, the total installed capacity of power generation projects that Sunshine Law Firm consulted on had exceeded 100 million kilowatts, with a total investment of more than RMB1 trillion. Sunshine provided relevant legal services to major energy groups and enterprises to comply with the “carbon neutrality” goal issued by China’s authorities, such as the CCER carbon-neutral trust project, the first carbon-neutral service trust in China, which was established by Zhonghai Trust, a subsidiary of CNOOC.
Kirkland & Ellis also focused on clean energy. In the face of an unprecedented shift towards the development and deployment of clean energy technologies in the US and around the world, Kirkland created unique and innovative deal structures, advising clients on renewable energy and clean technology development, financing, commercial and other matters. The law firm has represented Credit Suisse and Barclays as sales agents in an offering of up to USD100 million American depositary shares by JinkoSolar, one of the world’s largest and most innovative solar module manufacturers, through a registered at-the-market equity offering programme.
Latham & Watkins advised Guohua Investment on acquiring four wind power projects in Greece last year, with a total installed capacity of 78.2MW. Latham also handled the sale of a 500MW-plus solar asset portfolio by X-Elio Energy, a Spain-based photovoltaic solar power developer, to China Three Gorges. Financing and development of LNG projects are also among Latham’s core businesses.
Many companies or high net-worth clients faced shrinking wealth amid the pandemic and the continued economic downturn, but Landing Law Offices’ clients managed to achieve certain wealth growth, with some families successfully completing wealth inheritance last year. With the Civil Code taking effect, Landing made a series of wealth management adjustments for dozens of clients, and even established personal guardianship and property management between same-sex couples for one family.
The family wealth management and inheritance team of Hylands Law Firm is led by partner Yun Dahui. She and another partner, Guo Ran, were hired by the wealth management centre of Minsheng Bank’s head office as specialists in the expert database. In addition, the firm has increased wealth planning in the fields of entrepreneur philanthropy, and culture and art, planned for a public welfare and charity project led by a major shareholder of a listed company, and advised the World Monuments Fund on supporting the Forbidden City Cultural Relics Art Project.
Wang Li, a partner of Lantai Partners, is the head of the marriage and family wealth inheritance team. She is skilled in dealing with domestic and foreign litigation and non-litigation matters of marriage and family, and has a rich experience in family wealth protection and inheritance, company equity structures and internal governance, as well as civil and commercial dispute resolution. Under her leadership, Lantai Partners advised a billionaire’s marital equity dispute, and provided solutions for new legal issues such as equity appreciation and division.
In southern China, especially the Greater Bay Area, holding overseas identities and assets is very common among family wealth clients. Dentons China provided advice on cross-border assets, domestic and overseas legal inheritance issues for clients living in this region, and provided comprehensive and professional family office services to entrepreneur clients of immigrant the investment company Henry. At the same time, compared with traditional cash-based family trusts, Dentons China provided equity-based family trust services for a leading trust company based on a new trend of wealth management.
With the introduction of Hong Kong’s new trust licensing regime and the General Data Protection Regulation from Europe, Herbert Smith Freehills employs experts from different fields around the world to assist in providing legal advisory services, as well as advising on novel assets trusts such as cryptocurrencies. It specialises in multijurisdictional matters, can cover up to eight jurisdictions in one estate case, and has provided legal services for large cross-border real estate spanning seven jurisdictions.
Hansheng Law Offices provided consultation for China Baowu’s innovative asset securitisation project, enabling the platform to operate smoothly and easing the financing difficulties of small, medium and micro-enterprises. The firm not only represented financial technology deals, but also launched a “lawsuit intelligence platform” jointly with Wanda Group’s financial brands, which systematically handled nearly 20,000 arbitration cases to reduce business risks through tech innovation.
The main fintech clients of Commerce & Finance Law Offices are Ping An Insurance, Jifu and Canaan. The firm represented Hyperchain in closing the highest-financed transaction in the blockchain sector, elevating the company as a blockchain “unicorn”.
A client of a chip design company commented that, due to its nature, it was necessary to work with a law firm that was professional, responsive and efficient in the fields of fintech and blockchain. The anonymous referrer said: “Commerce & Finance Law Offices is exactly the law firm we need to further co-operate with, since it has provided us with outstanding legal services.”
Daniel Ding, a firmwide managing partner at JOIUS Law Firm, was hired as a vice-chairman of the Legal Professional Committee of the Shanghai Blockchain Technology Association (SBTA), which was established in 2021. Ding was entrusted by the committee and the SBTA to compile some chapters of “Blockchain Application Regulations”. The firm won an excellent service award from the 2nd Blockchain Rule of Law Summit Forum in recognition of providing high-quality legal services about blockchain.
