With India back in the limelight, and now the world’s fastest growing major economy, we reveal the top international law firms for India-related work. Vandana Chatlani reports

The past 12 months have been a roller-coaster ride for global politics. The UK’s shock decision to leave the EU sent markets tumbling, weakening the pound and dampening investor sentiment. What are the implications for Indian companies operating in and outside the UK?

The British government’s position on various matters under the EU charter such as trade, immigration, customs, tax and banking hangs in the balance, with the walls crumbling around Prime Minister Theresa May, after her ruling Conservative party lost its majority in this month’s UK election.

The UK government said at the end of 2015 that Indian companies were investing more in the UK than in the rest of the EU combined, and many Indian lawyers remain convinced that the India-UK relationship will remain strong despite the current political chaos. However, will India continue to use the UK as a springboard to invest in other economies around Europe, or will its route to those markets change?

Calls to close borders echoed across the Atlantic when Donald Trump defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to become the 45th US president. Trump has pledged to erect an “impenetrable”, “powerful” southern border wall between the US and Mexico, and to “buy American and hire American”, saying that “policies that allow business to be ripped out of the United States like candy from a baby” should be stopped.

But what does this mean for India? Trump has called Prime Minister Narendra Modi “a great man” and applauded him for being “very energetic in reforming India’s bureaucracy”. He also promised that if he became president, he would guarantee that “the Indian and Hindu community [in the US] will have a true friend in the White House”. But will such sentiments hold true a year from now? Given Trump’s tendency to contradict himself and backtrack on policy viewpoints, any optimism with regard to India should be viewed with caution.

Last November in India, businesses faced the sudden onslaught of demonetization – the overnight withdrawal of ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes from India’s banking system. The government’s intention was to streamline economic policy and curb black money, but while some viewed it as a bold political act, others slammed it for hurting businesses and trampling on India’s vast informal economy, which depends predominantly on cash payments.

The prime minister then turned his attention to attracting foreign investment, by relaxing requirements and lifting caps in sectors such as civil aviation, defence, food products and pharmaceuticals, restoring vigour and renewing interest in India’s domestic market. Keen to play down India’s poor standing in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index, Modi tweeted that the reforms made India “the most open economy in the world for [foreign direct investment]”. All of this is reflected in the buoyancy of India-related deals over the past 12 months, despite global political uncertainty (see Bustling market). According to data from deal tracker Mergermarket, law firms and in-house counsel closed 388 India-related deals worth US$64 billion in 2016 – US$30 billion more than the total in 2015.

RIGOROUS ANALYSIS

With fast-moving political events requiring close attention, companies will continue to rely on international lawyers to grapple with political, economic and regulatory changes in and outside of India in order to steer their businesses in the right direction. To help inform their choice of international advisers, India Business Law Journal recognizes the India-related accomplishments and activities of law firms around the world. Our report, now in its 11th year, draws on an analysis of more than 600 law firms from every continent that have documented deals and cases with an Indian element in the past 12 months. To maintain objectivity, our results are based on rigorous research, in-depth editorial experience, and wide consultation with corporate counsel, Indian law firms and a burgeoning network of contacts.

As in previous years, we received hundreds of submissions from law firms and carefully examined public and other records, along with reports in Indian and international media, to ensure the accuracy of our information.

Based on this research, we are pleased to present our selection of the top 10 foreign law firms for India-related work. We also recognize 15 firms that are considered key players for India-related deals, and an additional 20 firms are seen as significant players.

As always, we pay close attention to regional and specialist firms in key economies such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and Singapore, and emerging regions such as sub-Saharan Africa. We highlight 15 firms in this category that are committed and capable of fielding India-related assignments.

We further feature 25 “firms to watch” and 15 firms to watch in the regional category. Some of these firms provide a full spectrum of legal services in multiple practice areas spread across a geographically diverse network of offices. Other firms offer niche specialties to help India-centric clients with their investments, funding and disputes. We believe, on the evidence available, that these firms are dedicated to India and keen to attract India-related work.

All of the lists are in alphabetical order. The law firms in our top 10 table are equipped with a depth and breadth of expertise across practice areas to serve India-focused clients. Due to their sheer size, multi-industry capabilities, geographical spread and fine-tuned relationships with Indian companies and law firms, they are consistently reined in as counsel on complex and high-profile transactions involving Indian parties. The names in this category rarely change but some thriving firms in the “key players” and “significant players” categories could give established law firms a run for their money, creating even further competition as firms jostle for position at the top.

Top 10 table 1

Allen & Overy is acknowledged by peers and clients to have a solid reputation for India-related transactions. The firm has 100 partners and associates spread across London, Hong Kong and Singapore who focus on India work across a wide spectrum of practice areas. Its recent achievements include advising Volcan Investments on its investment in Anglo American; JERA (a joint venture between Tokyo Electric Power Company and Chubu Electric Power Company) on its acquisition of a 10% equity stake in ReNew Power Ventures; Yes Bank on its US$750 million qualified institutional placement; and Idea Cellular on the international aspects of the US$23 billion merger between Idea and Vodafone India, which will create India’s largest mobile telephone operator. London banking partner Sanjeev Dhuna recently joined Jonathan Brayne as co-chair of the firm’s India group.

Mukesh Bhavnani, Group General Counsel, Bharti Enterprises

Ashurst, with its longstanding dedication to India, diversity of work, enthusiastic client endorsements and a tie-up with Indian Law Partners, deservingly seizes a spot in the top 10. The firm has advised on Vedanta’s US$2.3 billion merger with Cairn India; a number of India-related arbitrations including a dispute concerning a failed investment in India’s solar power sector; India’s first high-yield green bond issuance overseas, by Greenko; and Toshiba’s investment in water and waste management company UEM India. Mukesh Bhavnani, Bharti Enterprises’ group general counsel, says “Ashurst is among the best UK law firms I have worked with”, while Sumit Agarwal, vice president of Kotak Mahindra Capital, praises its “excellent team with personalized involvement of all top counsel”. Nisha Kaur Uberoi, head of the competition law practice at Trilegal, says Ashurst “has made strong inroads into India in infrastructure and infrastructure-related M&A”. She recommends Richard Gubbins and Matthew Bubb, who “bring to bear a commercially sound, innovative approach and tremendous attention to detail”. Ethan Perry, Stuart Rubin and Kunal Kapoor are also highly rated.

Anoop Khatry, General Counsel, Suzlon

Baker McKenzie attracts an impressive array of clients with Indian interests. Anoop Khatry, the general counsel of Suzlon, says negotiations for a US-related project financing were “enriching as they understand the objective of business”. He praises Pallavi Gopinath Aney for being “practical”, “competitive” and “cost-conscious” and adds that the firm is “far more flexible than other biggies” in terms of legal fees. Kumar Medhavi, senior vice president of legal risk management at Yes Bank in Mumbai, highly recommends banking and finance specialist Prashanth Venkatesh, who is “prompt, competent and fully committed”. The firm has advised Adani Mining, a subsidiary of Adani Enterprises, on the rail and port infrastructure work required to facilitate the US$9 billion Carmichael mining project; Mibelle Group on its joint venture with Future Consumer Enterprise for the commercialization and manufacture of Swiss-Indian personal care products in India; and Sistema on the corporate and competition aspects of the US$800 million demerger of Sistema’s Indian wireless business with Reliance Communications.

