The editorial team of China Business Law Journal presents the law firms whose performances stood out in the past year

2018 presented numerous opportunities and challenges for all law firms in China. While the large market-leading firms continued their expansion both inside and outside China and, in their management models, continued their innovation, introduction or development of technological systems, smaller boutique firms were also gradually receiving market recognition and expanding their businesses from their sectors of strength into other areas. Regardless of size, each firm has been seeking its own development model and using its own development philosophy to attract talent.

Despite a slowing national economy, for law firms in China business remains on the uptick. And in addition to competition between law firms, the application of technology and the entry of leaders from other fields has made the legal market more multidimensional.

A few years ago, law firms perhaps would not have thought that law companies that provide alternative legal services, or the “big four” accounting firms, would have become their direct competitors. On the one hand, the application of technology in the legal field has enhanced the speed and quality of law firms’ services, but on the other, it is posing a challenge to traditional services offered by firms.

In this constantly changing market environment, the China Business Law Journal team has again been tasked with selecting the winners of the China Business Law Awards for 2018. We received votes and recommendations from corporate counsel, senior managers and legal professionals from around the world.

To determine the winning firms, we evaluated each of their landmark deals, cases and other notable achievements in the past year, in addition to carefully considering the recommendations and comments we received.

The China Business Law Awards include: “Law firm of the year”; “Best overall law firms”; “Firms to watch”; and “Notable achievers”. We also announce winners for various practice areas and industry sectors that are currently in vogue.

Each practice area and industry sector has PRC and international law firm winners of equal standing. The awards are designed to showcase the diversity of talent in the legal services market, while offering assistance to in-house readers as they consider and select their external legal advisers.

Certain adjustments have been made in the awards, compared with previous years, to reflect market demand. In the “Law firms of the year” category, we have added awards for law firms in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Shandong, because certain firms in these places have also demonstrated notable capabilities, and it is fitting to recognize their efforts, too, during the past year.

In the “Firms to watch” category, we selected four rising stars, each of whose sudden prominence is particular to its own strengths, and worth noting. In the “Notable achievers” category, we highlight law firms where their performance stood out in a specific area or field. Their strengths, too, should not be taken lightly.

In the practice areas and industrial sectors, we’ve added three categories: data protection and privacy; family wealth management; and fintech and blockchain. Given the changes in the domestic and foreign capital markets last year, we divided the capital markets area into domestic and international, so that the reader can better understand the strengths of each law firm. We have also increased the number of winners in most categories from five to seven, reflecting the big increase in nominations we received.

Although detailing the achievements of all the winners is not possible, it is necessary to point out that regardless of coverage, each winning firm in each category carries the same weight of achievement – and deserves the same level of congratulations. Well done to all our winners!

LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR

China
Zhong Lun Law Firm
Hong KongBeijingShanghai
DeaconsKing & Wood MallesonsAllBright Law Offices
GuangzhouShenzhenHangzhou
ETR Law FirmChina Commercial Law FirmT&C Law Firm
ShandongWestern China
Wincon Law FirmTahota Law Firm
International
Baker McKenzie FenXun
Offshore
Harney Westwood & Riegels

The winners of “Law firm of the year”, our most prestigious award, are: Zhong Lun Law Firm, Law firm of the year (China); Baker McKenzie FenXun, Law firm of the year (international); Harneys Westwood & Riegels, Law firm of the year (offshore); Deacons, Law firm of the year (Hong Kong); King & Wood Mallesons, Law firm of the year (Beijing); AllBright Law Offices, Law firm of the year (Shanghai); ETR Law Firm, Law firm of the year (Guangzhou); China Commercial Law Firm, Law firm of the year (Shenzhen); T&C Law Firm, Law firm of the year (Hangzhou); Wincon Law Firm, Law firm of the year (Shandong); and Tahota Law Firm, Law firm of the year (Western China).

2018 marked the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Zhong Lun Law Firm. In the past year, Zhong Lun achieved marked success in numerous areas and industries. In dispute resolution, in the judgment in a legal action to vacate an arbitral award rendered by the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the Supreme Court of the Republic of Singapore vacated, in July 2017, the part of the award requiring the Chinese party, represented by Zhong Lun, to refund the amount in question to the foreign party and related paragraphs, successfully recovering for the Chinese party a loss in excess of RMB360 million (US$53.6 million). This was one of the rare cases in which a Chinese enterprise successfully vacated overseas an arbitral award rendered by an authoritative international arbitration institution.

In mergers and acquisitions, in July 2018, Great Wall Motor Company and BMW Holding BV executed in Berlin, under the watchful eyes of the prime ministers of China and Germany, a joint venture contract under which the parties propose to establish a joint venture company, Spotlight Automotive, in China and launch close co-operation in the alternate energy vehicle sector. This joint venture project is the BMW group’s first pure electric vehicle joint venture project, and Zhong Lun, as Great Wall Motor’s sole legal counsel, provided legal services throughout.

In energy and natural resources, in November 2018, China National Uranium and the Rio Tinto Group jointly held a signing ceremony for the transfer of equity in the Rössing uranium mine, where China National Uranium and the Rio Tinto Group officially executed the transaction documents under which China National Uranium acquired all of the equity held by Rio Tinto in Rössing Uranium of Namibia (totaling 68.62%). The Rössing uranium mine is the world’s longest operating open-pit uranium mine, and the single uranium mine with the largest output of natural uranium. Zhong Lun acted as lead legal counsel for the acquirer, China National Uranium.

2018 was also another busy and successful year for Deacons. In capital markets, it was the number one legal adviser in terms of the number of Hong Kong IPOs announced in the first half of 2018. The firm also advised on the first renminbi bill issuance by the People’s Bank of China in Hong Kong, with a total issuance of RMB20 billion.

Deacons’ partner Myles Seto was appointed as member of the Greater Bay Area Working Group to the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce for a term of two years. The firm’s senior partner, Lilian Chiang, was appointed to the Government Land Titles Ordinance Steering Committee as representative of the legal sector.

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) kept up closely with the pace of China’s development strategies such as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area. In April 2018, KWM announced it will build a KWM International Centre in the bay area, and KWM’s Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong offices will play an important role.

KWM has also been involved in different BRI projects, which include: China Molybdenum Company’s acquisition of niobium and phosphorus assets in Brazil, and copper and cobalt assets in The Democratic Republic of The Congo; Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s issuance of “Belt and Road” climate bonds in Luxembourg; and the Hai Duong thermal project in Vietnam.

As for firm management, KWM successfully implemented an automated pitching platform and an online bidding management system through the firm’s intranet, which reduce human resources, and improve efficiency and firmwide co-ordination.

Last year, AllBright Law Offices engaged 297 new lawyers, achieved revenue of RMB3 billion and established offices in London, Changchun and Wuhan. With a view to satisfying clients’ increasing need to expand their business internationally, while also accommodating the Belt and Road strategy, AllBright began strategic co-operation with Bird & Bird at the end of 2017.

In construction and infrastructure, the projects for which AllBright provided legal services include: the public-private partnership (PPP) project for the second phase of work on the Nanjing Metro’s No. 4 line; SF Express’s Hubei international logistics hub construction project; and the PPP project for Chengdu Tianfu International Airport’s Ziyang Linkong Economic Zone New Industrial City. AllBright additionally acted as standing legal counsel in the infrastructure works projects of Zhongjian Southwest Project Construction, Huadong Building of China Construction Fifth Engineering Bureau, and Tencent Technology.

Based in Guangzhou, ETR Law Firm added offices in Zhuhai, Guangdong and Baiyun, Guangzhou, in 2018. In addition to its outstanding performance in the area of domestic capital markets, ETR had notable achievements in structured financing. In January 2018, ETR’s legal team assisted Jiangmen Huarui Aluminum Laminates in successfully listing on the New Third Board as the first LED aluminum laminate shares. In March 2018, ETR assisted Apex Ace Holding in successfully listing on HKEx’s main board.

ETR also provided legal services to such enterprises as Guangzhou Pearl River Industrial Development Holdings, Guangdong Utrust Investment Holdings, Guangdong Giant Leap Construction, Guangdong Provincial Railway Construction Investment Group, and Guangzhou Vanvov Information Technology.

China Commercial Law Firm, which took root in Shenzhen more than 20 years ago, had substantial achievements in mergers, acquisitions and restructurings last year. As at 29 December 2018, the China Securities Regulatory Commission’s (CSRC) listed company merger, acquisition and restructuring review committee had completed the review of a total of 140 merger, acquisition and restructuring projects, and China Commercial ranked first in Guangdong province in terms of the quantity of work completed.

In January 2018, ChineseAll’s material asset restructuring, for which China Commercial provided assistance, was unconditionally approved by the CSRC review committee, following which ChineseAll acquired 80% of the equity of Shanghai MorningTec in stock and cash. This was the first material asset restructuring in the game industry to be unconditionally approved in 2018.

China Commercial Law Firm is currently listed as a secondary administrator on the list of bankruptcy case administrators of the Intermediate People’s Court of Shenzhen and Guangdong, and the cases it handled last year include the following bankruptcy and liquidations involving: Shenzhen Kingmao Plastic; Shenzhen Xinye; Shenzhen Haihong Energy Development; Shenzhen Airong Industrial; Shenzhen Xingtu Innovation Technology; Shenzhen Xiangding Electronic; and Shenzhen Zhihui Media.

Last year, Hangzhou-based T&C Law Firm grew rapidly, opening offices in Ningbo and Beijing. In terms of according with the Belt and Road strategy, T&C was involved in the investment, totaling US$3.44 billion, in the PMB petrochemical project in Brunei by Hengyi Petrochemical and Hengyi Industrial (Brunei). T&C has been providing full legal services for that project since 2013 to ensure its smooth progress.

In Taobao (China) Software Co Ltd v Anhui Meijing Information Technology Co Ltd, an unfair competition dispute involving the “shengyi canmou” retail e-commerce data platform, T&C represented Taobao and prevailed at first instance. (“Shengyi canmou” is a business terminal uniform data product platform belonging to Alibaba). This became the first unfair competition dispute involving big data products in China in which a judgment was rendered.

In domestic capital markets, according to a Sina Finance report, a total of 45 law firms were involved in the A-share IPOs and listings of enterprises in 2018, with T&C being involved in the most IPOs referred for review, a total of 26, with a 58% CSRC approval rate, higher than the average rate of 55.78%.

In 2018, Wincon Law Firm had more than 40 veteran lawyers and professionals join the firm. The legal training project, Wincon Training School, opened with more than 30 Wincon lawyers and legal experts in various fields teaching courses. While training young Wincon lawyers, it is also open to the public. The conference on foreign maritime arbitration practice from the perspective of the Belt and Road Initiative, held in September last year, drew more than 200 top-rate arbitrators, lawyers, entrepreneurs, experts and scholars from the UK, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and mainland China.

In addition to the conference, Wincon also successively held four moot arbitration tribunals, a London international arbitration tribunal, Singapore international arbitration tribunal, Hong Kong international arbitration tribunal and China maritime arbitration tribunal. It also held a conference, titled Cultural Clash Issues Encountered by Chinese Enterprises in the Course of Foreign Arbitration, and a symposium, titled Applying to a Chinese Court for the Recognition and Enforcement of a Foreign Arbitral Award.

In 2018, Tahota Law Firm opened offices in Xi’an, Taiyuan and Sydney, and actively began co-operating with international law firms. All of Tahota’s offices had new partners join last year. Tahota also rolled out its official knowledge sharing platform, “College of Lawyers”, enhancing its capacity to train talent.