Mayer Brown was active in advising fintech. When Hong Kong Airport’s operating systems had been upgraded to use AI, blockchain, biometrics and other advanced technologies, the law firm was appointed to advise on how to reduce invasion of privacy. Mayer Brown also advised on potential data risks for several fintech platforms, including traditional finance giant HSBC, cryptocurrency firm Bitfury and Contineo, the world’s first messaging platform for electronic financial structured products.
Morrison & Foerster has dedicated operational fintech teams in China, and advised a stellar list of industry-leading companies such as Alibaba, SoftBank, Airbnb, Tencent and China Telecom. In addition to legal consulting services, the firm regularly published in-depth articles on regulatory developments relevant to the technology in China, providing the latest information in the field.
ELLALAN focuses on advising fintech startups. Its client, Advokate, indicated the difficulties in finding patent experts advising on blockchain because of its novel concept. Following the law firm’s advice, Advokate adjusted its blockchain global patent filing strategy. Another significant deal came from the cryptocurrency platform Crypto.com, in which ELLALAN provided brand strategy, intellectual property portfolio and enforcement advice.
Tiantai has contributed to the “go global” and “bring in” strategy of China’s homegrown covid-19 vaccine. The firm assisted Kangtai Biological Products in introducing the Oxford–AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine, and at the same time promoted overseas phase III clinical trials and commercialisation of the covid-19 inactivated vaccine developed by Kangtai and its wholly-owned subsidiary.
Latham & Watkins is one of the few law firms with the ability to advise both issuers and underwriters on Hong Kong and US life science listings. When Asymchem listed on the HKEX in 2021, the largest biotech IPO of the year, Latham & Watkins advised the joint sponsors and underwriters.
Cross-border licensing partnerships between multinational and Chinese pharma companies hit an all-time high last year. Latham & Watkins advised on Pi-Cardia in a partnership with Venus Medtech to bring Leaflex (TM) aortic valve technology to China. Other cases included Amgen’s collaboration with BeiGene to expand Amgen’s oncology presence in China, and Arctic Vision in a Greater China licensing deal with Clearside Biomedical to develop and commercialise innovative ophthalmology therapies.
Sidley Austin’s partner, Li Lei, is the co-head of the firm’s nation-leading life sciences practice. He used to be a senior lawyer at China’s Ministry of Commerce and participated in many antitrust inquiries and investigations launched by the central and provincial antitrust authorities, primarily in the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors.
Another partner in this field, Ji Ruchun, mainly provided services on cross-border licensing agreements and advised 10 US clients last year. The law firm advised AstraZeneca on its licensing transaction with Junshi Biosciences last year.
Kangda Law Firm provided legal services to more than 60 organisations in the healthcare and life science industries. Kangda customised a set of plans for Beijing Jishuitan Hospital to commercialise and industrialise scientific and technological achievements, and successfully completed the first case in Beijing that reformed the right to use and usufruct scientific and technological achievements.
Due to new regulations in China demanding public hospitals not to lease or contract medical departments, Kangda helped Ruijin Hospital, an affiliation to The Shanghai Jiao Tong University Medical School, to deal with problems that violated the new rules.
J&J Law Firm’s medical and legal service team members all have medical and legal backgrounds. They were outstanding in representing medical litigations, handling more than 100 cases last year. The firm is currently serving as the perennial legal adviser to more than 40 hospitals in Guangdong province, more than a quarter of which are large tertiary hospitals. The firm also serves as legal adviser to the national health administrative agency.
Morrison & Foerster specialises in IP protection and cross-border licensing agreements in healthcare, pharma and life sciences. Its team consists of several former high-ranking US government officials as partners who are familiar with government operations. As the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) tightens its oversight of cross-border pharmaceutical collaborations, Morrison & Foerster’s CFIUS experts have handled and successfully obtained CFIUS clearance for multiple foreign acquirers in some of their sensitive transactions.
JunHe focuses on the automotive and chemical fields. JunHe has increased its business in new energy and intelligent connected vehicle companies in response to market changes. Its major transactions include the release of NIO’s first mass-produced car, the ES8, Magna’s wholly-owned acquisition of GETRAG, and Dongfeng Motor’s acquisition of 14% of Peugeot Citroen equity.
The chemical industry can be characterised by its interdisciplinary nature. Many transactions that JunHe was responsible for not only involved the traditional chemical industry, but also related to biomedicines, the beauty industry and others. In addition to providing capital market consulting around A shares, H shares and US stocks, the firm also advised Volvo Cars on listing on the Nasdaq Stockholm in Sweden.
