Baker strengthens HK with strategic hires

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From left to right: Kenneth Ching, Derek Poon, Lex Kuo

Baker McKenzie appointed leveraged finance specialist Kenneth Ching and private equity expert Derek Poon as partners in its Hong Kong office, boosting the firm’s banking and finance practice.

Media and entertainment lawyer Lex Kuo also rejoined the firm from Latham & Watkins, bolstering Baker’s abilities in servicing clients in the technology, entertainment, gaming and media industries.

Commenting on the new appointments, Steven Sieker, managing partner of Baker McKenzie in Hong Kong, told Asia Business Law Journal: “Baker & McKenzie has been in Hong Kong for more than 45 years and many economic cycles. We are firmly committed to not only maintaining but to growing our presence in Hong Kong and China.

“We firmly believe in the long-term growth of Hong Kong and China. These hires strengthen our capabilities in technology, debt financing and private equity as we look to grow with and support our clients now and for years to come.”

Ching has experience in advising banks, credit funds and alternative capital providers, private equity sponsors and corporate borrowers on a variety of financing transactions. He has counselled Chinese and international companies on outbound acquisitions across Asia, Europe and North America. He joins the firm from Shearman & Sterling in Hong Kong, where he was a counsel.

“As a result of the uncertainty caused by the covid-19 pandemic, many companies around the world have significant debt financing needs. These alternative capital providers are emerging as important players in the region’s lending markets, and they will no doubt have an even more important role to play as providers of financing as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Andrew Lockhart, head of the firm’s banking and financing practice in Hong Kong.

Poon’s hire, from Kirkland & Ellis Hong Kong, comes as the firm expects increased PE deals across Greater China, Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea. He brings experience within Asia and on outbound deals into Europe and North America, advising private equity firms, investment banks and major corporations on corporate matters including public and private M&A, private equity, joint ventures, real estate private equity and distressed M&A transactions.

“The covid-19 pandemic has crippled many companies’ operations resulting in a heightened demand for liquidity. With the record levels of dry powder globally that are waiting to be deployed, we can expect to see a resurgence of investment activities … with the epicentre of that activity likely to be across Greater China, Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea,” said David Allen, chair of Baker McKenzie’s global private equity practice.

Kuo, who will also be based in Hong Kong, has counselled Chinese and international entertainment and media companies in co-financing, co-production and licensing of film and television titles, cross-border strategic cooperation, and acquisitions. He has also worked as in-house legal counsel at the Walt Disney Company in Beijing, where he advised on legal matters related to local content. His hire comes as the firm expects online entertainment and gaming sectors to thrive.