In the education industry, Tahota provided legal services to educational institutions in Sichuan, Chongqing, and Yunnan, including services relating to the offering of dedicated asset-backed plans, the offering of dedicated campus construction project bonds, compliance management, etc.

Baker McKenzie FenXun advised on several notable deals last year, such as advising a joint venture between Jinjiang International and SINO-CEE Fund on the purchase of Radisson Hotel Group from HNA Group, and assisting Shui On Land with the sale of a 49.5% interest in one of its residential real estate portfolios in Shanghai for approximately RMB4.59 billion to further its strategic partnership with Joy City Property.

With respect to intellectual property, a corporate counsel at a coffee company says the Baker McKenzie FenXun team helped with its IP work with a one-stop service in China. “Among all its impressive work, the team has delivered favourable decisions battling bad-faith trademark squatters in front of the Supreme Court in China, and has sent several blatant counterfeiters to jail with its enforcement efforts,” says the client.

In the area of real estate & REIT, a client at an investment firm says they are happy with the services and expertise provided by the Baker McKenzie FenXun team. “The team can provide us with new ideas, good solutions and at the same time they worked efficiently on all our deals,” says the client. “They are also very experienced negotiators.”

Harney Westwood & Riegels (Harneys)’ Asia practice continues to grow and has 69 lawyers including 17 partners, led by Ian Mann, Asia managing partner, and Paul Sephton, head of transactional, Asia. Their three full-service offices across Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai represent the largest Asia office network as an offshore law firm.

The Harneys’ team has continued to expand its expertise in the past year with the recruitment of six partners and one counsel in Asia, including Vicky Lord and David Meredith as partners in the Greater China team. Its Shanghai office procured a legal licence in late 2017, becoming the first fully operational offshore legal and fiduciary services firm in mainland China. It remains the only fully operational offshore legal services team on the ground in China.

BEST OVERALL LAW FIRMS

BEST OVERALL LAW FIRMS (PRC FIRMS)

The winners of “Best overall law firms (PRC firms)” this year are AllBright Law Offices, Dentons, Fangda Partners, Jingtian & Gongcheng, JunHe, King & Wood Mallesons and Zhong Lun Law Firm.

Dentons promoted 26 new senior partners and one senior counsel in 2018, at its Beijing head office and in 13 of its branch offices, including those in Hefei, Jinan, and Nanjing, with practice areas covering dispute resolution, corporate and mergers and acquisitions, and capital markets. Last year, Dentons acted as legal counsel to Allianz SE, providing legal services for Allianz’s investment in, and establishment of, a wholly owned insurance holding company in China. With this, Allianz became the first wholly foreign-owned insurance holding company in China.

Dentons acted as legal counsel to the buyer, China Power Investment, in the acquisition by its subsidiary of windfarms and photovoltaic (PV) power stations from Eolia Renovables. This deal involved a transaction amount exceeding €1.4 billion (US$1.59 billion) and consisted of an equity acquisition, with the acquisition targets including 25 already operating onshore windfarms, 13 PV power stations and eight pending onshore windfarms in Spain.

In the A-share listing of Foxconn Industrial Internet, Fangda Partners acted as legal counsel to the sponsor and lead underwriter. Foxconn’s offering reaped proceeds totalling approximately RMB27.12 billion, making it the largest A-share IPO in the past three years and the largest manufacturing IPO in China to date.

In the joint reorganization of Shenhua Group and China Guodian Corporation, Fangda acted as legal counsel to the Shenhua Group’s financial adviser, China International Capital Corporation (CICC). This was the largest reorganization of a state-owned enterprise in recent years and, after the merger, could give rise to an energy giant that ranks number one in the world in terms of coal production and sales, total installed power generation capacity and coal-to-oil output.

In private equity and venture capital, Fangda was also involved in a number of deals that are well known in the market. In SenseTime’s series C financing, Fangda acted as legal counsel to the lead investor, Alibaba. After completion of the financing, SenseTime’s total valuation was US$4.5 billion, the unicorn with the highest valuation in the artificial intelligence field. In another project, the Suning Sports series A financing, Fangda likewise acted as legal counsel to the investor, Alibaba. This round of financing netted an amount exceeding US$600 million, making it the largest financing in the sports industry in recent years, as well as the largest series A financing in recent years.

Last year, Jingtian & Gongcheng had 32 partners join or be promoted to partner, established an office in Nanjing, and entered into an association with L&C Legal in Hong Kong. In foreign capital markets, Jingtian & Gongcheng’s performance stands out, with major deals in which it was involved including the listing of Haidilao International Holding on HKEx’s main board, the listing of the Xiaomi Group on HKEx’s main board, iQiyi’s Nasdaq listing, and Pinduoduo’s Nasdaq listing. “Jingtian & Gongcheng has extensive experience in domestic and foreign capital markets and can, in light of the client’s actual circumstances, timely and effectively resolve the legal issues faced by the client,” says one of the firm’s technology industry clients.

In mergers and acquisitions (M&A), the main projects in which Jingtian & Gongcheng was involved include: the capital increase and acquisition of an equity stake in the equity joint venture, TCL Industrial Holding (Guangdong), by Suning.com and CITIC Capital; and assisting An Xin Industrial Investment Fund in participating in the investment in Israeli communication chip company ColorChip.

Jingtian & Gongcheng acted for Hong Kong Excellen Mining Investments as well as Gecamines in respect of such matters as the investment in, and development and utilization of, two mineral deposits in Lualaba province, DR Congo, and product sharing by the two companies. This was the first mining co-operation project employing the product sharing model in the mining sector.

In asset securitization, Jingtian & Gongcheng provided legal services for the offering of the “Qiyi Century intellectual property supply chain asset-backed securities”, the first supply chain financial product in the intellectual property industry to date. The firm was also involved in the offering of asset-backed notes by Yangzhou Slender West Lake Tourism & Development Group, with a total offering size of RMB2.2 billion. This product is the first scenic spot admission ticket beneficial right asset-backed notes (ABN) and set a new record for the single-largest bond offering in the Yangzhou region.

Last year, JunHe opened offices in Qingdao and Chengdu, and engaged several new partners, covering such industries and areas as trade, maritime affairs, education, bankruptcy restructuring, capital markets and corporate M&A. In M&A, JunHe acted as Cardinal Health’s legal counsel in Shanghai Pharma’s acquisition of Cardinal’s China distribution business. One of China’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Shanghai Pharma, acquired Cardinal’s China business for approximately US$557 million. This was the largest deal in the healthcare business in East Asia in 2017.

In intellectual property, JunHe’s team acted as agent in the BMW “sound trademark” rejection reexamination case. JunHe represented BMW in submitting, not long after implementation of China’s new Trademark Law, an application for the registration of the “BMW sound logo” sound trademark to the Trademark Office. After successively passing through supplementation and rejection at the pro forma examination by the Trademark Office and the trademark rejection reexamination procedure, it was finally successfully registered in China. The “BMW sound logo” became the first pure sound logo without any textual elements to be registered in China and is the only sound trademark registered for automotive goods in Class 12.

JunHe also served as legal counsel in energy and infrastructure projects, domestically and overseas. In particular are several major projects in countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines. “We have found [JunHe lawyers] to be very knowledgeable and effectively address legal issues from both a Chinese and international perspective, always looking for opportunities to provide value-adding advice,” says one client from an energy company.

BEST OVERALL LAW FIRMS(INTERNATIONAL FIRMS)

International firms
Baker McKenzie FenXun
Bird & Bird
Clifford Chance
Herbert Smith Freehills
Hogan Lovells
Linklaters
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

The winners of “Best overall law firm” (international firm) are: Baker McKenzie FenXun, Bird & Bird, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Linklaters, and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.

Bird & Bird had several new hires in the Asia-Pacific last year, and reached a co-operation agreement with AllBright Law Offices. Bird & Bird also launched its new patent intelligence offering, “Pattern”, part of their comprehensive client solutions that combines patent analytics expertise with a software tool and aims to provide advice on any matter that involves patents.

In the area of education, Bird & Bird represents schools, examination boards, professional training bodies and universities, and advises on their expansion strategies into China. For example, they advised Sedbergh School on its deal with the Rongqiao Group to build and operate a school in Guangdong. They also advised Reigate Grammar School on the establishment of a number of schools in China, which was a high-profile deal that involved a signing ceremony in China that was attended by UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

As for healthcare, pharma and life sciences, Bird & Bird are well known for their expertise in advising companies that are looking to expand their operations beyond their “home” jurisdictions or regions for the first time. “My experience in working with the lawyers from Bird & Bird is all satisfactory,” says a legal counsel from a pharmaceutical company. “They have in-depth knowledge of their area of practice and are able to convey the same in a practical and simple language.”

Clifford Chance has continued to grow in traditional areas such as banking and finance, as well as mergers and acquisitions. The firm also advised on several notable IPOs, including China Literature’s Hong Kong IPO, China Tower’s Hong Kong IPO, Haidilao’s Hong Kong IPO, Ping An Healthcare and Technology’s Hong Kong IPO, and Qingdao Haier’s D-share IPO in Frankfurt.

Clifford Chance represented China Investment Corporation (CIC) in its acquisition of Logicor from Blackstone. Blackstone sold its pan-European logistics company, Logicor, to affiliates of CIC for €12.25 billion (US$13.8 billion) in one of the biggest private-equity real estate deals on record.

In the restructuring of Oi Group, Brazil’s largest fixed-line telecoms carrier, Clifford Chance acted as legal counsel to China Development Bank (CDB), which holds one of the largest individual credits among all Oi’s creditors. CDB successfully restructured its credit with no haircut within negotiations.

Herbert Smith Freehills’ (HSF) disputes practice has a longstanding reputation in Asia. With the help of its alternative legal services hub in Shanghai started in 2016, HSF is able to review millions of Chinese-language documents and offer cost-efficient services on complex dispute matters.

In 2018, HSF served as legal counsel for Apple on its high-tech investment in Guizhou, including a massive new data centre of more than 1 million square feet. This is one of the first such cases in China and there are few precedents. The lack of transparency in telecom laws and practice in China makes it challenging to serve the commercial interest of the parties as well as ensure compliance with the law.

In the area of energy and natural resources, HSF served as legal counsel to Zhenhua Oil in its procurement of a development and production contract for the East Baghdad oilfield. The contract is the first of its kind since the Iraqi government announced it was changing the terms of its model-form upstream service contracts.

Hogan Lovells brings an international perspective to advising clients on Asia’s privacy and cybersecurity laws, and the ongoing development of policy across the region. Their recent works include advising Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing in relation to the preparation and implementation of its global data protection compliance policy, and advising Salesforce.com in relation to its Asia-Pacific data processing terms.

In the education sector, Hogan Lovells has advised more than 150 clients on various legal aspects. It advised the Juilliard School on the establishment of two Sino-foreign co-operative education institutes in Tianjin. This is the first co-operative education project in China for this world-famous music and arts school. Hogan Lovells also advised Duke University and the University of Leicester on their co-operation project in China.

In Ant Financial’s series C fundraising, Linklaters served as legal counsel to Warburg Pincus, one of the investors. In this round, the Chinese payment giant Ant Financial raised about US$14 billion, the private company’s single-biggest fundraising effort globally. The success transformed Ant Financial into the largest fintech firm in the world.

Linklaters was international counsel to Qingdao Haier for its D-share IPO in Frankfurt. Being the first PRC-listed company approved by the Frankfurt Stock Exchange for direct public offering and listing of shares, and also the first PRC-listed company succeeding in going public on, and raising funds from, a European exchange, Qingdao Haier was the first to adopt the “A+D” shares model.