Han Kun Law Offices achieved a great performance in industrial manufacturing. Its highlight transactions in 2021 included Li Auto’s dual primary listing on the HKEX, and NIO’s issuance of USD1.5 billion in convertible bonds, representing Baidu’s investment in the first financing of the Kunlun chip. Han Kun also provided compliance consulting to several multinational corporations.
Investing in new energy is a trend in China. Last year, Pinsent Masons facilitated BP’s stake in Aulton New Energy Automotive Technology to quickly meet China’s demand for batteries for new energy vehicles. The firm also advised one of the world’s largest British energy groups on its acquisition of China’s largest solar panel manufacturer. Several of Pinsent Masons’ lawyers in this field studied at the University of Warwick’s School of Engineering, the largest engineering school in Europe.
The China and German offices of CMS Group have co-operated many times to deal with the acquisition of Chinese manufacturing enterprises by multinational companies. Last year, they advised public-private equity firm Mutares on its acquisition of auto parts supplier Innomotive Systems Hainichen GmbH from state-owned SUMEC Group. The deal complements Mutares’ German and Chinese production bases, and strengthens its automotive and mobility business units.
DHH Law Firm represented Zhonghuan Flow Controls Manufacturing in its IPO on the Beijing Stock Exchange last year, being one of the first listings on the BSE. The firm provided consultation for Yunlu Advanced Materials Technology, an amorphous alloy manufacturer, to be listed on the Star Market of the SSE, raising RMB1.4 billion. Yunlu’s market share is 40%, with the largest amorphous alloy sales among its peers globally.
Skadden represented Toshiba in its restructuring business. According to the plan, Toshiba’s infrastructure and electronic equipment divisions will be spun off into separate listing companies by the end of fiscal 2023, which is the largest restructuring in the company’s 135-year history. Skadden advised on US law for the spin-off segment.
DeHeng Law Offices represented a series of property insurance disputes and claim and compensation cases, such as the biggest of its type in China with a claim amount of RMB15 billion, involving the Hubei branch of PICC Property & Casualty, HengFeng Bank, China Minsheng Trust, Chang’an International Trust, Dongguan Trust, Anxin Trust, Northern Trust, Sichuan Trust, Bank of Zhangjiakou and other financial institutions.
In terms of foreign law, DeHeng represented the Beijing branch of PICC Property and Casualty in recovering compensation for the dam failure of the Sinohydro Laos Hydropower Station, and negotiated, mediated and litigated in Laos.
In 2021, Anjie & BB Law Firm handled several groundbreaking cases in the insurance industry. The firm represented Ping An Life Insurance to participate in the reorganisation of Founder Group in a transaction amounting to RMB50 billion. The new Founder Holdings was valued at RMB72.5 billion and 66.5% of the shares belonged to Ping An Life Insurance. In terms of litigation, Novofibre sued the Beijing branch of Ping An Property & Casualty Insurance for refusing to settle claims. Anjie & BB represented the defendant in response to the lawsuit, in which a huge dispute arose over the calculation method of business interruption insurance for the first time.
According to Landing Law Offices, it represented more than 400 cases of various insurance companies in 2021, with a high market share in the field of insurance legal services. The firm mainly advised on property insurance, life insurance, accident and health insurance, marine insurance, cargo insurance, and ship insurance. In terms of non-litigation, Landing set up an investment fund for Hengqin Ping An Real Estate, a subsidiary of Ping An Insurance, to reduce the proportion of insurance funds invested in the real estate industry, in line with the national industrial adjustment.
Ince’s insurance and reinsurance business in Asia is led by two Hong-Kong based partners, Rosita Lau and Kelvin Lee. Lau is a panel lawyer for the Airport Authority Hong Kong and acts for insurers in aviation cargo claims. Lee was an appeals board member of the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers from 2010 to 2019. The firm is the perennial legal adviser to the Global Aerospace aviation insurance company.
As settlors of the trust and those insured under the policies cannot enter Hong Kong due to covid-19 restrictions, some people have been exploring the use of trusts to purchase insurance policies. Mayer Brown advises clients on compliance issues and restrictions from different jurisdictions that may arise.
Mayer Brown has handled 80 cyber incidents for insurance policyholders in the past year as cyber-attacks were on the rise in Asia. One of the partners of the cybersecurity team, Lim Tow Lu, oversees the insurance business and assists companies with insurance and claims properly.
Global Top E-Commerce transferred Patozon, a wholly-owned subsidiary, to 20 transferees including Xiaomi, Shunwei Capital and CDH Investments. This was one of the largest M&A transactions in the cross-border e-commerce industry last year. Shu Jin Law Firm advised some of the transferees. The firm also acted as a financial adviser in Kaiser China’s investment in Aoe Network Technology, and as a management shareholder adviser in Tencent Music Entertainment’s acquisition of Lazy Audio.