Clifford Chance has had its eye on India for over 50 years and has steadily built up its credentials with a series of marquee deals. On its client roster are names such as ONGC Videsh, Indiabulls Real Estate and State Bank of India. Recently, it was counsel to the underwriters on the international law aspects of the US$785 million initial public offering by IRB InvIT Fund – India’s first IPO by an infrastructure investment trust – on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India. Over the past 12 months, the firm has advised the Carlyle Group on its US$100 million investment in Indian logistics company Delhivery, and represented Nomura Financial Advisory & Securities India, Axis Capital, JP Morgan India and Edelweiss Financial Services on the US$200 million IPO of Alkem Laboratories. “Rahul Guptan … would definitely feature among the top five international [lawyers] for India work,” says one loyal client.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer wins accolades for its role on meaty matters. The firm is a magnet for companies with Indian interests looking to seal deals at home and overseas as evidenced by its presence on seven India Business Law Journal 2016 Deals of the Year – more than any other international firm. A key highlight was representing Essar on the sale of a 49% stake to Russian oil major Rosneft for US$13 billion – one of the largest M&A deals in Indian history. Other interesting assignments include advising Shanghai Feilo Acoustics on its purchase of 80% of Havells India’s lighting business – one of the few deals involving a Chinese buyer and an Indian seller, and acting for a US-based company in relation to criminal proceedings concerning allegations of forgery in India. One client, who instructs the firm on India-related matters with an international component, recommends Alan Mason “for his extensive international and cross-border transaction experience” and Arun Balasubramanian “for his in-depth knowledge and track record on Indian matters”. Balasubramanian is a key contact for India matters following the resignation of long-time India group chair Pratap Amin earlier this year.

Herbert Smith Freehills is seen by peers as a powerhouse on deals with an Indian element. Reliance Communications sought the firm’s advice when it sold its mobile tower infrastructure business in India to Brookfield Infrastructure for US$1.6 billion, while Bharti Airtel engaged its services for a joint venture in Ghana with telecom provider Millicom International Cellular. The firm also acted for a nine-bank syndicate on the US$285 million IPO by Indian supermarket chain Avenue Supermarts on the Bombay Stock Exchange and its Rule 144A/Regulation S global offering, and represented Bharti Airtel on a series of major disputes with Econet Wireless in relation to Bharti’s subsidiary in Nigeria. “I have great regard for the M&A team at Herbert Smith Freehills in London,” says Bhavnani, at Bharti Enterprises. As part of its India internship programme, the firm has selected six candidates to join its summer 2017 vacation scheme. Three interns from the summer 2016 vacation scheme will join the firm as trainees in 2018. Chris Parsons chairs the India practice.

Jones Day’s capital markets practice got a huge boost with the return of Jeff Maddox in November 2016 following four years at Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft. Maddox is renowned for his work on international debt and equity transactions for a number of Indian issuers, but other lawyers have also been steering the firm towards high-profile deals. Last year Paul Kuo led a team that advised Mahanagar Gas and its promoters on its IPO and listing on the Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange of India, while Dennis Barksy advised Toys “R” Us on its India entry through a licensing arrangement with Tablez & Toys; Sushma Jobanputra and Karthik Kumar are advising Babcock Power on its US$180 million expansion through joint ventures in India and Singapore including multiple bids for public-private partnership and thermal projects; and Kumar is advising Cardinal Health on the Indian law aspects of its US$6.1 billion purchase of Medtronic’s patient care, deep vein thrombosis and nutritional insufficiency businesses.

Prashant Gupta, National Practice Head for Capital Markets, Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas

Latham & Watkins is an undisputed leader for capital market deals thanks to Rajiv Gupta’s stellar reputation. “Rajiv has tremendous experience working in India and is able to handle very tough transactions and clients,” says Prashant Gupta, national practice head for capital markets at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. “They have worked on almost all the large IPOs out of India in the last few years … [and] on debt, they continue to command a large market share. Their work product continues to be consistently the best in the market.” The firm is blazing a trail across other practice areas too, having advised Oil India, Indian Oil and Bharat PetroResources on the US$2 billion purchase of a 23.9% stake in Russia’s Vankorneft; representing a Chinese corporation in a potential arbitration seated in Singapore under Indian law; and acting for Rolta India in connection with the default of its senior notes and potential restructuring of its group debt. The firm recently welcomed partners Nick Benson (fund formation) and Sophie Lamb (arbitration) and counsel Manas Chandrashekar (finance) to the India practice.

Linklaters remains a popular choice for Indian clients and international companies penetrating the Indian market. The firm’s India practice is led by Narayan Iyer, who coordinates a global network of lawyers, particularly in London, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and Dusseldorf, who handle headline-making mandates. The firm advised Rosneft on its US$13 billion acquisition of a 49% stake in Essar Oil – the largest foreign acquisition in Indian history and one which was featured in India Business Law Journal’s 2016 Deals of the Year – and advised Accord Healthcare on its US$768.4 million purchase of Actavis Generics in the UK and Ireland from Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals. Other achievements include advising the joint lead managers on State Bank of India’s US$300 million issuance of 5.5% additional tier 1 perpetual notes – the first offshore Basel III-compliant issue for an Indian bank – and acting for Reliance Industries on the sale of its petroleum storage, wholesale and retail operations in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda under the Gapco brand to Total.

Rajesh Mehta, Managing Director of Private Equity, Everstone Capital AdvisorsShearman & Sterling receives glowing references from clients. Rajesh Mehta, the managing director of private equity at Everstone Capital Advisors in Mumbai, used the firm when acquiring a company with operations in the US and the Philippines. “I would commend them for working almost as if they were part of Everstone,” he says, highlighting the team’s “very precise drafting”, “responsiveness and availability” and “being very effective in the negotiations … including telling us what to fight for and what to let go of”. Another client, Jaimie Cheung, director and associate general counsel for Asia at the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, says Sidharth Bhasin is “very knowledgeable about the Indian market, good at checking local counsel work, diligent, hands on and good at spotting issues”. The firm advised on NewQuest’s acquisition of interests in 10 Indian portfolio companies; The Indian Hotels Company’s sale of the Taj Boston hotel; Delhi International Airport’s US$522 million high-yield bond offering; UPL Corporation’s US$500 million senior notes offering; and Xander Group’s joint venture with APG to invest US$450 million in Indian retail assets.

Key players table 1

Davis Polk & Wardwell makes little noise about its achievements, despite clinching roles on prestigious transactions. The firm doesn’t work on a high volume of deals, however, it strives to cherry pick roles on complex and innovative corporate M&A and capital markets transactions in India. Recent highlights include advising HT Global on its US$300 million high-yield notes offering and ICICI Bank on a US$700 million notes offering from its Dubai branch. The firm was also counsel to the underwriters on ICICI Prudential Life’s US$908 million IPO and listing on the Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange of India – a deal which had to comply with India’s new regulatory regime for insurance company IPOs. Sadly, Kirtee Kapoor, a partner who led the firm’s India practice for several years, passed away this month (see Tributes pour in for ‘lawyer’s lawyer’).