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom’s antitrust and competition team advised on several large transactions including assisting Becton Dickinson and Company with its US$24 billion acquisition of CR Bard. Since 2015, the Ministry of Commerce has issued 12 conditional approvals, and Skadden’s team has advised on six of these 12 approvals.

In terms of M&A, Skadden advised Internet Plus Holdings, a holding company created by Meituan and Dianping, on its US$3.7 billion acquisition of Beijing Mobike Technology.

In the education sector, Skadden advised China Chunlai Education Group on its HK$624 million (US$80 million) IPO and listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The firm also advised Citigroup Global Markets Asia and China Merchants Securities (HK) as joint sponsors on Hope Education Group’s HK$3.2 billion (US$408 million) IPO and listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

BEST OVERALL LAW FIRMS(OFFSHORE FIRMS)

Offshore firms
Conyers Dill & Pearman
Harney Westwood & Riegels
Maples Group

The winners of “Best overall law firm” (offshore firm) are: Conyers Dill & Pearman, Harney Westwood & Riegels, and Maples Group.

Conyers Dill & Pearman and its Hong Kong office was praised by their clients for their services in banking and finance. “We have been working with Conyers’ Hong Kong office on a number of cross-border commercial financing transactions involving obligors incorporated in the BVI, Cayman Islands, Mauritius and Bermuda,” says a partner at another law firm. “Conyers has always demonstrated professional reliability and quick turnaround time in its work products. Such qualities are essential for a smooth closing.”

In the project of OPUS Group moving its listing venue from Australian Securities Exchange to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Conyers served as Bermuda counsel. Through a first-of-its-kind scheme of arrangement, OPUS Group, an Australian printing solutions and services provider, moved its listing venue of the newly incorporated Bermudan holding entity, Left Field Printing Group, from the Australian Securities Exchange to the Main Board of The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.

From January 2019, Maples and Calder and MaplesFS, which comprises Maples Fiduciary and Maples Fund Services, were consolidated as Maples Group, bringing together collective services including an international law firm, and global fund administration and fiduciary services.

Maples advised on several notable IPOs of Chinese companies such as China Literature, Innovent Biologics, Meituan Dianping, NIO, Ping An Healthcare and Technology, and Xiaomi. The firm also participated in SenseTime’s series C round financing, and CHMT’s purchase of The Centre in Hong Kong.

FIRMS TO WATCH

FirmS to watch
Dare & Sure Law Firm
Hansheng Law Offices
Hui Ye Law Firm
Landing Law Offices

The winners of “Firm to watch” are Dare & Sure Law Firm, Hansheng Law Offices, Hui Ye Law Firm and Landing Law Offices.

In recent years, Dare & Sure Law Firm has had cases in such areas as intellectual property, competition and anti-monopoly, cyber law, etc., that have been included in the 10 major or typical cases of courts at various levels, and it additionally successfully won the bid for the legal counsel service procurement project of the Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China for 2018, and the legal counsel firm project of the Beijing Municipal Administration for Industry and Commerce for 2018-2019.

Dare & Sure was engaged by Vivo Communication Technology to represent it in its unfair competition dispute concerning the mobile app market with Tencent, a case that involved an amount of RMB80 million. The parties finally reached a full settlement at the end of 2018. The firm also represented Xiaomi Technology in its suit against Li Zhan (the holder of a Weibo account) in a right to reputation dispute. The First Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing Municipality rendered a final judgment finding that Li Zhan had infringed Xiaomi’s right to reputation. This case was included among the 10 major typical online right of reputation cases of the People’s Court of Haidian District, Beijing.

Hansheng Law Offices grew rapidly in the past year, establishing offices in Ningbo, Dalian and Urumqi, merging with two law firms in Shanghai in May, and adding three senior partners, further adding to its strengths in such areas as corporate M&A and restructurings, and corporate investment and financing.

In 2018, Hui Ye Law Firm brought in close to 30 partners from outside the firm and established or planned to establish eight new offices in Hefei, Qingdao, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Zhejiang Free Trade Zone and Changsha. Hui Ye additionally entered into a formal co-operation arrangement with the Swiss firm Kellerhals Carrard as well as entering into strategic co-operation arrangements with law firms in Japan, the Czech Republic and Vietnam.

Hui Ye also had notable achievements in the area of employment and labour law. In a non-compete case between Tencent and a former employee, Hui Ye represented Tencent in winning the case and receiving compensation in the amount of RMB19.4 million. This case was included as the first case by the First Intermediate People’s Court of Shanghai Municipality in its Non-compete Dispute Case Adjudication White Paper of 2018.

Landing Law Offices has been growing at breakneck speed in recent years. In the past two years or so it has established several dozens of offices within and outside China, covering such places as Shanghai and Beijing in China, and in countries including India, Iran, the Philippines and Singapore.

Its chairman, Liu Yixing, is accomplished in the areas of international investment and trade, litigation and arbitration, and criminal defence. He has served numerous Chinese clients and their subsidiaries in India, including Tencent Music Entertainment Group, China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corp, Bank of Shanghai, the Shanghai Branch of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the Shanghai Stock Exchange, Datang Technologies & Engineering’s Indian subsidiary, and Great Wall Motor’s Indian subsidiary.

NOTABLE ACHIEVERS

Notable achievers
DOCVIT Law Firm
FenXun Partners
Lantai Partners
Merits & Tree Law Offices
MHP Law Firm
Shihui Partners

The winners of “Notable achiever” awards are DOCVIT Law Firm, FenXun Partners, Lantai Partners, Merits & Tree Law Offices, MHP Law Firm and Shihui Partners.

Last year, DOCVIT Law Firm had 18 partners and counsel join the firm, and opened offices in Tianjin and Jinan. The development of close to 10 more domestic and foreign offices is also in the planning stages. In terms of firm development, the Green Legal Global Alliance, a cross-border alliance sponsored and established by relevant groups of people from legal service firms, academic research institutions, financial institutions, industry entities, corporate incubators, internet innovation and media firms, etc., which DOCVIT has sponsored since 2016, has also acted as a driving force in the growth of the firm.

FenXun Partners is a fast-growing firm and the number of fee earners has increased from about 70 to more than 110. Through the joint operation office with Baker McKenzie since 2015, FenXun seconds lawyers and exchanges insights with the international firm Baker McKenzie.

In structured financing, FenXun provided legal services for many dedicated asset-backed plans on the market, including: the CITIC Securities–Xiaomi number 1 phase 1 dedicated supply chain accounts receivable asset-backed plan, the first supply chain finance asset-backed securities supporting new economy enterprises in China; the CITIC Securities-Didi dedicated asset-backed securities (ABS) plan, the first new supply chain ABS in the ride hailing sector in China; and ABC Huiying-Everbright Asset Management-Ninghai dedicated ghetto redevelopment and settlement sustainable development asset-backed plan, the first sustainable development ABS in China that meets international standards.

Last year, Lantai Partners merged with Zhong Chuang Law Office and held the Law Firm Size and Management Model Updating Conference, drawing wide attention in the industry. With the establishment of an office in Kunming, Lantai had seven offices in key cities around the country as at the end of last year.

In domestic capital markets, the firm was involved in M&A, restructurings and bond offerings of numerous listed and unlisted companies, including: the material asset restructuring of Sichuan Changhong NewEnergy Technology; the acquisition of 12.2% of the equity of Inner Mongolia Bigvet Biotech by China National Biotec Group; and the conversion of Tianjin Optical Electrical Group to mixed ownership.

In employment and labour law, Lantai was involved in the mediation of the Lotte Mart Beijing Jiuxianqiao store collective labour dispute, providing legal advice in the labour dispute between more than 1,000 workers and the business owners. It also resolved the Dongcheng District JYmall.com collective unpaid wages incident, where more than 300 workers reached an agreement with the owners involving an amount totalling more than RMB40 million.

Merits & Tree Law Offices grew rapidly last year, adding 13 partners and counsel covering banking and finance, investments, financing, M&A, securities, capital markets, entertainment law, family wealth management, and personal information protection. In October last year, Merits & Tree formally became a member of LAW (Lawyers Associated Worldwide), further enhancing its level of internationalization.

One chief legal officer says Merits & Tree consistently demonstrated professionalism, maintained good communication with the client and the transaction counterparty, and the firm is very diligent in the development of young lawyers, adding: “Merits & Tree’s development of young lawyers is enviable. Their dedicated vocational training camp allows veteran lawyers to fully contribute and share their knowledge structure and practice experience, permitting young lawyers to rapidly master the framework and details of the entire business.”

Within the education industry, Merits & Tree represented Greenwoods Capital in completing the US dollar series B investment in Koolearn, an online educational platform belonging to New Oriental, being involved at every stage of the project including drafting, review and revision of transaction documents, project negotiations, project execution and closing.

The firm also represented Greenwoods Capital and New Higher Education Group in completing an acquisition of several hundred million renminbi of three new schools in Guangxi, a project which involved a listed company VIE structure. In addition to the drafting of documents and project negotiations, Merits & Tree provided legal advice in respect of the transaction structure and framework for the project.

At the end of 2017, the three law firms Junyue Law Firm, Martin Hu & Partners and Middla Law Firm merged to form MHP Law Firm, which is continuously exploring new ways of growing. In 2018, MHP’s team of lawyers increased from a little over 90 to more than 130, and the firm realized a 50% increase in its business that year. In terms of its nationwide deployment, MHP will welcome the opening of its Hangzhou office in 2019.

In insurance and reinsurance, MHP represented an insurance asset management company in investing in the immovable property bond investment plan for the Qingdao Conson Finance Centre project, which proposes to raise RMB2 billion for construction of the Qingdao Conson Finance Centre. The firm also represented an insurance company in investing in the equity investment plan of the Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) infrastructure PPP investment fund, a project that proposes to raise RMB10 billion to be used for construction of infrastructure by SCG.

Last year, Shihui Partners brought in two partners and promoted Zhu Zan in-house to partner, further enhancing Shihui’s capabilities in the areas of fund establishment and domestic capital markets. To Shihui’s client list were added investment institutions and unicorn enterprises including: ABC Capital Management; Huaxing Growth Capital; Huaxing Medical Industry Fund; Ameba Capital; Zhuoli Capital; Baidu Ventures; Sequoia Capital; JD Finance; JD Logistics; and Harvest Capital.

In fintech, Shihui has provided compliance and financing legal services to the Pintec Group, being involved in key growth steps such as its recurring financings, the splitting-up and restructuring of the group companies, etc. In the course of the listing of the Pintec Group on Nasdaq, the Shihui team, as the issuer’s Chinese lawyers, successfully assisted the Pintec Group in planting its stake in the capital markets.

The Shihui team has also consistently provided legal services to the Lexin Group and successfully assisted it in listing in the US, making it the first Chinese online finance company to hang its shingle in an offshore capital market after the issuance of the new policies on online finance at the end of 2017.

“Having undergone careful investigation, the legal advice given by [Shihui] is worthy of being trusted,” says one in-house counsel at an online finance company. “Shihui’s rapid response mechanism ensures the timely advancement of a transaction. [Shihui] can accompany a client in traversing periods of market volatility and industry low points, making the firm worthy of trust.”

PRACTICE AREAS

ANTI-BRIBERY & COMPLIANCE

INT firms
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Latham & Watkins
Morgan Lewis & Bockius
Shearman & Sterling
Squire Patton Boggs
Steptoe & Johnson
Winston & Strawn

FenXun Partners is a fast-growing firm and has a strong team experienced in key aspects of compliance issues including internal investigations, due diligence, responses to enforcement and remediation. FenXun’s clients include major medical devices companies, global leading biotechnology companies and fashion brands.

