As China’s growth model changes, transactions and disputes pose tougher challenges for legal counsel. Richard Li and Leo Long report on the most outstanding of all

The world is watching China’s economic slowdown with mixed feelings, but the past 12 months have still yielded many thrilling transactions and landmark cases.

The domestic market has generated weighty mergers and acquisitions, with the groundbreaking combination of China North Rail and China South Rail being probably the most impressive. The anticipated integration of the two giants’ technologies and research capabilities provoked a big leap in the market valuation of the new company.

Competition in the technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) sector has been as fierce as ever. The US$1.1 billion financing from All-Stars Investment and other investors made Xiaomi, a leading Chinese smartphone maker, the world’s highest-valued tech startup.

The merger between the two operators of taxi-calling apps, Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache, created the largest transportation mobile platform in China, although this newly emerged service still faces regulatory uncertainty.

Traditional internet giants are expanding their reach in other sectors. The headline-making Alibaba acquired about a 20% stake of Suning, a leading electronics retailer in China. JD.com and Tencent invested about US$1.55 billion into Bitauto, a leading provider of marketing services for the automotive industry.

The banking industry in China is undergoing reform. Shanghai Hua Rui Bank has been established as one of the first five private banks included in a pilot scheme approved by the State Council. The creation of Zhong Yuan Bank has been so far the largest reorganization of city commercial banks in mainland China.

China’s passion for grabbing outbound opportunities has hit a record high, featuring a wide geographical and industrial spread. Chinese and Indonesian companies will work together to construct the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail, an important step forward in building China’s “high speed rail” brand globally. China National Petroleum Corporation’s subsidiary also secured a construction contract for an oil refinery in Iraq.

Other overseas highlights include Fosun’s acquisition of the majority stake of a large private healthcare group in Portugal, Shanghai Jiuchuan Investment’s purchase of an Israeli telemedicine company, Shanghai Electric Power’s investment in renewable energy projects in Malta, and DMG’s subscription to new shares of a South Korean television producer.

On the cross-border trade battlefields, China’s photovoltaic industry gained a full victory in an anti-dumping investigation in Australia, the first of its kind in foreign jurisdictions. On the other hand, the German company Fresenius Medical Care Deutschland also emerged victorious in the first anti-dumping investigation of the central government involving medical equipment.

Chinese companies have also been active in overseas capital markets. ICBC’s debut offering of preference shares marked the first Additional Tier 1 capital offering in three currencies, China Cinda Finance became the first listed issuer in the Channel Islands with an ultimate parent company from China, and Bank of China issued the world’s first multibillion-dollar four-currency bonds.

The winning deals have, as in previous years, been chosen based on a number of factors, not just large monetary values. The overall significance, complexity and innovative nature of the deals were also considered, as well as the deal size and broader interests.

China Business Law Journal’s independent editorial team made its own choices on the deals that we felt were the shining stars for the year. All law firms chosen are listed in alphabetical order to avoid presumptions of ranking.

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