DLA Piper has seen a steady stream of action on M&A deals over the past 12 months. The firm advised Germany-based Schlemmer Group on the acquisition of two companies, Tubicor and Tubecraft, located in Puducherry; Senvion, a global manufacturer of wind turbines, on the purchase of a stake in the business operations of wind turbine manufacturer Kenersys India; and GMS Pharma (Singapore) when it picked up a 25.1% stake in Strides Shasun subsidiary Stelis Biopharma for US$22 million. The firm recently advised on the US$467 million debut issuance of masala bonds by the National Highways Authority of India and the listing of the bonds on the London and Singapore stock exchanges. This was the largest inaugural transaction in the masala bond market and the largest five-year issuance to date. Daniel Sharma, Joywin Mathew and Raj Shah are key contacts.

Eversheds Sutherland is the product of a transatlantic merger between Eversheds, an international firm with origins in the UK, and US law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. The merged firm began life in February, with 62 offices spread across 30 countries. Parmjit Singh heads the firm’s India business group, which boasts clients such as the Aditya Birla Group, Axis Bank, Cipla, the government of India, Essar Energy, Kalpataru Power, Sequoia Capital and Wipro. A further merger last month, with Singapore’s Harry Elias Partnership, promises to add to its India offerings. The firm provides ongoing legal support to a number of international businesses with assets in India. Recently it advised ABF Group on inbound Indian visa matters and assisted Rolls-Royce on employment and human resources with regards to its operations in India. India specialists include Sze-Hui Goh and Kingsley Ong.

Goodwin Procter’s thriving private equity practice was further strengthened this year by the arrival in January of former King & Wood Mallesons partners Michael Halford, Ajay Pathak and Shawn D’Aguiar in London, and Arnaud David in Paris. Pathak and D’Aguiar are particularly sought after for structuring funds and other investments into India, which has helped to attract new clients from competitor firms. Yash Rana is well known to Indian companies and law firms thanks to a solid track record on India-focused private equity mandates. Highlights include advising Falcon Edge Capital in a series I funding for Olacabs, and TA Associates on its investment in Fincare Business Services, which provides microfinance, microenterprise and bank partnership loans to households, businesses and banking institutions in rural and semi-urban India. The firm also handles M&A and capital markets matters and recently advised Tata Communications on the sale of its data centre businesses to a subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Telemedia.

Hogan Lovells has been capturing roles on deals across multiple sectors and practice areas. Bank of India engaged the firm when it provided bridge facilities to Air India to finance the purchase of three Boeing 787-8 aircraft, while Reliance Entertainment sought the firm’s advice in relation to a potential new deal with Netflix. The firm also acted for Navis Capital Partners on the sale of its majority equity stake in Classic Stripes to its Indian joint venture partner and founder, Kishore Musale. The transaction involved complex onshore and offshore escrow arrangements in India and Singapore, protracted commercial and legal negotiations to ensure compliance with Indian and Indonesian laws, repayment of intra-group company loans, and cross-border tax considerations. In another interesting deal, which saw the Volaris Group acquire Tarantula Global, Hogan Lovells had to overcome historic compliance issues which Tarantula faced in India. Alexander McMyn manages the India desk from Singapore.

Morrison & Foerster’s India practice focuses primarily on advising regional and international strategic acquirers and financial investors on India-related transactions and associated disputes and compliance needs. The firm has a longstanding relationship with loyal client SoftBank. This year, it advised SoftBank in connection with the merger of its portfolio company Locon Solutions – which runs Indian real estate portal Housing.com – with Elara Technologies (Singapore), and on its further investment in OYO Rooms, which runs an online marketplace for affordable hotels in India. Amit Kataria, who has worked in India, New York and Hong Kong, became a partner in January and is a key member of the firm’s India practice. In May, he advised IndoSpace on the formation of IndoSpace Core, a US$1.2 billion joint venture with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board which will focus on acquiring and developing modern logistics facilities in India.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s core India group is staffed by 60 lawyers across Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The firm has attracted a string of interesting assignments this year including serving as English counsel to the managers of the first masala bond issuance by a foreign government – the province of British Columbia’s syndicated issue of ₹5 billion in 6.60% notes due 9 January 2020. In addition, it acted for Rabobank and FMO (the Dutch development bank) on the financing for the construction and operation of a 30-MW solar project in Rajasthan, and the Asian Development Bank in relation to providing six separate loans to six different borrowers to partly fund the Mytrah Wind and Solar Power Development Project. Shraddha Mor Agrawal, head of the legal department at Mizuho Bank in Mumbai, appreciates the firm’s “partner supervision with minimal changes in the team”. KC Lye, Samuel Leong and Tim Robbins, she says, offered “excellent support in a recent matter with very good response time”.

Sugandha Garg, Chief Manager, ICICI Bank (Mumbai)

Reed Smith is often sought out for its litigation prowess. Gautam Bhattacharyya leads the contentious side of the firm’s India practice, which has advised Indian banks, financial institutions and companies on litigation and international arbitration matters. Sugandha Garg, the chief manager of ICICI Bank in Mumbai, approached the firm to file an urgent injunction application in an English court in a matter involving an acquisition funding facility in Australia and a consortium of lenders. “Their commercial understanding of the Indian markets … is very strong and they are extremely approachable. The turnaround time is very quick,” she says, adding that Reed Smith offers “value for money”. Ranajoy Basu heads the non-contentious side of the India practice, which focuses on corporate transactions, bank lending and restructuring. Basu recently advised Bank of India on a US$1 billion financing for Sterling Global Oil Resources provided by a consortium of banks. He replaced former India practice co-chair Roy Montague-Jones, who moved to Hierons in 2016 after being at Reed Smith for 25 years.

Ropes & Gray has cemented its reputation as a leader in India with regard to compliance, internal investigations, compliance programmes and training, and international anti-corruption laws. The firm is currently conducting five internal investigations for a large medical technology company in relation to allegations of misconduct in its India and Pakistan operations. The firm’s expertise on funds, corporate and M&A, private equity, healthcare, financing, special situations, real estate and real estate finance has also yielded India-focused mandates. Mark Barnes has worked closely on a pro bono basis with the Indian Society for Clinical Research on issues related to reform of clinical trial regulations in India. “Ropes & Gray provides valuable counsel and has tremendous experience in [India’s] complex market,” says one happy client. “Asheesh Goel and Sunil Shenoi are outstanding … with excellent perspective on legal and compliance matters in India, and top-notch client service.”