The team strengthened its service capability with the addition of Vivian Wu from Baker McKenzie. Wu excels in anti-corruption advisory work and internal corporate investigations.

Zhong Lun Law Firm has maintained a leading position in compliance matters for several years. This year, it was involved in more than 20 major compliance projects covering such fields as finance, data, cybersecurity, anti-monopoly, and intellectual property. Recently, Zhong Lun successfully won the bid for the establishment of a compliance system in one of China’s four large state oil companies, Sinochem, providing compliance advice for material legal matters and accident investigation, as well as compliance legal training to Sinochem and its five major sections.

Shearman & Sterling is not only famous for its capability in capital markets, but is also known for handling high-profile corruption investigations against multinationals in China. Within its team every lawyer is fluent in Mandarin, which leads to faster and less expensive investigations for clients.

As corruption is not industry-specific, the firm’s investigations and compliance work in Asia spans diverse industries including pharmaceutical and medical devices, media and entertainment, fashion and luxury goods, and others.

Last year, Squire Patton Boggs completed a number of corporate investigations and anti-corruption matters in China. In one case, the team assisted a New York Stock Exchange-listed global electronics manufacturer with its internal investigation and compliance auditing programme. The company has subsidiaries in more than 10 manufacturing sites and more than 100 custodians throughout the Asia-Pacific, and the firm estimates its improvement programme helped the client save hundreds of millions of dollars.

BANKING & FINANCE

INT firms
A&L Goodbody
Baker McKenzie FenXun
Clifford Chance
Gide Loyrette Nouel
Linklaters
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
Watson Farley & Williams

Jingtian & Gongcheng performs particularly well in banking and finance. In addition to the establishment of more than 20 large funds, offerings and manager applications and change projects, it was also involved in a significant number of commercial loan and structural financing deals, including a cross-border financing deal in which a banking syndicate led by Deutsche Bank is providing a secured term loan in the amount of US$175 million to three Barbadian borrowers. It was also involved in a financing deal in which China Minsheng Bank is providing loans totalling RMB1.5 billion (US$225 million) to Xinjiang Xintai Natural Gas in its partial offer for AAG Energy Holdings.

One of its clients, a commercial bank, stated that it was satisfied with the services provided by Jingtian & Gongcheng in its first cross-border acquisition deal, and recommended one of its lawyers, Wu Jiejiang, saying, “As the matter was quite complicated, we encountered various difficulties at each step. Mr Wu and his team, with their extensive expertise in the field and professional legal accomplishment, were able to resolve our urgent issues without delay, providing invaluable help in smoothly realizing our objective.”

Guantao Law Firm’s clients in this field cover all of China’s large state-owned commercial banks, and large lease financing companies are also counted among its long-term clients. Guantao provided its legal services in Agricultural Bank of China, New York branch’s transfer of its rights and interests under Disney’s US$4 billion global credit syndicate deal to Agricultural Bank of China, Shanghai branch.

One client in the financial leasing industry recommended one of Guantao’s lawyers, Qian Yewen, saying, “[Qian] has many years of practical experience in banking and finance, and is perspicacious and thoroughly knowledgeable on the points of dispute and risk avoidance in syndicated loan deals. He has the ability to streamline long and convoluted legal clauses and make ambiguous legal language tighter and more precise.”

Irish law firm A&L Goodbody advised China Aircraft Leasing (CALC) as Irish counsel on its establishment of an international investment vehicle for aircraft leasing, which is an important strategic move for CALC amid its transition towards an asset-light business model for supporting its continuing global expansion.

Headed by partners Madeline Leong and Christoforos Bisbikos, Watson Farley & Williams (WFW)’s team was legal counsel to several notable deals including clients from JP Morgan, Citibank, and Japan’s largest bank, MUFG.

WFW also advised China Merchants Bank (CMB) in the US$180.4 million sale and leaseback transaction between CMB Financial Leasing and Star Bulk Carriers. According to WFW, it was a cross-border and complex transaction that they closed under an extremely tight timeframe for 15 vessels.

“WFW is always with solutions that both make sense in law and commerce when difficulties occur,” said one legal manager from a financial leasing company.

CAPITAL MARKETS (DOMESTIC)

Last year witnessed further relaxation in China’s domestic capital markets, the purpose of these measures being to strengthen connections between domestic and foreign markets, and attract quality innovative enterprises to list on the A-share markets. At the end of January this year, the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Shanghai Stock Exchange issued rules for listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s Science and Technology Innovation Board, offering a new option for innovative enterprises wishing to list.

Last year, Chance Bridge Partners engaged Liu Shen and Zhang Junyan to serve as senior consultants with the firm, enhancing the service capacity of its capital markets team. Liu Shen, who formerly served as senior manager in the Listed Company Supervision Department and as vice president of the Offering and Listing Centre of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, is well versed in the policies and practices relating to the IPO and listing of enterprises, the compliant operation and acquisition and restructuring of listed companies, and the operation of private funds. The main research fields of Zhang Junyan, an associate professor in the School of Finance of Renmin University of China, are insurance, civil and commercial law, and insurance legislation and regulation.

Capital markets are a traditional strength of Grandway Law Offices, and the A-share listings that it assisted in completing include the IPOs of Wondershare Technology, Xuancheng Valin Precision Technology, Runjian Communication, WG Tech (JiangXi), Xianhe Corp, Great Wall Securities, Wuhan Bester Group Telecom, and Wuxi Shangji Automation. Grandway additionally serves as the long-term legal counsel of several hundred listed companies, providing securities-related legal services to listed companies in all industries and sectors.

Lantai Partners, a first time winner in this category, completed a large number of capital markets, mergers and acquisitions, and reorganization projects including the material asset restructuring of Sichuan Changhong NewEnergy Technology (Changhong) and Changhong’s acquisition of Jiangsu Sanjie New Energy.

CAPITAL MARKETS (OVERSEAS)

INT firms
Baker McKenzie FenXun
Davis Polk & Wardwell
Deacons
Latham & Watkins
Shearman & Sterling
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

With the issuance by Hong Kong in the first half of last year of new rules permitting companies with dual-class share structures to list, a large number of mainland internet and biotech companies that have yet to realize a profit have been stampeding southward to list in Hong Kong, resulting in Hong Kong surpassing New York as the largest IPO market in 2018. The smooth completion of the H-share “full tradability” pilot project at the end of last year on the mainland has also laid a solid foundation for subsequent full tradability. With the further relaxation in policies, the listing wave may persist in Hong Kong in 2019.

Commerce & Finance Law Offices was involved in numerous transactions, including China Tower’s H-share listing, Ascletis Pharma’s H-share listing, and Bilibili’s Nasdaq listing last year. To date, the China Tower listing is the world’s largest telecom industry IPO. In the course of the US listing of Bilibili, China’s leading pop culture community for youths, Commerce & Finance, based on its project experience and understanding of the laws of mainland China, Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands and the US, creatively resolved the practical difficulties that a renminbi institutional investor faces in investing in offshore red-chip structure projects, which will have tremendous guiding significance for subsequent renminbi institutional investors wishing to participate in similar cross-border transactions.

With the official opening of its office in Hong Kong in 2018, Commerce & Finance Law Offices’ business has both a domestic and foreign presence, constituting a complete business chain, from establishment of funds and offering on domestic and foreign capital markets, through refinancing, acquisition and restructuring post-offering, and finally to dispute resolution, and enterprise bankruptcy and reorganization.

JunHe’s representative offshore capital market deals include the listing of Xiaomi Corp on the main board of HKEx, COSCO Shipping Holdings’ offer for Orient Overseas (International), and Uxin’s US listing. The Xiaomi listing, which raised HK$36 billion (US$4.7 billion), was the first dual-class share listing following HKEx’s agreeing to the listing of companies with such structures. China COSCO’s acquisition of Orient Overseas (International) set a record for the largest single acquisition transaction in the container transport market.

“The [JunHe] team is very dedicated to its client, always available and providing good technical advice,” says an in-house lawyer from an industrial gases company. “The lawyers put a lot of effort into trying to understand the client’s needs and accommodating its requests while keeping the level of fees reasonable.”

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s notable deals include Aurora Mobile’s listing on NASDAQ, raising a total of US$77 million from the IPO before the exercise of underwriters’ over-allotment option. As for Hong Kong IPOs, Simpson Thacher represented Ganfeng Lithium on its H-share IPO, which made Ganfeng the first “A+H” synchronously listed company in China’s lithium industry.

“[The Simpson Thacher] team is very experienced in handling complex legal and business issues involving IP and compliance in different jurisdictions,” a senior executive at a leading franchised hotel company commented on the Simpson Thacher team and its leader Chris Lin. “[Simpson Thacher] deeply understands the scope of work and has been able to co-ordinate and lead the process with many working parties to bring our company to a quick and successful IPO on New York Stock Exchange.”

Headed by Julie Gao, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom’s capital markets practice had a good year in 2018. The team helped clients complete 21 US IPOs and nine offerings in Hong Kong. Among those 30 deals, six offerings raised more than US$1 billion. In Hong Kong, these were Xiaomi and Meituan-Dianping, and in the US they were iQiyi, Pinduoduo, NIO Inc and Tencent Music.

COMPETITION & ANTITRUST

AnJie Law Firm’s anti-monopoly team has expertise in anti-monopoly civil litigation, anti-monopoly administrative investigations, business operator concentration filings, intellectual property-related anti-monopoly cases, data-related anti-monopoly cases, and anti-monopoly compliance. AnJie has represented clients in carrying out numerous business operator concentration filings, and to date all of the filing cases have been unconditionally approved.

“Not only do they have a supreme command of specialized fields, but they also provide practical solutions that take into account the client’s actual circumstances,” was how one well known online platform client assessed AnJie’s services.

Tian Yuan Law Firm continued its outstanding performance in competition law in 2018. On 31 May 2018, China’s anti-monopoly authorities dispatched several work teams to carry out surprise inspections and investigations of the Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen offices of DRAM chip makers such as SK Hynix, and retrieve evidence onsite. From the very outset of the surprise inspection, Tian Yuan accepted Hynix’s appointment to provide legal services in respect of the onsite inspection, subsequently assisted it in completing several rounds of comprehensive self-inspection and, on this basis, prepared and submitted several rounds of reports.

Gide Loyrette Nouel’s competition law team was particularly active last year, advising clients on all aspects of their competition law matters in China. They have a valuable clientele composed of major global players in their respective markets, including Total, Air Liquide, Renault, ENGIE, Vallourec, Valeo, PSA Group, Alstom, Lacoste, and Accor.

DATA PROTECTION & PRIVACY

PRC firms
AnJie Law Firm
Anli Partners
Dare & Sure Law Firm
Dentons
King & Wood Mallesons
Llinks Law Offices
MWE China Law Offices
INT firms
Baker McKenzie FenXun
Bird & Bird
CMS China
Herbert Smith Freehills
Hogan Lovells
Mayer Brown
Wilkinson & Grist

Llinks Law Offices provided corporate data security and privacy protection services to manufacturing giants, Fortune 500 automotive enterprises, and cutting-edge pharmaceutical and health product enterprises. Included in the above, Llinks provided privacy policy and data compliance legal services to Global Logistic Properties Investment (Shanghai) and ProLogis Financial Leasing (Shanghai). Llinks stated that the project involved numerous sectors in which data were applied, making it necessary to carry out individual analysis and fact finding based on the specific types of business, the types of data and the platforms involved. Furthermore, the client’s business was fairly comprehensive, integrating numerous sectors such as logistics, smart management of industrial parks, finance, information systems, and smart urban management into one, and placing a high demand on the lawyers’ dedication.