Video profile: Shu Jin Law Firm
At a time of stronger antitrust reviews of internet platforms while data compliance regulations remain imperfect, TransAsia Lawyers, as a PRC law adviser, successfully assisted Weibo in its secondary listing on the HKEX last year. The firm also advises on privacy statements, cross-border data transfers, restructuring and compliance matters in China for several foreign internet companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn and the Financial Times’ online business.
Baidu returned to Hong Kong for its secondary listing last year, raising more than USD3.1 billion. Davis Polk acted as Hong Kong and US law counsel to the joint sponsors and underwriters. The law firm also participated in the listing of Tuya Smart, the world’s largest IoT platform as a service (PaaS) business provider, on the NYSE. Tuya Smart’s major shareholders include New Enterprise Associates and Tencent. The firm also advised the underwriters on US law when Missfresh, an innovator and leader in China’s neighbourhood retail industry, was listed on the Nasdaq last year.
Herbert Smith Freehills advised Alibaba on the completion of its HKD1.8 billion equity and convertible debt investment in E-House, and counselled Ant Group on its equity investment in Indonesia-based e-commerce operator BluePay. Netjoy was listed on the HKEX, and Herbert Smith Freehills acted as Hong Kong and US counsel to its sole sponsor.
Jincheng Tongda & Neal has a strong track record in the media and entertainment industry. The law firm advised Universal Beijing Resort on data security, real estate, international trade, labour and other fields, especially IP issues such as the IP co-operation between the park and Tencent’s popular games, as well as authorisation of foreign IP to operate in China.
Jincheng Tongda & Neal represented a famous writer, Ma Boyong, to sue for the overdue use of his novel’s authorisation. This case confirmed for the first time that there is no concept of taking such action in animated films, which has guiding significance for a wide range of similar cases.
In terms of sports, Yingke Law Firm provided legal services for the Chinese Olympic Committee Olympic Games Preparation Office, the Beijing Winter Olympics, the Winter Paralympics and the 19th Asian Games. Lawyers at the firm also participated in the legislative work of the Sports Law and other sports regulations, and promoted the establishment of the first sports commercial arbitration court in China, the Xi’an Arbitration Commission Sports Commercial Arbitration Court.
East & Concord Partners’ services in the field of sports were highly praised by Jian Jie, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Volleyball Association. She pointed out that high-level sports worked with multiple international organisations, and only a team of highly experienced lawyers could safeguard the rights and interests of clients in this complex environment. She especially recommended lawyer Gong Xiaoyan, saying: “Since Gong became our legal counsel, we have greatly strengthened and improved our contract formulation, judicial response and international business.”
Mayer Brown has extensive experience in dealing with the anti-competition provisions of Hong Kong’s telecoms law and has initiated judicial reviews of decisions made by Hong Kong regulators based on the advertising regulations. In the absence of a streaming media copyright law, partner Gabriela Kennedy proposed an innovative solution in a white paper, of a cable and satellite broadcasting association to introduce into the Hong Kong regulatory system.
Zhong Lun Law Firm complied with national requirements to combine public REITs with large data centres. The firm advised Bluesea Mobile Development on the acquisition of its data centre by Keppel DC REIT with a transaction value of about RMB700 million. Keppel DC REIT is Asia’s largest data centre REIT, located in Singapore.
In terms of traditional real estate, Zhong Lun served as legal counsel for the Bosera China Merchants Shekou public offering REIT, among the first batch of infrastructure public offering REITs in China.
City Development Law Firm represented an affiliation to a Fortune 500 company in litigation and dispute resolution matters last year. In this case, the contractor cut corners in the plaintiff’s pile foundation project and failed to construct according to the drawings, leading to an order of suspension by local housing officials. This jerry-built building caused an adverse impact on the city. A major number of subjects were involved, and civil disputes and criminal cases were intertwined. City Development adopted a combination of negotiation and litigation to assist the client in tackling project stagnation, administrative penalties and claims.
Boss & Young Attorneys at Law’s real estate sector is managed by partner Lu Guofei, who is the director of the real estate business research committee of the Shanghai Bar Association. Lu led the association to draft a proposal for the Shanghai Renewal Regulations last year, and reviewed the local state-owned enterprise housing lease disputes according to the requirements from the Shanghai State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. Clients of Lu’s team included China Resources Land, Fosun International and Shanghai Lingang Economic Development.