Sidley Austin got a big boost last year when capital markets stalwarts Manoj Bhargava and Ankit Kashyap moved to the firm from Jones Day, taking many of their clients with them. “For me, the basic condition is that they must both be on the deal,” says one loyal client. “I’m not concerned with brand names. They are the most outstanding and competent Indian capital markets lawyers advising from a US securities law perspective … very proactive and will quickly tell you the pain points in advance – a lot of the other firms don’t give you that insight upfront.” Sachin Shah, the CFO of Eris Lifesciences, says Kashyap is “a delight to work with” and “takes extremely good care of micro and macro aspects of a project”. Key deals include acting for the brokers in ITC’s US$1 billion offer for sale of equity shares; a number of banks in Larsen & Toubro’s US$3 billion block trade of equity shares; and Foxconn on its US$175 million investment in Hike Messenger.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett enjoys a close relationship with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co (KKR) and recently represented KKR on its exit from Hyderabad’s Gland Pharma following the company’s sale of an 86% stake to Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group for US$1.26 billion. It also acted for Blackstone, which, together with Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, GIC, picked up a 60.5% stake in Mphasis from Hewlett Packard Enterprise for US$1.1 billion. However, private equity is far from its only forte. The firm worked on other prominent deals such as the US$250 million senior secured notes offering by TFS – one of largest owners, managers and growers of Indian sandalwood plantations and among the largest producers of sandalwood oil in the world. The firm also prevailed in an international arbitration on behalf of Japanese pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo, against the former owners of Indian generic pharmaceutical company Ranbaxy. Daiichi Sankyo was awarded the rupee equivalent of around US$525 million, including legal expenses, pre-award interest and reimbursement of arbitration costs.

Sachin Shah, CFO, Eris Lifesciences

Slaughter and May’s deal list may not be long but it makes its presence felt on landmark deals. The US$23 billion mega-merger of Vodafone with Idea Cellular, where the firm acted for Vodafone, is one example. The merger will create India’s largest telecom operator, with approximately 400 million customers. In another huge deal, the firm represented Reliance Communications on the merger of its wireless business with Aircel and Aircel’s Dishnet Wireless subsidiary, owned by Malaysia’s Maxis Communications. Sandeep Mehta, a partner at J Sagar Associates, works with the firm on cross-border transactions and matters governed by English law. Its teams are “proactive, knowledgeable and provide quality and pragmatic advice”, he says, adding that their approach is “consultative and collaborative,” they are “good team players” and “pay attention to the advice of local counsel on Indian law issues”. Simon Nicholls, Nilufer von Bismarck and Simon Hall are principal contacts.

Squire Patton Boggs has diversified its India practice, moving from capital markets to focus more on public policy, lobbying and regulatory matters. It has been assisting Indian public sector banks with sanctions issues, particularly in relation to Sudan; and advised healthcare companies on US Food and Drug Administration issues, and technology companies on immigration matters. Squire has also benefited from the guidance of Frank Wisner, a former US ambassador to India, who is an international affairs adviser at the firm, and Sunil Mehta, the former country head and CEO for AIG India and a former corporate bank head for Citibank India, who is an independent adviser to the firm. Squire has played roles on qualified institutional placements by companies such as Minda Industries, Mercator and Greenply Industries, and advised on the IPOs of Varun Beverages, Sheela Foam and Quess Corp, among others. Biswajit Chatterjee heads up the India practice.

Stephenson Harwood’s India practice is led by Kamal Shah, with support from lawyers such as George Cyriac, who is dual qualified in New York and India, and Rovine Chandrasekera, managing partner of the firm’s Dubai office. The firm acts for long-term clients Axis Bank Ltd and ICICI Bank Ltd on various financing matters involving multiple jurisdictions including India, and is representing an Indian steel manufacturer before the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre in connection with a dispute relating to steel supplies. “Stephenson Harwood is an excellent full-service firm and stands up to the bigger firms in terms of expertise, responsiveness and approachability,” says Viren Miskita, a partner at MT Miskita & Co. Miskita has worked with the firm on a joint venture between a Chinese and an Indian company to produce and distribute media in China and a potential Singapore arbitration relating to an Indian infrastructure contract. He says Shah is “a brilliant lawyer” who “makes every effort to be personally involved in all matters”.

Viren Miskita, Partner, MT Miskita & Co

White & Case’s India credentials are well recognized. The firm’s India practice, coordinated by Nandan Nelivigi, is spread across New York, Singapore and London. Last November, the firm won an arbitration award for Indian investor Flemingo DutyFree, part of the Flemingo Group, in a case brought against Poland under the India-Poland bilateral investment treaty. The case concerned the eviction of BH Travel – a troubled Polish duty-free operator, which Flemingo had acquired – from Warsaw’s Chopin Airport permanently and without compensation. The tribunal ordered Poland to pay compensation and costs of over €20 million. The firm advised Jubilant Pharma on its debut offering of US$300 million in 4.875% enior unsecured notes due 2021, and is representing Motherson Sumi Systems, a specialized automotive component solutions provider based in India, on a €571 million voluntary public tender offer for all shares and stock options in PKC Group, a Finland-based designer and manufacturer of wiring systems and electronics for the commercial vehicle industry.

Significant players

Bird & Bird’s India practice offers advice on commercial and corporate transactions, disputes, intellectual property portfolio management, employment and data protection, across sectors such as automotive, aviation, communications, energy and utilities, financial services, food, life sciences and media. Last year the firm advised Casual Dining Group – the largest operator of mid-market restaurants in the UK – on its first international franchise venture in India, for its Italian restaurant chain, Bella Italia. The firm has also assisted an international media company on Indian data protection issues relating to a new website, acted for a global refrigeration group on its acquisition of a refrigeration manufacturer across nine subsidiaries in Europe, India, Asia and Australia, and a global social media games company on gaming and IT issues in India. Simon Fielder and Nipun Gupta co-head the India group.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton may not be widely known for its work on India matters, but its deal repertoire show that it is capable of handling them. The firm enjoys strong relationships with Reliance, Tata and ArcelorMittal. It assisted in the creation of Mittal Steel and acted for the company in numerous acquisitions over the years including its acquisition of Arcelor. TPG uses the firm on many of its India transactions and the firm has also acted on inbound investments for Bank of America, Fortress Investment Group and First Reserve. Last year the firm was counsel to TPG Asia VI in connection with its follow-on investment in Janalakshmi Financial Services, and to TPG Growth in its acquisition of a majority stake in Rhea Healthcare, which provides birthing, child and women’s healthcare services and products in Bengaluru. Shreya Lal Damodaran, Tihir Sarkar and Raj Panasar are key India contacts.

Clyde & Co’s association with Indian firm Clasis Law has helped raise its profile in India. It has represented a clutch of clients with Indian interests in the past including AIG, Cipla, ICICI Bank, IDBI Bank, Porsche, Reliance Life Insurance and Tata Consultancy Services, and is a popular choice for Indian companies looking to enter markets in the Middle East. The firm recently advised Aster DM Healthcare – a US$6 billion healthcare conglomerate with over 300 facilities in the Middle East, India and elsewhere in Asia – on its acquisition of a majority interest in Harley Street Medical Centre and certain affiliated companies in Abu Dhabi. The hiring of capital markets specialist John Chrisman from Dorsey & Whitney last year was a boost for the firm’s corporate offerings. Chrisman has acted on a number of India deals and will further develop the firm’s capital markets and M&A practices focused on India, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa.

CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang – created last month by the combination of three firms – is the world’s sixth-largest law firm with 450 partners, and a global team of 4,500 lawyers across 65 offices in 36 countries. Bill Carr leads the India desk, which comprises a team of partners and senior associates based in London, Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, Dubai, Singapore, Vienna, Zurich and Rome. The firm was enlisted by Cenkos Securities as the placing agent on its £36 million fundraising for SKIL Ports & Logistics, an AIM-listed Navi Mumbai port developer. Earlier this year Alasdair Steele at Nabarro advised Investec and Whitman Howard on a £5.4 million placement and £12.6 million share exchange for AIM-listed IMImobile, a company founded in Hyderabad. David Shapton, a partner at Akur Capital, says Steele is “very experienced and knowledgeable in the field” in relation to M&A and overseas buyers of Indian companies.

Covington & Burling’s India practice often advises clients on public policy matters relating to India including international trade and investment, foreign assistance, intellectual property rights, trade controls and competition law. A key achievement was guiding Reliance Industrial Investments and Holdings on its investment in NetraDyne, a technology startup company developing sensory applications for machines, including visual sensors for self-driving cars. It also advised Piramal Critical Care on two acquisitions – the first involving the purchase of specialty products of US drug maker Mallinkrodt for US$170 million, and the second involving the purchase of five anesthesia and pain management injectable products from Janssen Pharmaceutica, a Dutch subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. In addition, it defended Indo Count Industries in a patent infringement suit regarding automated weaving loom technology before the US International Trade Commission and the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Cravath Swaine & Moore prides itself on its small size, governance as a true partnership and its unique system for hiring, training and promoting lawyers. The firm recruits top students from the finest law schools and rotates its associates at all levels of seniority among different partner groups within their department to help cultivate breadth and depth of expertise in all practice areas. Cravath believes all clients belong to the firm rather than to individual partners thus preventing disagreements over origination credits and fostering efficiency and collaboration. Perhaps partly for these reasons, ibibo Group and Naspers trusted the firm to advise on ibibo’s US$75 million merger with MakeMyTrip – a deal recognized in India Business Law Journal’s 2016 Deals of the Year. The combination of the two created one of the leading travel groups in India.

Debevoise & Plimpton partners Peter Goldsmith QC and Geoffrey Burgess are the principal contacts at its India practice. Goldsmith chairs the firm’s European and Asian litigation group and is recognized for his experience in India-related arbitration. On the contentious side, the firm has been engaged to assist an Indian distributor of a household name product in a joint venture dispute, and has also been appointed by the Indian government to its panel of counsel handling investment arbitration work. On the non-contentious side, the firm was counsel to Capital Group in its acquisition of an equity stake in Intas Pharmaceuticals – one of India’s largest pharmaceutical companies – from ChrysCapital, an India-focused private equity firm. It also acted for two private funds in their respective potential investments in an India-based travel technology company and a healthcare company.

Foley Hoag provides diverse legal services to Indian businesses and government agencies. Nearly every legal department at the firm serves India-related companies across several industries including technology, investment management and life sciences. Committed clients include CCAL Investment Management, which the firm advises in connection with its India-focused fund; the Indian government, which the firm is representing in an investor-state arbitration with Louis Dreyfus Armateurs; and multiple companies which have called on the firm for advice in executing drug development, supply and purchase arrangements with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories. In addition, Foley Hoag has assisted real estate private equity firm Pragnya Group on investment adviser-related filings, and Chankya Capital Partners, a Mauritius-based investment manager, in connection with various account agreements relating to India investments.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher has guided financial institutions, private equity investors, international companies and public sector entities in India on their transactional work for many years, while also assisting Indian clients with their ventures overseas. The firm has landed a number of interesting mandates this year including acting for Acumen Fund in its minority investments in sectors including education and agro-processing in India; Punj Lloyd group on the restructuring of its businesses in Singapore; Smart Global Ventures in connection with various smart city projects in India; and a UK-based engineering company on labour and employment law-related compliance in India. The firm lost Priya Mehra, a key member of its India practice, to Indian airline IndiGo, which appointed her as its general counsel last December. Partner Jai Pathak, who has extensive experience in cross-border M&A, private equity and structured finance, is a key contact for India work and is admitted to the bar in India, Singapore and Ohio.

Kelley Drye & Warren has ramped up its India practice in a bid to provide a broader offering to clients, especially for high-stakes litigation and complex M&A matters. Last year, the firm was trial counsel for an Indian IT company in a litigation in California involving the development of a property tax assessment system. The case was settled on the eve of the trial with the parties accepting the mediators’ recommendation in a court-ordered mediation. It also represented IMAX in a case involving the enforcement of an arbitration award of US$11.3 million plus interest in an ICC arbitration held in London against Indian company E-City Entertainment, which had breached a contractual obligation to lease IMAX large-format projection equipment. In March, India’s Supreme Court dismissed E-City’s challenge to the award. On the non-contentious side, the firm acted for Bharat Forge America on its purchase of two subsidiaries of US-based steel forging company WT Walker Group. Talat Ansari and Deepak Nambiar are key India partners.

King & Spalding wins roles on a number of high-profile projects on the back of its robust energy practice. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Pipeline Project, due for completion in 2019, is one example. The firm is project counsel to the Asian Development Bank, advising on all inter-governmental agreements, host government agreements, gas transportation agreements, the TAPI Pipeline network code and the shareholders’ agreement governing the relationship of the investors as shareholders in the company which owns the TAPI Pipeline. The firm is also acting for Hiranandani Gas Company in relation to its establishment of LNG regasification terminals in India, the most advanced project being a floating LNG terminal on the west coast at Jaigarh Port. This will be the first privately owned and developed LNG regasification terminal project in India. On another matter, Rahul Patel, who leads the India practice, advised Bengaluru-based Suprajit Engineering on its acquisition of Wescon Controls, which designs and manufactures control cables for the automotive sector and other sectors.

Atanu Sarkar, Group General Counsel, Tech Mahindra

Kirkland & Ellis acted on big-ticket transactions appearing in India Business Law Journal’s 2016 Deals of the Year including Reliance’s mega merger with Aircel – the largest consolidation in India’s telecom sector – where senior India partner Srinivas Kaushik was international counsel to Reliance. The new entity will have US$9.7 billion in assets and a net worth of US$5.2 billion. In another large transaction, Hong Kong-based partners David Irvine and Nicholas Norris advised Blackstone on a leveraged financing which was used to partly fund its acquisition of Hewlett Packard Enterprises’s stake in Mphasis for US$1.1 billion. The firm has a solid track record of representing prominent Indian companies such as Infosys and Larsen & Toubro, as well as advising private equity firms such as Apax Partners and Bain Capital on their forays into India.