Yang Xun joined Llinks as a partner last year. In the past, Yang provided relevant legal and compliance services in succession to more than 10 multinational financial institutions, telecoms, life science and high-end manufacturing companies. Yang also has extensive practical experience in unfair competition and in investment and M&A in telecoms, media and technology (TMT), and the life science industry.

MWE China Law Offices has been active in cybersecurity since last year and organized several forums on data protection and compliance. Its service ability has further strengthened with the addition of Carol Sun as partner and head of the data advisory practice group of the firm.

One client, a well-known automotive dealer, said MWE provided very professional services in its sector, and recommended Leon Liu. “Not only was he able to respond to our demands in a highly efficient and quality manner, but [he] was also able to tailor a comprehensive privacy and data protection solution for us based on our actual circumstances, and provide us with a practicable information collection and protection plan that is in keeping with our business development,” said the client. “Such comprehensive and dynamic professional legal services are exactly what we, in the midst of the current data development wave, need.”

As the regulation of data has expanded, Baker McKenzie FenXun assisted various multinational companies – such as LVMH, Porsche, Agoda, Hasbro and eBay – with drafting and localization of privacy policies and relevant privacy documentations for use in China.

Mayer Brown has been engaged in a large number of data privacy projects and cybersecurity matters, and devises strategies, implements effective solutions, and takes into account developments such as the China Cybersecurity Law and EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The firm’s clients range from chemical companies to luxury brands.

DISPUTE RESOLUTION

PRC firms
Commerce & Finance Law Offices
DOCVIT Law Firm
Hui Zhong Law Firm
Kangda Law Firm
King & Wood Mallesons
Tiantong Law Firm
Zhong Lun Law Firm
INT firms
Davis Polk & Wardwell
Herbert Smith Freehills
Holman Fenwick Willan
Morrison & Foerster
O’Melveny & Myers
Shearman & Sterling
Winston & Strawn

Hui Zhong Law Firm acted as counsel, co-counsel or Chinese law expert witness in more than 50 concluded and ongoing cases in 2018. The total amount involved in the cases exceeded RMB10 billion. Arbitration cases involving domestic and foreign arbitration institutions in which Hui Zhong lawyers served as the presiding arbitrator, sole arbitrator, or as an arbitrator, exceeded 30.

Last year, Hui Zhong also handled a number of capital market-related cases. In one appeal case heard by the Supreme People’s Court involving concurrent infringement and breach of contract disputes arising from a multi-level nested financing arrangement, Hui Zhong presented arguments for a client that was the asset manager. The case, the amount of which exceeded RMB300 million, involved overlapping and multi-party legal relationships revolving around entrusted wealth management, asset management, and interbank deposits, as well as complex intersecting criminal and civil issues. Ultimately, the case was settled in a manner entirely satisfactory to the client.

The cases in which Kangda Law Firm acted as counsel include numerous contract disputes between large state-owned enterprises and between enterprises and governments, as well as complex cases involving high-tech companies. In one of these cases, involving revolving financed trade between Shenhua Changyun High Technology Coal Blending and China Railway Materials Development Holding, both the courts at first instance and appeal determined the case to be a sale and purchase contract dispute, and ordered Shenhua to pay compensation of approximately RMB80 million.

As counsel for Shenhua, Kangda applied to the Beijing Municipal Higher People’s Court for retrial. Successfully adducing evidence to the effect that the case involved financed trade, the Beijing High Court ultimately remanded the case for retrial, instructing the court to include all of the parties to the revolving trade as parties to the case.

DOCVIT Law Firm settled more than 400 disputes in the past year and won its first award in this category. Notable deals include contract disputes between China Communications Materials & Equipment Company, and Yunnan Jingchao Building Materials Management.

Working closely with the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC), Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) made contributions to the newly drafted 2018 HKIAC Arbitration Rules. Some notable cases HFW handled included Jiangsu Shagang Group Co Ltd v Loki Owning Company Ltd, in which HFW set aside a London arbitration award against its client following an appeal to the English High Court.

EMPLOYMENT & LABOUR

PRC firms
Baohua Law Firm
Hui Ye Law Firm
Lanbai Law Firm
Lantai Partners
River Delta Law Firm
TransAsia Lawyers
Young-Ben Law Firm
INT firms
Baker McKenzie FenXun
Bird & Bird
DLA Piper
Faegre Baker Daniels
Morgan Lewis & Bockius
Simmons & Simmons
Stephenson Harwood

Many clients expressed great satisfaction with the labour law services provided by River Delta Law Firm. “River Delta’s lawyers can quickly understand the circumstances of a case and our requirements, provide an effective strategy and specific analysis that satisfies our requirements and, in specific matters, they demonstrate a high degree of professionalism and accomplishment,” says one client in the biotech industry by way of assessment.

In addition to providing legal services, the in-house counsel of a strategic management company was deeply impressed by the quality of the content on River Delta’s We media platforms. “In this era of the mobile internet, River Delta additionally takes full advantage of the new We media, such as Wechat official account, and makes the necessary investments to keep relevant legal and practice content up to date,” says this client. “River Delta’s publicization and dissemination of the most recent laws, regulations and policies on employment and labour and its pertinent and practical discussions and research allow the broad public, even if not clients of River Delta, to benefit.”

TransAsia Lawyers also enjoys a long-standing reputation in the area. “Our company has been working with TransAsia Lawyers in the past years and has been very satisfied with its quality of services,” says a compliance officer at a technology company.

Bird & Bird are particularly strong in advising on cross-border and multi-jurisdictional employment projects arising from international assignments, business establishments, or global restructuring. An American client mentions a detail that made them feel comfortable: “[They are] extremely useful legal counsel given we are a huge American company so the language and style fits an international/US company perfectly.”

Baker McKenzie FenXun’s employment law team is considered as “responsive and provides tailored, commercial advice”. An employment counsel at an online social media company recommended Jonathan Isaacs and Joseph Yue: “Both assisted recently on a complex matter and their turnaround time, attention to detail and general level of support was outstanding.”

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

INT firms
Akin Gump
Covington & Burling
Ince & Co
Mayer Brown
Stephenson Harwood
Steptoe & Johnson
White & Case

East & Concord Partners’ international trade team, led by partner Vivian Wang, represented numerous enterprises in responding to foreign anti-dumping investigations, anti-subsidy investigations, anti-circumvention investigations and safeguard investigations against China. In India’s anti-dumping investigation of Chinese photovoltaic products, East & Concord represented the entire Chinese industry in mounting an industry injury defence. After reviewing the information submitted by the plaintiff and the Chinese side, India ultimately issued an announcement in March 2018 terminating the anti-dumping investigation.

The success in this case not only safeguarded the interests of the Chinese photovoltaic industry and enterprises, but also provided experience and lessons for Chinese industries and enterprises responding to Indian trade remedy investigations.

After two years, Hiways Law Firm’s Steven Yu and his team ultimately achieved a total victory as counsel for the China BaoWu Steel Group and other Chinese enterprises in responding to a US section 337 investigation of Chinese carbon steel products. This was the first US section 337 investigation that involved the use of cyberattacks to steal trade secrets and infringement of intellectual property.

Hiways Law explained that, at the technical level, there were three stages of victories that addressed different points. With respect to one of them, the theft of trade secrets, this was the first time that Chinese enterprises achieved a complete victory before the US ITC. The victory by Chinese iron and steel enterprises with respect to the antitrust point also makes it less likely that US enterprises will use antitrust means in future to launch frivolous suits.

Stephenson Harwood has built a trade-based anti-money laundering (TBAML) practice and has been instructed by Bank of China, China Construction Bank, The Bank of East Asia, Dah Sing Bank and Sara (Hong Kong) Limited to establish various TBAML programmes.

Steptoe & Johnson was recently selected as a qualified law firm to represent the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) in all six of the practice areas covered by MOFCOM’s 2018-issued tender, and is the only foreign law firm to have been selected in all categories. Steptoe represented Shougang Corporation against allegations brought by US Steel Corporation that the Chinese steel industry had colluded and engaged in antitrust violations resulting in injury to US Steel’s domestic market. This is the first section 337 investigation alleging antitrust violations in decades. With Steptoe’s efforts, the investigation was finally terminated in March 2018.

Zhonghao Law Firm was a rising star in the field of international trade last year, and a first time winner in this category. Zhonghao was entrusted by Hanbang (Jiangyin) Petrochemical under the risk of rising prices of raw materials of the goods, and successfully guaranteed the company’s possession of goods with a total value of more than US$10 million.

IP (PATENT)

INT firms
Bird & Bird
CMS China
Deacons
Mayer Brown
Morgan Lewis & Bockius
Orrick
Ropes & Gray

“CCPIT covers the full technical spectrum with top-notch lawyers … who have a reputation for their clients’ business,” says one legal counsel commenting on CCPIT Patent and Trademark Law Office. The client recommends Deng Yi, a patent attorney of the firm. “She is very experienced in invalidation trials,” says the client. “We like to work with her because she has a quick understanding and accurately grasps the key points, which helps us to achieve our goals.”

Lifang & Partners grew at a rapid pace last year and was involved in numerous well-known cases including the Sohu-Baidu patent infringement case, and the Xiaomi and Yulong (subsidiary of Coolpad) patent infringement and invalidation case. Additionally, Lifang has served as Qihoo 360’s long-term agent in patent applications, and is one of Samsung’s designated patent agents in China. In April last year, South Korea’s Ministry of Justice approved Lifang’s establishment of an office in Seoul, the first office of a Chinese law firm established in South Korea. The main area of business of the office is intellectual property.

Orrick handled more than 10 cross-border IP disputes in the past year and helped many Chinese companies achieve favourable results in US International Trade Commission (ITC) investigations. For example, Orrick acted for Advanced Technology & Materials in an ITC trade secret misappropriation case, which is one of the very few, if not the only, trade secret case that a Chinese corporate respondent has won before the ITC.

Morgan Lewis & Bockius represented several big Chinese companies on patent infringement cases before US courts. In July and August 2018, Morgan Lewis significantly expanded its global IP practice with the addition of 16 partners, which enhances the firm’s patent prosecution and litigation and trial capabilities across the US, and for clients globally, particularly in the life sciences and technology industries.

IP (TRADEMARK)

PRC firms
An, Tian, Zhang & Partners
Chang Tsi & Partners
Guantao Law Firm
JunHe
King & Wood Mallesons
Tiantai Law Firm
Wanhuida Peksung
INT firms
Baker McKenzie FenXun
CMS China
Perkins Coie
Rouse
Stephenson Harwood
Vivien Chan & Co
Wilkinson & Grist

An Tian Zhang & Partners grew steadily in 2018, filing a great deal of opposition applications for international companies to protect their trademarks. For example, the firm represented Watson Enterprises and filed an opposition application against Foshan Nanguan Ceramics on its application for registering the trademark “屈臣氏” (Watsons in simplified Chinese).

Another IP boutique firm, Wanhuida Peksung, has a dozen trademark cases that are recognized as innovative or exemplary. They represented Anhui GuoRun Tea Industrial, a major Keemun tea maker, in invalidating the registration of Keemun Black Tea certification trademark. This was the first administrative litigation involving a dispute over the geographical range of a geographical indication mark.