Stephenson Harwood advises property developers and investors on a wide range of issues including acquisitions and the disposal of properties in Asia by way of private treaty, public tender, sale and acquisition of real estate companies’ shares. Its team works closely with the private wealth team to provide real estate legal services related to estate planning, potential trust disputes and succession planning. During the pandemic, the firm dealt with stakeholders such as the government, landlords and tenants, and was dedicated to solving problems such as delayed rent payments, high turnover rates and requests for relief.
Proskauer’s transactions focused on the hospitality industry, including multiple licensing agreements in the latest expansion of stages 3 and 4 of the Galaxy Entertainment Group in Macau, and various property transactions between Mori Building, one of the Japanese railway companies, JR Kyushu, and Marriott International. The law firm has also represented Accor, a French hotel brand, for 23 years.
Simpson Thacher had a major deal in 2021. The firm represented Blackstone in its USD1.1 billion acquisition of Guangzhou R&F Integrated Logistics Park, the largest urban logistics park in the Greater Bay Area. According to Simpson Thacher’s introduction, this was the largest real estate acquisition by Blackstone in China.
The shipping cases resolved by Kangda Law Firm mostly involve maritime claims from insurance companies. Its effort in the “Winnie” yacht marine insurance dispute resulted in the case being selected as one of the 10 model maritime trial cases by the SPC. In the case of China Pacific Property Insurance suing PICC Property and Casualty for double indemnity, Kangda represented the defendant in the first instance and won the case, which provided new ideas for solving similar cases.
Sloma & Co specialises in the shipping sector, with half of its lawyers engaged and experienced in dealing with London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA) arbitrations. The firm has advised in a series of representative cases, such as the first case about a shipbuilding commission dispute in which English case law was applied. It was selected as one of the top 10 maritime cases by the Shanghai Maritime Court.
Wang Jing & Co has represented a series of cross-sea area cases last year. Thomas Zhang, vice president of marine insurance company Skuld, praised Wang Jing & Co for exhibiting a “very strong ability to handle foreign-related legal cases”, particularly giving examples where the firm had shown “outstanding performance to maximise the protection of the client’s interests” in representing Skuld to handle a major collision between oil tanker Sanchi and cargo ship CF Crystal in the East China Sea.
Eric Chow & Co, in association with Commerce & Finance Law Offices, is COSCO Shipping Lines’ frequent adviser, and advises on the contract and implementation of leasing transactions in accordance with the Hong Kong Listing Rules. Last year, the firm proposed a new leasing method for COSCO Shipping worth USD4.6 billion to reduce the operating cost of the fleet.
CMS China has a dedicated team in Hong Kong for shipping litigation, arbitration and mediation, as well as an emergency fraud response team with particular experience in this area. The law firm has represented on a large terminal damages case in South Korea. The Korean terminal operator and its insurers claimed USD100 million from the shipowner. The lawsuit, involving South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, was finally submitted to UK arbitration.
Last year, King & Wood Mallesons represented Baidu in a series of patent invalidation and infringement cases against Sogou, involving more than 60 litigation procedures, regarded as the “first case of internet software patent infringement litigation”. This case was one of the 50 model IP cases filed by Chinese courts in the year.
King & Wood Mallesons also acted on several important transactions in this field, including: as a PRC law adviser for Global Data Solutions, listed on the HKEX and the first Chinese internet data centre to be listed in Hong Kong; and as a counsel of the sponsor CICC in the listing of China Telecom on the main board of the SSE, the largest A-share IPO in the past 10 years.
Haiwen & Partners’ business in technology and telecoms mainly focuses on listing, M&A and financing. It advised Kuaishou Technology on PRC law involving a listing on the HKEX last year. One of its corresponding highlights was involvement in Tencent’s acquisition of Sogou. The delisting of the three major Chinese telecom giants from the US bourse and their homecoming to the A-share market saw Haiwen representing China Mobile and China Telecom in the listing matters.
White & Case is one of the go-to firms for semiconductor companies. Its advice on an acquisition of a world-leading wafer company was valued by the Chinese authorities and facilitated the transaction. Other highlights included supporting DigitalBridge Group, the world’s largest digital infrastructure investment company, in the acquisition of PCCW’s Hong Kong and Malaysia-based data centres, and advising Goldman Sachs on its investment in the technology and telecoms industry.
Paul Weiss represented Didi in the spin-off of Didi Freight and its subsequent financing. It’s a key strategic move by Didi to blunt the impact on its core ride-hailing business. Last year, the firm advised investment agency L Catterton Asia on its USD50 million series B financing for Nebula Brands, an aggregator that aims to acquire and consolidate Chinese Amazon suppliers.