Milbank showed off its banking and finance finesse in a role this year as adviser to the Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-sure), HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank and the lenders covered by the K-sure facility and the commercial facility, on the financial close and delivery to Reliance Industries of a series of the world’s first very large ethane carriers. The US$573 million multi-jurisdictional financing was led by led by London partners John Dewar and Nick Swinburne along with Young Joon Kim from the Seoul office. The firm also advised the book-running lead managers in the US$500 million qualified institutional placement by Hindalco Industries, which was three times oversubscribed; and the joint global coordinators in a proposed debut issuance of US dollar-denominated high-yield bonds by GMR Hyderabad International Airport. David Zemans, the managing partner of Milbank’s Asia practice and its Singapore office, is the main contact for India.

Pinsent Masons pirouetted into the limelight when Andrew Kerr and Joanna Jowitt represented Indian conglomerate Nirma in a global auction which saw it acquire Lafarge India from LarfargeHolcim for US$1.4 billion. The firm was also counsel to Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals, which signed an agreement in October 2016 to sell its Actavis Generics assets in the UK and Ireland to Accord Healthcare for US$768.4 million. Both transactions featured in India Business Law Journal’s 2016 Deals of the Year. Consultant Martin Harman has been advising contractors, owners and consultants on major infrastructure projects in India for several years and has particular responsibility under joint UK/Indian government initiatives for the promotion of cooperation in Indian infrastructure development and for the liberalization of legal services. Partner Sachin Kerur also has solid experience in advising public and private sector clients on privatized and publicly procured infrastructure and development works in India.

Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton client Atanu Sarkar, the group general counsel of Tech Mahindra, relies on the firm for advice on intellectual property transactions and litigation, commercial litigation, trade regulations and international sanctions compliance. “They are extremely responsive and have made superior efforts to understand not only our business, but the business and legal issues that confront Indian businesses in India, the US and elsewhere,” he says. Navroze Palekar, general manager for legal at WNS Global Services in Mumbai, says the firm is “client-focused with attention to detail. He appreciates its “flexibility with cost-effective models … without any compromise on the quality of advice”. Both clients recommend Robert Friedman, Scott Maberry and Reid Whitten among others, with Sarkar saying “we have received fantastic results with these lawyers without exception”. The firm is closely involved with the US-India Business Council as well as other India-oriented organizations to further its understanding of the legal environment and needs of Indian clients.

Simmons & Simmons has worked on a number of equity offerings and energy projects over the past 12 months. The firm has also attracted a string of mandates with a German connection, and has acted for international clients acquiring or entering into joint ventures with Indian companies, and Japanese companies keen to explore the Indian market. Recent highlights include advising Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi (Singapore) in relation to receivables financings for Indian-based obligers; Rothschild on the procurement of a global human resources cloud solution, involving the review of Indian data protection and privacy laws; and global Indian IT and outsourcing company Mindtree on corporate matters and disputes in the UK. This year Standard Chartered sought the firm’s advice on a US$20 million loan for The Hi-Tech Gears to invest in its Canadian subsidiary. Chris Horton, David Neuville and Karun Cariappa steer the India practice.

Taylor Wessing is a magnet for pharmaceutical clients, representing names such as Cipla, Wockhardt, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries and Glenmark Pharmaceuticals on a range of matters including trademark litigation, restructuring and acquisitions, and providing regulatory advice. Rajiv Luthra, the founder and managing partner
of Luthra & Luthra, who has worked with the firm on a number of cross-border transactions, says the firm is “always a delight to work with”, “extremely professional”, provides “incisive legal inputs” and is “outstanding when it comes to knowing the Indian market and its clients”. He offers generous praise for India practice head Laurence Lieberman and partner Philip Shepherd. “We have tremendous respect for Laurence for his immense knowledge and foresight and his ability to handle disputes,” says Luthra. “Philip provides out-of-the-box legal solutions … and always strives to exceed client expectations with his comprehensive legal knowledge and amazing grasp of issues in the case of big-ticket M&A transactions and general corporate advisory.”

Rajiv Luthra, Founder and Managing Partner, Luthra & Luthra

Watson Farley & Williams’ versatility and legal acumen are reflected in deals it’s handled in practice areas such as banking, joint ventures and acquisitions. The firm recently acted for Larsen & Toubro on the establishment of a regional holding company registered in the Dubai International Financial Centre, subsequent reorganization of its UAE assets, and entry into a US$500 million loan facility. It also advised Aurelius Group and its IT services portfolio company Getronics on their purchase of Colt Group’s virtualized cloud computing and managed hosting services business, which includes assets in India. Last year, the firm recruited senior associate and former Trilegal lawyer Dhruv Paul to its Dubai office. Paul has nine years of experience in advising clients on a wide range of cross-border transactions and recently advised Indian private equity fund True North on a US$200 million investment KIMS, a healthcare group which has medical centres and pharmacies in India and across the Middle East.

Wedlake Bell client Fred Bendle, the CFO of Chemoil Energy, has used the firm for a number of corporate and property transactions where the businesses and real estate were located in India. The firm managed lawyers in various jurisdictions including India along with the budgets for each. “They provided a single point of contact that was culturally aligned with me, but were able to translate my requirements into local practices,” says Bendle. They are “practical and conscious that they are spending their client’s money” and were “great at insulating me from the challenges of working in India”. The firm’s India practice, founded in 2007 by Kim Lalli, has advised a number of companies on employment matters such as hiring options and restrictive covenants, global employee bonus plans, and global employment contracts. In addition, it has advised on the divestment of various Indian assets, and offered international tax advice to an Indian manufacturer.

Weil Gotshal & Manges has ramped up its involvement on India-related deals since the start of last year. In the first half of 2016, the firm advised on more than US$1 billion worth of India-related M&A. A standout deal saw the firm advise on a US$200 million round of funding in Snapdeal-owner Jasper Infotech by Brother Fortune Apparel, Bennett Coleman, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board and other investors. Early last year, it was international counsel to France-based telecom operator Orange when it purchased part of Bharti Airtel’s mobile operations and mobile money businesses in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone. The firm serves India-focused clients primarily out of its New York, London and Hong Kong offices and has a strong reputation for litigation and private equity work.

Regional and specialist firms table

Anderson Mori & Tomotsune has counselled Japanese companies on a number of deals in the past 12 months including the termination of a joint venture with a telecommunication company in Mumbai; a group restructuring and business transfer of a Delhi-based company in the automotive sector; and the acquisition of additional shares in a life insurance company with a Mumbai-based entity. Shameek Chaudhuri, a partner at AZB & Partners, says the firm is “proactive, understands the needs of the client, and provides practical and commercial solutions to complex issues”. Trisheet Chatterjee, a partner at J Sagar Associates, says the firm was one of the first to pioneer an Indo-Japan practice. “They are knowledgeable, meticulous and fantastic to work with on India-related transactions. Clients have a lot of trust and confidence in their advice and consider them an … essential part of any India-related project.” He recommends Ryo Kotoura and Ryo Okochi, whose “deep sense of understanding of the Indian legal system … is the strongest point”.