Perkins Coie strengthened its IP service in May last year by recruiting Scott Palmer, who is fluent in Mandarin and now heads Perkins Coie’s IP group in China. “I have worked with the trademark team led by Scott Palmer for years,” says an intellectual property manager at a musical instrument company. “Their advice and counsel are always thorough, timely and level-headed. They give me advice based on the needs of my company and they always keep my budget in mind.”

Wilkinson & Grist acted for many high-profile clients including Reebok, The LEGO Group, IKEA and China Everbright. “They are quick, thorough and very knowledgeable,” says one legal counsel. “[Given] all the complexity for a non-Chinese speaker, they have been a great help to us to manage the portfolio.”

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

INT firms
Clifford Chance
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher
Morrison & Foerster
Ropes & Gray
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

Han Kun Law Offices advised on a number of big M&A deals in the market, such as Alibaba’s acquisition of Rajax Holding, Meituan-Dianping’s acquisition of Mobike, and China Literature’s acquisition of New Classics Media Corporation. Han Kun also hired three M&A experts from leading international and domestic law firms, including Paula Liu from Kirkland & Ellis, and Ethle Tang and Li Tao from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) served as legal counsel for JPMF Guangdong in its acquisition of Triumph Lead Group. This was the first example of a “backdoor listing + industrial integration”. KWM said this was a transaction that occurred after the issuance of the new restructuring rules.

Following the issuance of the new rules, the CSRC reviewed the subject enterprise in a backdoor listing based on the criteria for an initial public offering of stock, which further raised the compliance threshold for backdoor listings. Additionally, JPMF’s immense size and complex structure, plus the highly competitive industry environment in which it finds itself, and the tight schedule for the backdoor listing, placed great demands on the lawyers’ work.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher was praised for its work in M&A from a client with whom it has worked on several occasions. “Each time, not only does [Gibson Dunn] make me feel its strong legal professionalism, but also its extensive experience in M&A negotiations, which usually allows it to provide us with solid advice,” says the client.

As for notable deals, Gibson Dunn represented NAURA Technology Group in its US$15 million acquisition of Akrion Systems, which is the first CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) approval for any Chinese acquisition in the semiconductor sector since January 2017.

Morrison & Foerster has many innovative and market-leading clients. It served as international legal counsel for GLP, a leading global logistics provider, in its privatization process. This US$11.64 billion buyout and privatization of GLP ranks as one of the largest buyouts in Asia. Morrison & Foerster also has a very strong reputation in the telecoms, media and technology (TMT) sector. Its client list includes Airbnb, Alibaba and SoftBank.

PRIVATE EQUITY & VENTURE CAPITAL

INT firms
Cooley
Goodwin Procter
Kirkland & Ellis
Morrison & Foerster
Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison
Proskauer
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

“Reliability and professionalism on one occasion is not difficult. What is difficult, though, is sustained reliability … all of the Merits & Tree lawyers with whom we have worked are beyond reproach when it comes to professionalism,” said one client in the asset management business about Merits & Tree Law Offices. “Regardless of whether it is on a statutory holiday or during paid leave, or even during sick leave of the handling lawyer, delivery or handover is always arranged impeccably.”

Private equity is one of Merits & Tree’s core services, with numerous clients in the asset management business giving it high praise and recommending its managing partner, Jin Youyuan. “In project negotiations, Mr Jin’s approach is clear, with broad vision, and he is adept at thinking outside the box in endeavouring to benefit his clients,” said one client. “Where required by a project, he can closely match the project’s schedule and time requirements.”

In the past 12 months, numerous top-ranking investment firms and unicorn enterprises have been added to Shihui Partners’ client list, including ABC Capital Management, Huaxing Growth Capital, Huaxing Medical Industry Fund, Ameba Capital, Jolly Capital, Baidu Ventures, Sequoia Capital, JD Finance, JD Logistics, and Harvest Capital.

Last year, Shihui completed more than 200 private risk investment deals, including JD Logistics’ Series A financing and JD Finance’s Series B financing. “The Shihui team responds quickly, actively matches the company’s financing rhythm, works well with the company’s in-house legal team, accurately understands the company’s concerns, and seeks solutions in consequence,” says a corporate counsel client with a technology company.

In Key Safety Systems’ acquisition of Takata Corporation, Paul Weiss represented Asia-based private equity firm PAG in its investment in Joyson Safety Systems, the combined entity after the acquisition. This was reported to be the largest acquisition to date of a Japanese company by Chinese business entity.

Proskauer’s private equity practice also had another strong year. Notably, their private equity and real estate practices have added significant breadth and geographical coverage as they acted for Country Garden, BM Holding, Mori Building and Grand China, and in transactions covering a multitude of jurisdictions all over Asia.

RESTRUCTURING & INSOLVENCY

INT firms
Kirkland & Ellis
Latham & Watkins
ONC Lawyers
Ropes & Gray
Tanner de Witt
Watson Farley & Williams
Wilkinson & Grist

Chen & Co Law Firm’s team in this practice area is headed by partner Simon Chen, who is also president of bankruptcy and liquidation committee of Shanghai Bar Association. Chen & Co was designated as a bankruptcy administrator in the bankrupt liquidation of Shanghai Aero-Sharp Electric Technologies, a state-owned enterprise (SOE) in the photovoltaic industry.

As the bankruptcy administrator appointed by the Shanghai Municipal Higher People’s Court, Co-effort Law Firm recently handled four bankruptcy cases, one compulsory liquidation case and several restructuring and self-liquidation cases covering such industries as construction, computer technology, rubber product machinery, service industry, manufacturing, culture and leisure, wholesale and retail. Representative deals include the bankruptcies and liquidations of Shanghai Aerospace Comfort Environment Science, Shanghai Computer Technology Service, and Shanghai Niegu Industry.

Ropes & Gray’s China-based restructuring team has continued to advise on landmark restructuring and refinancing mandates across the region in the past year.

For example, it advised the additional noteholders on the pre-packaged reorganization plan of Global A&T Electronics, one of the most complex reorganizations completed in 2018, and advised on the largest bond restructuring in Mongolia for bondholders of the Mongolian Mining Company.

Latham & Watkins’ advice helped an asset management company recover a good return via a restructuring. “During the process, not only advising us on the legal terms, the Latham team also demonstrated strong business acumen and provided invaluable input on the commercial terms of the restructuring as well,” said the client.

STRUCTURED FINANCE & SECURITIZATION

INT firms
Allen & Overy
Ashurst
Clifford Chance
Davis Polk & Wardwell
Latham & Watkins
Linklaters
Sidley Austin

AllBright Law Offices provided legal services in a total of 90 asset securitization deals last year. In December 2018, the first “Huaneng Trust-Kaiyuan-Shimao residential lease asset-backed securities” with a trust company serving as plan manager was successfully offered on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, representing a shelf offering totalling RMB1 billion.

AllBright also acted as counsel in the “Jiaoyuan 2018 phase 2 credit card instalment asset-backed securities” deal, which raised RMB15 billion.

Haiwen & Partners’ representative deal last year was the “Yingda Securities-Huadian Power International power charge accounts receivable dedicated asset-backed plan”, which adopted the shelf model to make the offering in tranches for a total offering of RMB3 billion. One client in the asset management and consulting industry stated that Haiwen was very professional in the services it provided in the client’s quasi-REITS project, “as this project involved some relatively complex elements such as an asset restructuring, rational structuring of the product structure and dynamic adjustment; Haiwen commendably demonstrated its mastery in this sector in the course of providing legal services.”

JunZeJun Law Offices provided legal services in the public offering by Beijing Infrastructure Investment of social impact bonds. These bonds, with a registered amount of RMB5 billion, have a term of 10 years, a rating of AAA, and are the first social impact bonds publicly offered in China. JunZeJun explained that a market-oriented issuing entity and an interest rate-linked mechanism were brought into this sector for the first time in this project, and an innovative evaluation system was established for social impact bonds, setting a first in the domestic credit bond market, and having a relatively strong benchmark significance and demonstration effect.

TAXATION

PRC firms
Co-effort Law Firm
DHH Law Firm
FuJae Partners
Haiwen & Partners
Hwuason Law Firm
Rui Bai Law Firm
Tiantai Law Firm
INT firms
Baker McKenzie FenXun
CMS China
DLA Piper
Gide Loyrette Nouel
Hogan Lovells
Jones Day
Mayer Brown

Tiantai Law Firm’s tax law department has consistently been providing long-term legal counsel services and various litigation case representative services for the State Administration of Taxation, the Beijing tax system and the tax authorities of several provinces, municipalities and districts, due to the firm’s extensive tax law theoretical base and tax dispute resolution experience.

The tax team is led by Wang Jiaben, who is held in high esteem in the sector. In addition to serving in such public positions as an expert member of the State Administration of Taxation’s administration reconsideration committee, Wang has been invited by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate to serve as a member on its civil and administrative procedure case monitoring expert committee.

Most of the clients of DHH Law Firm’s tax law team are large central government-controlled enterprises, listed companies, new internet enterprises, high-tech manufacturing enterprises and resource and environmental protection enterprises. Counted among the team are a former officer of a tax authority, a former judge who was involved in administrative adjudication work for many years, a former tax manager who was involved in tax work for many years in a large enterprise, and lawyers with extensive experience in criminal procedure.

Hogan Lovells supports a range of industry sectors in taxation, and they are best known for work with education and manufacturing clients. Hogan Lovells advised the Juilliard School on the establishment of two joint venture schools in the Tianjin Free Trade Zone, with a total investment of more than US$80 million. The firm is also providing full support on all transfer pricing-related matters for New York University in China.

INDUSTRIS

AVIATION

INT firms
Baker McKenzie FenXun
Clifford Chance
Holman Fenwick Willan

At the beginning of 2018, Comsys Financial Leasing completed the acquisition and finance leasing of an A380 aircraft to Mauritius-based operating lessor, Veling Group, and concluded a 12-year operating lease deal with Emirates Airlines. King & Wood Mallesons served as lead counsel in this complex deal arrangement.

The firm also represented the leasing company, Pembroke, a subsidiary of Standard Chartered, in completing an operating lease for seven B737-800 aircraft with China Eastern Airlines Corporation. This was Standard Chartered’s first leasing deal in a bonded zone in China.

Holman Fenwick Willan’s (HFW) expertise and work continues to be recognized by the industry, with Justin Sun driving the aviation practice in China. A recent deal involved assisting Avolon to close a complex arrangement relating to three 787-9s and one A330 aircraft, for a number of airlines in HNA Group. According to HFW, the deal involved complicated free-trade zone structuring, and the team successfully closed the deal on all four aircraft in one day.

One client from a large leasing company recommended HFW’s Justin Sun, saying: “[He] is adept at resolving those prickly legal and commercial issues that crop up in a deal, organically integrating our business demands and legal protection, and always standing on the client’s side, considering the client’s business interests in a holistic manner and providing professional and reliable legal advice.”

CONSTRUCTION AND INFRASTRUCTURE

INT firms
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Deacons
Herbert Smith Freehills
MinterEllison
Norton Rose Fulbright
Pinsent Masons
Shearman & Sterling

City Development Law Firm provided services in numerous large construction and infrastructure projects in China, most notably the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, but also including Shanghai International Finance Centre, Hangzhou-Shaoxing-Taizhou Expressway, China Pacific Insurance (Group) data centre, Far East Horizon Plaza, Shanghai Stock Exchange Jinqiao Technical Centre Base, CCDC’s Shanghai data centre, etc. The firm’s services covered construction project proposals, project bid invitations, drafting of contracts, contract reviews, contract negotiations, contract management, performance management, and day-to-day operations.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is the first world-class, trans-sea transportation project constructed with co-operation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau under the One Country Two Systems framework, with a total investment exceeding RMB100 billion (US$14.91 billion). To date, it is the world’s longest trans-sea bridge, spanning 55 kilometres, linking bridges, islands and tunnels together, which presented complicated construction difficulties. It has been dubbed the “project of the century”.

Lu Guofei, the head of Boss & Young’s construction and infrastructure team, was praised by numerous clients. “As an expert in construction and infrastructure, Mr Lu’s strengths in legal analysis and court adjudication are outstanding,” says one in-house counsel. “His arguments on, and responses to, anxiety-inducing issues are not only solidly rooted in laws and regulations, but also reflect his mastery of industry conventions and practices.” Another in-house counsel states that Lu “thinks clearly, speaks briefly to the point, and gets to the heart of a matter in an instant when proposing a solution”.

Herbert Smith Freehills’ team was reinforced following the arrival of three experienced construction and infrastructure partners Hew Kian Heong, Michelle Li and Ellen Zhang in late 2017. Their notable work includes advising a specialist contractor on its involvement in the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link Project, where they provide full project lifecycle advice.

EDUCATION

INT firms
Bird & Bird
CMS China
Hogan Lovells
Mills & Reeve
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Tian Yuan Law Firm provided legal services in numerous IPOs during last year’s wave of education industry listings. For example, Tian Yuan served as Chinese legal counsel in the Hong Kong listing of Beststudy Education, southern China’s largest educational group, the first stock listing in Hong Kong of a training enterprise.

In the listing of Henan Chunlai Education Group on Hong Kong’s main board, Tian Yuan stated that a mere four days before the hearing date, the Ministry of Justice issued the Implementing Regulations for the Law on the Promotion of Private Education (Draft Sent for Review), sending waves through the market. At this key juncture during the listing process, Tian Yuan, with time pressing on all sides, submitted to HKEx and the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong an analysis of the legal impact of the above-mentioned draft regulations, and continually responded in a timely manner to repeated inquiries by the regulators, ensuring that the hearing for the project was conducted at the appointed time and successfully passed.

Shihui Partners is accomplished in education industry-related financing. Shihui represented Bertelsmann Asia Investments in completing its Pre-A Series investment, totaling US$4.5 million, and in Beijing Xiaobu Dacheng Technology (Xiaobu), which has a main business focus of at-home early education courses. Subsequently, it also assisted Xiaobu in completing its Series A financing, totaling more than US$10 million. Shihui also represented THG Ventures in completing its Series A financing, totalling RMB30 million, of Shenzhen Caibei Education Technology on 9 July 2018.

CMS China last year advised several universities on joint educational programmes, or the establishment of training centres. A UK university complimented CMS’s China office for advising it on establishing joint educational institutes and joint educational partnerships with universities in China, saying: “The lawyers there work in close partnership with CMS offices in the UK who understand our business, and the result is an excellent service that has seen considerable understanding of our business in China by CMS China.”

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR) participated in several IPO and other projects relating to education industries, including the Hong Kong IPOs of China Beststudy Education, China 21st Century Education Group, Kingsley EduGroup, and the US IPO of Puxin Education. WSGR also represented Bright Scholar in its follow-on offering in the US and a series of
ongoing acquisitions and investments.

ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES

INT firms
Baker Botts
Baker McKenzie FenXun
Cassels Brock & Blackwell
Cleary Gottlieb
Eversheds Sutherland
Herbert Smith Freehills
Jones Day

With the rollout of the Belt and Road Initiative, Jincheng Tongda & Neal (JT&N) has provided legal services for the overseas expansion of numerous Chinese enterprises. The firm was involved in September 2018, when Zijin Mining officially executed transaction documents with the Republic of Serbia under which Zijin secured 63% of the shares of the RTB Bor group and agreed to inject approximately US$1.26 billion within six years from the closing date to be used for the expansion and new construction of a mine and smelting plant. Once the project is completed, the mine is projected to have an annual output of copper concentrate containing 120,000 tons of copper and the smelting plant production of approximately 150,000 tons of cathode copper.

In September of the same year, China Nonferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering and Construction successfully acquired Indonesia’s Dairi Prima Mineral. Dairi Prima Mineral’s chief asset, a lead-zinc deposit, is one of the world’s highest-quality undeveloped deposits of its kind. It is projected that the project will be completed and come on stream by the end of 2021. In the two above-mentioned deals, JT&N served as legal counsel for the Chinese enterprise.

Sunshine Law Firm has, over many years, served as legal counsel to the investor, project owner, financing party or other project participant in the development and construction of energy projects, including electric power, coal, oil, natural gas, etc., in China and abroad. In the Mozura wind farm investment and construction project, Sunshine served as legal counsel to the developer, Shanghai Electric Power. This project was the first wind power development project in Montenegro. Other projects in which Sunshine had a hand include the Zhanatas 100MW wind power acquisition and development project in Kazakhstan, and the Xiapu Nuclear Power CFR600 reactor technology introduction and project development.

Baker McKenzie FenXun advised CITIC Metal in its acquisition of a 19.5% stake in Canadian mining company Ivanhoe Mines for C$723 million (US$ 544 million). It also advised a Chinese bank on the legal and financing structure for the development of an upstream facility in Ethiopia, a cross-border gas pipeline between Ethiopia and Djibouti, and an LNG terminal in Djibouti.

A client recommended Bee Chun Boo, at Baker McKenzie FenXun, for her rich experience in the energy and natural resources sector. “She has profound legal expertise and excellent negotiation skills, which help us a lot in those projects,” says the client. “[And] she can organize lawyers and experts from different countries and regions to accomplish difficult tasks efficiently.”

A France-based bank praised Eversheds Sutherland: “During my experience working with Eversheds, they have provided services of the highest standard.” The client also recommends Jay Ze for being “a very professional and knowledgeable lawyer in the energy & natural resources space”.

FAMILY WEALTH MANAGEMENT

PRC firms
AnJie Law Firm
Commerce & Finance Law Offices
Dentons
Hylands Law Firm
Lantai Partners
Rayyin & Partners P.R.C. Lawyers
Yingke Law Firm
INT firms
Harney Westwood & Riegels
Herbert Smith Freehills
Norton Rose Fulbright
Taylor Wessing
Vivien Teu & Co
Wilkinson & Grist
Withers

In 2018, Lantai Partners established the Family Office, creating a higher education expert database with such institutes of higher learning as Renmin University of China and Beijing Institute of Technology, to endeavour to tailor for its clients plans for the protection and passing on of family wealth. Lantai is also providing legal counsel services for the family trust business of the head office of China CITIC Bank from 2018-2020, and is continuing to provide teaching services in the form of internal training, wealth salons and large forums for private high net worth customers of China CITIC Bank.

Harney Westwood & Riegels (Harneys)’ Asia family wealth management team is led by Cayman partner Henry Mander, and supported by a team of associates based in Singapore and Shanghai offices. During the past year, Harneys continued to regularly advise large trust companies, in addition to being instructed on several complex trust structuring, estate planning and cross-border estate matters, as well as on BVI probate applications and estate administrations. Its client list includes families from China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

In addition to providing legal services to numerous high net worth individuals, Yingke Law Firm also serves as the external law firm for a number of institutions including Ping An Bank, Noah Holdings, Bank of China, CreditEase Wealth Management (Beijing), CR Trust, Taikang Life Insurance, Athena Best Financial Group, and KENDRIS.

FINTECH & BLOCKCHAIN

INT firms
Baker McKenzie FenXun
Herbert Smith Freehills
Hogan Lovells
Mayer Brown
Morrison & Foerster
Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

Many clients recommended Wang Zhenhua, partner in the Shanghai office of Tahota Law Firm. Wang and his team are one of the earliest specialized teams in China’s legal business to provide blockchain legal services. His team served as legal counsel for the Wu Tong Chain sponsored by Tongji University, as well as a number of blockchain companies, and wrote several articles on the industry that drew the attention of governments or the industry.

Liao Huaixue, a lawyer in Tahota’s Beijing office, is also well versed in fintech, and concurrently serves as a researcher in the Tencent Research Institute, regularly providing internet law and policy research and consulting to Tencent Technology (Shenzhen). “At present, Tahota Law Firm’s achievements in dedicated services and research in the fintech and blockchain field are stand-out from other domestic law firms,” one client from a blockchain research institute notes.

The projects in which AllBright Law Offices was involved last year include: the provision of investment fact finding and due diligence services to Continent Financial Technology, a fintech subsidiary of China Continent Insurance; the provision of legal services to JD Finance; serving as legal counsel for China UnionPay; and the provision of legal services for innovation in Global Logistics Properties’ supply chain finance business model.

Recently notable work of Hogan Lovells includes advising Citigroup on its Hong Kong digital banking initiatives, in particular its activities in being the first Hong Kong bank to open application programme interfaces (APIs) for access by developers. They advised Citi on drafting its terms of participation, including complex aspects such as drafting of an API licence enabling participants to interface their technologies with Citi’s development systems.

Morrison & Foerster represented several major players in the fintech industry, including the independent committee of Alibaba Group Holding in relation to Alibaba’s acquisition of a 33% equity interest in Ant Small and Micro Financial Services Group. The law firm also represented Oriente, a Hong Kong-based financial services and technology company, in its US$105 million initial funding round. The deal is reported to be one of the largest initial funding rounds by any startup in Asia.

HEALTHCARE, PHARMA & LIFE SCIENCES

PRC firms
Commerce & Finance Law Offices
Global Law Office
Grandway Law Offices
Kangda Law Firm
Llinks Law Offices
PacGate Law Group
Tian Yuan Law Firm
INT firms
Bird & Bird
Cooley
Morrison & Foerster
Morgan Lewis & Bockius
O’Melveny & Myers
Sidley Austin
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

In 2018, Commerce & Finance Law Offices assisted numerous biopharmaceutical companies in listing in Hong Kong. For example, in the Ascletis Pharma Hong Kong listing, Commerce & Finance served as Chinese legal counsel for the sponsor. This was the first successful listing of a biopharmaceutical company after the entry into effect of the new rules for HKEx’s main board. Clients to whom the firm provided services include Innovent Biologics, Hua Medicine, Fusen Pharmaceutical, Zai Lab, etc. A client in the biotech industry recommended Commerce & Finance’s Zhang Xiaoman, saying, “Every time we inquired about an issue, Mr Zhang responded patiently in a prompt manner, providing us with a great deal of support in terms of laws and regulations.”

“Llinks demonstrates tremendous legal professionalism,” is how one client in the medical technology industry assesses Llinks Law Offices. “Something else that really gratifies us is Llinks’ profound grasp of knowledge in the medical industry, not only serving for the current requirements of the enterprise’s project, but also actively assisting in the planning of subsequent relevant legal matters.”

Another client of Llinks recommended Yang Xun, the firm’s partner in Shanghai, for his “solid knowledge and extensive experience”, adding, “he not only has a solid knowledge of the law itself but also a good understanding of the legislative trends. Additionally, what makes him distinctive is his understanding of the special features of our life science business.”

In China, Cooley focuses on a full spectrum of practices for life sciences clients, including corporate partnering, licensing, complex mergers, acquisitions and disposition transactions, and other commercial transactions. Last year, Cooley advised CStone Pharmaceuticals on its exclusive collaboration and licence agreement with Blueprint Medicines to develop and commercialize its cancer therapy, avapritnib, in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Its client list also includes Tocagen, Shenzhen Salubris Pharmaceuticals, and VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals.