Anjarwalla & Khanna maintains its pre-eminence as a go-to firm for African deals involving Indian parties. The firm was engaged by Apollo Hospitals to protect its intellectual property rights in Kenya; Essar Telecom Kenya in connection with various legal matters, including litigation, relating to the winding down of its operations in Kenya; and Style Industries, a subsidiary of Godrej Consumer Products, for corporate and commercial law advice and ongoing legal support. The firm also worked with Anjarwalla Collins Haidermota, its regional office in the UAE, on a mandate from Shapoorji Pallonji Mideast, in connection with US$100 million guarantee arrangements for a contract performance bond and import finance facilities for Shapoorji Pallonji Nigeria from Ecobank International; and a mandate from Kaya Skin Clinics, a dermatology and cosmetology clinic chain in the Middle East and India, for advice on its proposed expansion through the purchase of a dermatology clinic chain with operations in Dubai and Sharjah. Anne Kiunuhe, Akash Devani and Sunita Singh-Dalal are key India lawyers.

Blake Cassels & Graydon offers industry expertise in a variety of sectors including infrastructure, oil and gas, power, mining, agribusiness, banking, telecommunications, intellectual property and IT. The firm’s India group is led by Sunny Handa and comprises lawyers born, educated and legally qualified in Canada, India, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Kam Rathee, a special adviser solely dedicated to the India practice, has a vast network of relationships in India and Canada following roles as the president and executive director at the Canada-India Business Council and head of a Toronto-based international consulting firm assisting with India-related partnerships. The firm recently assisted Bengaluru-based Indegene LifeSystems on its acquisition of Oakville, Ontario-based Skura Corporation’s life science business and of a Canadian e-marketing healthcare solutions company, Aptilon. It also represented Midad Holdings, a subsidiary of Saudi conglomerate Al Fozan Group, on its joint venture with Tech Mahindra.

Bowmans comprises four firms that practise as Bowmans while still trading under their original firm names: AF Mpanga Advocates (Uganda), Bowman Gilfillan (South Africa), Bowmans Tanzania, and Coulson Harney (Kenya). Bowmans has a single operating structure and encourages knowledge sharing to enhance its offerings. Its major India-related activities since April 2016 include advising Hasmukhrai Shah, Kaushil Shah, Illa Shah and Canon Chemicals on the disposal of their shareholding in Canon Chemicals to Godrej East Africa; filing complaints for Indian generic drugs manufacturer Cipla before Kenya’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board and its Anti-Counterfeit Agency for breaches of its intellectual property rights; advising Tata Telecommunications on the US$497 million disposal of its stake in Neotel Proprietary to Liquid Telecommunications and Royal Bafokeng; and advising SPG Netherlands and Signode Industrial Group in share and asset transactions involving Stopak Proprietary and Stopak India. Paras Shah is a key India contact.

Fred Bendle, CFO, Chemoil Energy

Colin Ng & Partners’ India practice is led by executive chairman Colin Ng. The firm provides legal services to support investments into and out of India, particularly involving Singapore, China, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia, and offers expertise on fund formation and M&A matters. It was lead counsel for the launch of LC Cerestra Core Opportunities Fund (LCC), a Singapore-domiciled, India-focused real estate fund seeking opportunities in specialized real estate. It also acted as Singapore counsel for the initial acquisition of real estate assets in South India by LCC from a US-based group. The assets accommodate advanced research and development infrastructure in multi-tenanted research buildings and incubation facilities built to suit blocks and industrial plots. The firm also advised on the structuring of an India-focused education infrastructure fund, and the launch of Alternative Equity Fund, a fund focused on providing capital appreciation by exposure to the Indian economy.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth offers strategic advice to Indian and Australian parties in several key areas, including energy and resources, public-private partnerships and infrastructure, technology and biotechnology, water and clean energy, education and agribusiness. The firm advised REA Group, a digital media business that operates realestate.com.au, on its acquisition of a 15% stake in Indian digital real estate service provider PropTiger. It was also counsel to Melbourne-based Swinburne University of Technology in relation to a potential collaboration with an Indian research institute, and Pune-based Persistent Systems on various operational issues in Australia including employee engagements and secondments. The firm is currently advising Environmental Clean Technologies, an Australian stock exchange-listed company, on the development project for its Coldry and Matmor technologies with India’s national lignite authority (NLC India) and India’s largest iron ore miner, NMDC. The firm recently entered into a memorandum of understanding with Jindal Global Law School to provide top students with internship opportunities at Corrs’ offices in Australia.

Trisheet Chatterjee, Partner, J Sagar Associates

Drew & Napier wins praise from clients and peers, particularly for its strength in dispute resolution. Manoj Deshmukh, head of legal at Anchor Electricals in Thane, has used the firm for Singapore International Arbitration Centre matters and cross-border transactions. In his experience, the advice offered was “very personalized, positive and business-oriented”. Shaneen Parikh, a partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, admires the work ethic and accessibility of disputes director Cavinder Bull. “I would unhesitatingly recommend Cavinder Bull as counsel,” she says. “His understanding and assessment of strategic, practical and legal issues is one of the best I have seen. Despite his obviously very heavy schedule, he has been extremely responsive … and has given significant thought and advice on various issues on an urgent basis.” The firm recently represented Cargill in relation to its claim against Singapore-listed Mercator Lines, and advised the agent and lenders in relation to a US$45 million syndicated loan facility for Punj Lloyd.

Duane Morris & Selvam’s client list provides insights into its reputation in the Indian market. The firm has advised the Indian government and companies such as Edelweiss Financial Services, JM Financial, Axis Capital, HCL Infosystems and Ostro Energy on a number of matters, particularly in the capital markets arena. The firm’s recent achievements include acting as US counsel to the Indian government on the sale of 1.25 billion shares in NHPC for US$406 million in an offer for sale on the Indian stock exchanges; advising Prathamesh Solarfarms, a joint venture between Ostro Energy and Suzlon Energy, on contracts relating to a 50-MW solar power project in Telangana; and representing Wockhardt USA and its US-affiliated companies on a US$250 million international secured credit facility provided by certain Indian banks. Jamie Benson and Babita Ambekar co-head the India practice.

Shaneen Parikh, Partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas

Hengeler Mueller’s core areas of focus for India-related work are corporate, M&A, labour law, banking and finance, and arbitration. The firm has a good track record of representing companies doing business in both India and Europe, in particular in Germany, and is well-equipped to deal with the movement and restructuring of Indian companies and banks as they consider new possibilities and arrangements following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. The firm assisted Duerr on the sale of a majority stake in Duerr Ecoclean – including its Indian business – to China’s SBS Group; a large Indian auto components manufacturer on a supply agreement with a German company; an Indian conglomerate on an ongoing dispute with a German company under a supply agreement to provide aircraft parts; and an Indian company on corporate governance issues in Germany. Daniela Favoccia, Rainer Krause, Thomas Cron, Carsten van de Sande and Abhijit Narayan are key lawyers for India work.

Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek is well known for transactions involving Indian and German parties. Its key areas of specialty in terms of India are inbound and outbound commercial deals; corporate, M&A and joint ventures; sourcing, supply and distribution; energy; intellectual property; media and technology; and logistics. It recently won a role advising the operating companies of the exhibition and trade fair centres in Dusseldorf, Munich and Hannover through the German Exposition Corporation on their tender for an exhibition and convention centre project in New Delhi and Dwarka. The firm also advised Tech Mahindra and Mahindra & Mahindra on the German leg of a deal with Pincar for the purchase of a controlling stake in Italian car design company Pininfarina; Indian tyre manufacturer CEAT on its entry into Germany; and an international apparel company based in Germany on its Ahmedabad-based Indian subsidiary and its exit from its joint venture with Ashima Group. Martin Imhof heads the India desk.