In 2018, Sidley Austin continued to attract major new clients such as Tasly Holding Group, Suzhou Kintor Pharmaceuticals, and Merus. Sidley’s notable deals include: advising Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding on its joint venture with Phililab; and representing Auransa, an AI-driven pharmaceutical company, in a licensing agreement granting China Oncology Focus exclusive rights to develop and commercialize Auransa’s AU018 in China and other countries of Southeast Asia.

One corporate in-house counsel with a pharmaceutical group said he was very happy working with Sidley Austin’s Shanghai team, and recommended two partners, Li Lei and Joseph Chan. “They are extremely professional and dedicated, responsive and co-operative, and bring to bear global resources,” he said. “Another plus is that they are the legal team of a foreign law firm that best understands and respects Chinese state-owned enterprises with whom I have worked.”

INSURANCE & REINSURANCE

INT firms
Clyde & Co.
Herbert Smith Freehills
Holman Fenwick Willan
Howse Williams Bowers
Ince & Co
Kennedys Law
Reynolds Porter Chamberlain

The projects in which AnJie Law Firm was involved in 2018 include the issuance of legal opinions and the drafting and revision of the transaction documents for the Taiping–Shanghai Nuclear Construction Science and Technology Park project immovable property bond plan sponsored and established by Taiping Asset Management Company, and involving an investment of RMB1.1 billion; and the issuance of legal opinions, and the drafting and revision of the transaction documents, for the China Life–Tianshan infrastructure bond investment plan sponsored and established by China Life Asset Management, and involving an investment of RMB2 billion.

Additionally, Sun Life Everbright Asset Management, AEON Insurance Asset Management, and Ping An Life Insurance Company of China are counted on AnJie’s list of clients. AnJie’s insurance team also brought in partners Li Gang and Samuel Qi last year, enhancing the firm’s capabilities in insurance and maritime affairs.

One client from an insurance company says that, with respect to especially difficult cases, Zhonghao Law Firm is its go-to counsel. “Zhonghao’s team is extremely accomplished, its personnel sufficient and stable, and its structure rational. Its lawyers are quite familiar with internal procedures, compliance monitoring requirements, etc., of an insurance company, and are highly professional,” says the client.

“What is most important is the harmonious and energetic air about Zhonghao’s team and the mutual co-operation among its members.”

Zhonghao’s clients also recommend Freyr Chen, Jason Li, and Cui Lie. The clients say Chen is extremely knowledgeable in trauma and disability medicine-related dispute cases, while Li is praised by the working personnel of the Lujiazui Court in Pudong, Shanghai. A client in the insurance industry also praised Cui’s team, saying each member is accomplished and capable.

Headed by Rosie Ng, Holman Fenwick Willan’s team continues to expand. Its capability also now extends to product liability, property, employee compensation and common law claims, public liability, trade credit and political risk, cyber and reinsurance.

Insurance remains a key sector for Ince & Co. Its established clients include most of the major Chinese insurance companies such as China Reinsurance Corporation, People’s Insurance Company of China, China Pacific Insurance Company, Ping An of China, China Taiping Insurance Group.

IT, TELECOMS & E-COMMERCE

INT firms
Dorsey & Whitney
Goodwin Procter
Morrison & Foerster
Morgan Lewis & Bockius
Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

A legal counsel from a South Korean internet company is happy with services provided by Han Kun Law Offices. “They are prompt, diligent and knowledgeable in these fields. Often, when we review new services in the PRC, they have been very helpful,” says the client. Han Kun’s clint list in this sector is made up of many indusry leaders including Baidu, Tencent, JD.com, LINE, HP, Verizon Wireless, Naver, Lenovo, Philips, 58.com, AsiaInfo and Ericsson.

It also routinely represents mainstream funds including Hillhouse, Softbank, Warburg Pincus, KPCB, CDH Ventures, Sequoia, DT Capital, IDG, etc., in its investments into Chinese markets relating to this sector.

A client of Llinks Law Offices considers that the law firm has great service and expertise on IT matters. “As [we are] a fund company, IT systems are of course very important and the cyber security law creates new rules for us,” says the client. “Their in-depth understanding towards the business and laws/regulations, as well as practical advice, turned out to be very helpful.”

Goodwin Procter regularly represents private equity funds, as well as their portfolio companies, in their investments in IT, telecoms & e-commerce sectors, and major transactions last year included Ant Financial’s US$14 billion series C financing, Xiaomi’s US$4.7 billion Hong Kong IPO, and the merger between Trusted Doctors and Tencent Doctorwork to form one of the largest private medical care networks in China.

In 2018, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison represented Naspers, a South African media group, in its disposal and placing of approximately 2% of the issued share capital of the Chinese internet giant, Tencent. The offering raised gross proceeds of approximately US$9.8 billion.

Paul Weiss also advised DiDi Chuxing, a China-based mobile transportation platform, in a 14.8% investment stake in Cango, a China-based automotive e-commerce platform. And the law firm advised International Game Technology in its joint venture with China’s Telling Telecommunication.

MEDIA, ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS

INT firms
Bird & Bird
Covington & Burling
Goodwin Procter
Latham & Watkins
Paul Weiss Rifkin Wharton & Garrison
Proskauer
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

In 2018, Hiways Law Firm provided legal services for more than 120 films, television dramas and online dramas.

Among those, Hiways provided full menu of dedicated services in respect of such matters as the participation in the investment in the film Jixian Tegong 4 by Chinese investors, the Chinese actors Roy Wang, Jay Chou and Zoe Zhang playing roles in the film, the “pre-heating” and promotion of the film in the Chinese market, new media tie-in products, the planning and promotion of tie-in performances, and a related television drama.

Hiways Law Firm explained that, in addition to legal services, its dedicated film and television team provided for the Chinese investors and American producers a fine-grained exposition and explanation of matters that differ quite substantially in the process of making a film in China and the US, for example specific issues relating to the “greenlight certificate”, completion guarantee, waterfall, etc., thereby effectively avoiding any misunderstandings and biases cropping up due to differences in business culture and film production processes.

The culture and media projects in which Hiways was involved include the Oriental Pearl Media Industry Equity Investment Fund project, and the acquisition of an equity stake in Great Sports Media by Shanghai Juss Sports Development (Group) and Shanghai Jiushi Investment Management by way of a capital increase.

Boss & Young represented XD Network in suing the operator of the game platform, TutuApp, for infringement of computer software copyrights, claiming that TutuApp provided, without authorization, free download of the game ICEY operated by XD Network. Through the collection and analysis of evidence, Boss & Young successfully led the court to uphold the plaintiff’s demand that multiple operators that operated TutuApp bear joint and several liability.

Given that the losses suffered by the rights holder and the benefits derived by the infringers were difficult to substantiate, the court, comprehensively considering the existing evidence, lawfully rendered a judgment ordering the infringers to bear damages in the amount of RMB1 million, an amount greater than the statutory damage rate. Bird & Bird worked on a number of projects for the Hong Kong Jockey Club in the past 12 months, including a seven-jurisdiction survey on selected gambling issues. It also worked with Riot Games, a leading e-sports company, and Exceeds, a mass participation sport organizer.

Latham & Watkins received praise in this field from the senior counsel of a large Chinese internet technology company. “Latham has the most knowledgeable media, entertainment and sports lawyers in the industry, and many of the clients that they represent are the top-most companies in the industry,” says the client, who recommends Lex Kuo, counsel with the firm, saying, “Mr Kuo has extensive experience and his own unique approach to the various types of projects in which the investment, authorizations, co-production, etc., differ between Hollywood and China.”

REAL ESTATE & REIT

INT firms
Baker McKenzie FenXun
DLA Piper
Mayer Brown
Morrison & Foerster
Paul Hastings
Proskauer
Sidley Austin

The projects in which Jingtian & Gongcheng were involved, and completed last year, include: the listing of Zhenro Properties Group on HKEx’s main board; the public offering of the first tranche of 2017 of asset-backed notes of Beijing Uni-construction Real Estate Development, which was the first state-owned enterprise commercial real estate mortgage loan-backed notes offered on the interbank market; the offshore public offering of senior debt in the amount of US$850 million by Country Garden Holdings; the listing of the Sasseur REIT on the main board of Singapore Exchange Limited; and the offshore offering of 8.5% senior debt in the amount of US$400 million by the Agile Group.

Zhong Lun Law Firm was involved in the Shenzhen Capital Group-Talents Housing Group dedicated talents leased housing asset-backed plan (shelf offering) sponsored and established by SZVC Realty Capital, as the co-ordinator, and approved by the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in May 2018. This is the first public talents leased housing quasi-REIT product in China, totalling a shelf amount of RMB20 billion. Zhong Lun served as legal counsel in this deal.

Furthermore, Zhong Lun provided legal services for the offering of the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) product “Great Wall Securities–Beijing Heshenghui dedicated asset-backed plan”, led by Hopson Development Holdings, which also provides credit enhancement, and for which Great Wall Securities serves as manager. The product had an offering size totaling RMB5.6 billion, the largest CMBS product offered on the market in the first half of 2018.

Mayer Brown represented a mainland Chinese client in the HK$9.95 billion (US$1.26 billion) acquisition of the entire Grade A office building at 18 King Wah Road, North Point, through the acquisition of the equity interest in the property holding companies. It hit a record-breaking price for the acquisition of commercial office space that is not in the traditional central business district of Hong Kong.

Mayer Brown also represented Swire Properties in relation to the framework agreement with Shanghai Newbund Industrial Development for the joint development of a retail project with an expected total gross floor area of approximately 124,000 square metres. According to Mayer Brown, the proposed joint venture relates to a large project in Qiantan, which is a new international business district of Shanghai.

Morrison & Foerster represented GLP, a leading global provider of logistics, in its US$11.6 billion privatization. A consortium of investors led by China Vanke acquired GLP’s all issued and paid-up shares. This buyout and privatization ranks as one of the largest buyouts in Asia.

Morrison & Foerster’s notable deals also include advising SoftBank in connection with its US$4.4 billion investments into WeWork Companies. The deal marks one of the largest investments in a private company to date.

SHIPPING

PRC firms
Co-effort Law Firm
Hai Tong & Partners
Sloma & Co
Wang Jing & Co
Wincon Law Firm
Wintell & Co
Yingke Law Firm
INT firms
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Clyde & Co
Holman Fenwick Willan
Ince & Co
Reed Smith
Stephenson Harwood
Watson Farley & Williams

Sloma & Co’s maritime experts, Yu Genrong and Lin Yuanming, were selected for the “national talent pool of lawyers handling foreign-related matters”. One client in the shipping industry commented that it has always had supreme confidence in the firm. “[Sloma] has always quickly responded to, and provided professional and detailed legal advice in respect of, our queries regarding disputes involving marine transport, freight forwarding and other maritime matters, and the drafting and revision of contracts and other legal issues,” says the client.

“Additionally, [Sloma] has striven at various points in the past to maximize our, our parent’s, and our affiliates’ benefits in numerous disputes, enabling our group to recover, avoid or minimize losses to the greatest extent possible.”

In Sanfu Ship Engineering v PICC Shipping Insurance Operation Centre, the retrial of a ship construction insurance contract dispute, Wintell & Co, serving as representative for PICC Shipping Insurance Operation Centre, participated in all proceedings at first instance, appeal and retrial, and successfully minimized losses for the client. Wintell said that in this case, the Supreme People’s Court actively addressed legal issues that had long been the subject of furious debate in the shipbuilding and insurance industries, issues which will have a positive impact on promoting the steady and healthy development of the marine transport insurance industry.