Mori Hamada & Matsumoto’s dedication to its India practice is undeniable. The firm has been dispatching its lawyers to Indian firms since 2000 and has offered advice on a number of deals and matters across practice areas including M&A, corporate, securities and foreign exchange laws, dispute resolution, labour and employment. It also currently has an Indian-qualified lawyer – Pavitra Iyer – on its team. The firm was engaged by Nippon Paper for its first foray into India, through the acquisition of Plus Paper Foodpac, the BK Modi Group’s paper cup-making business. The company operates two factories in India and supplies paper cups to fast-food chains such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. The firm was also counsel to Japan’s Toppan Printing on its purchase of a 49% stake in New Delhi-based Max Specialty Films. In addition, it has been advising a Japanese client on its dispute with Indian promoters before Delhi High Court and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.

Shook Lin & Bok’s India practice has been buzzing with activity as it took on a variety of banking, finance, corporate and dispute resolution matters. The firm advised Kronologi Asia in its acquisition of Quantum Storage (India); a Middle East branch of an Indian private sector bank on a loan facility granted to a UK subsidiary of an Indian service provider in the pharmaceutical industry; and the lenders in a restructuring of a US$125 million external commercial borrowing for an Indian company in the steel industry. On the contentious side, the firm advised the liquidators of Pars Ram Brothers, a global player in the spice and commodity trade, on various matters including the tracing and sale of the company’s assets located worldwide. It also acted for a large Indian cooperative in an arbitration involving a US$75 million claim against a US-listed company and one of its major shareholders.

Straits Law Practice advises on the structuring and drafting of loan security documents, the provision of security over Singapore assets, employment law issues, compliance and governance, and landlord and tenancy laws. M Rajaram heads the firm’s India practice. Lara Reyes and KV Rao at Tata Power International, who have used the firm for a number of matters, say “Straits Law provides excellent client service” and has “a good range of experienced lawyers”. They add that the firm “is able to render practical legal advice to companies based in India who are looking into doing business in Singapore” and recommend Rajaram for his “comprehensive legal advice”. The firm advised Global Wellness Holding on the financing and further acquisition of spas and beauty salons in Singapore and Malaysia. The financing was provided by Punjab National Bank (Hong Kong) and Union Bank of India (Hong Kong). Devendra Singh, the CFO of Global Wellness Holding, recommends Lai Foong, who “handled our matter quite efficiently”.

Torys advises Indian companies on M&A, investments and financing of North American businesses, as well as on the establishment of new business operations and opportunities in Canada. Its client roster includes Emcure Pharmaceuticals, Essar Group, ICICI Bank Canada, Novelis, the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, Gujarat State Fertilizers & Chemicals, Aditya Birla Group and Hindalco Industries. Earlier this year, the firm advised Fairfax India in its US$500 million equity financing, comprisng a US$150 million public offering of subordinate voting shares and a US$350 million private placement of subordinate voting shares to OMERS and Fairfax Financial Holdings. Patricia Koval, a senior partner at Torys and a leader of its India practice, retired from the firm last December. Adam Delean, a partner in the firm’s Toronto office, is the primary contact for India.

TLT is a front-runner for financial services work thanks to a strong association with Indian banks for 30 years. The firm sees itself as a “disrupter challenging the traditional ways of working” as it explores innovative ways of pricing and structuring legal services through using collaborative models with other firms. Key achievements over the past 12 months include working with Swiss and Indian counsel to advise Bank of India (London), State Bank of India (Antwerp) and Union Bank of India (Antwerp) on an US$85 million facility for a pharmaceutical group; advising India’s EXIM Bank on a US$35 million guarantee and letter of credit umbrella facility for a highway project in Ethiopia; and advising Bank of Baroda (London) on a term loan facility for a UK subsidiary of a global engineering group. The firm also secured a judgment for an Indian bank on a £12 million claim following a Dubai-based customer’s default under a facility provided for the acquisition of shares in a UK pharmaceutical company.

Firms to watch table

Addleshaw Goddard’s India practice is led by Mike Duggan, a partner at its London office. The firm has a solid track record on Indian deals having represented clients such as Apollo Tyres, Jindal Steel and Power, Rolls-Royce, Diageo, Harper Collins, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, British Airways and Sainsbury’s. Past mandates include advising a major Indian construction company on a multimillion-dollar claim arising out of contracts for the construction of two airports in Oman; a UK client on its acquisition of a Swiss travel business with an Indian subsidiary; an Indian construction company on arbitration proceedings relating to a joint venture in Iraq; and an English Premier League football club on trademark protection in India.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has advised a number of clients on India-related deals over the years. They include Deutsche Bank, GAIL, Reliance Industries, Everstone Capital, India Capital Management, JM Financial Group and Baer Capital Partners. The firm has a strong reputation for its work in the energy sector and recently represented Tata Power International and ICICI Venture on the creation of Resurgent Power Ventures, a platform company to facilitate investment in power projects in India. Prakash Mehta heads the firm’s India group.

Baker Hostetler is the largest US law firm with offices only in the US. Its India practice is captained by Steven Goldberg along with Rajiv Khanna, who is the president of the India-America Chamber of Commerce, which is based in New York and focuses on cross-border investments between the US and India. The firm recently represented TAISTech – a digital commerce solution provider – on the sale of its US entities to Mastek subsidiary Digility and its Indian entity to Mastek.

Berwin Leighton Paisner focuses on providing corporate, M&A, real estate, real estate finance and litigation services to Indian clients investing overseas. It also assists international clients keen to tap opportunities in India’s infrastructure sector. The firm is advising on two high-profile India-related deals in the pharmaceutical sector in Russia from its Moscow office, and advising India’s Lodha Group on the development financing of its real estate project in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the largest public square in London. Deepa Deb Rattray, a London-based partner who hails from Kolkata, heads the India practice.

Dechert was an adviser on two India Business Law Journal 2016 Deals of the Year – the purchase by French telecom operator Orange of Bharti’s Airtel businesses in Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso and Essar Group’s sale of its 98% stake in Essar Oil to Russian oil company Rosneft and a consortium of investors. The firm’s core areas of focus include corporate and securities law, fund formation, regulatory enforcement and compliance, government and internal investigations, economic sanctions and trade embargoes, and tax. The firm has 30 offices around the world.

Dentons has an India desk in Singapore run by senior partner S Sivanesan and another India desk in Warsaw coordinated by Europe CEO Tomasz Dabrowski and partner and Iran team leader Pirouzan Parvine, who is based in Paris. The firm’s India team is spread across its offices in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Europe, the US and Canada and includes a number of Indian-qualified lawyers and lawyers of Indian origin.

DFDL guides Indian companies interested in expanding their operations in the Mekong region and around Southeast Asia. In the past, it has advised India’s EXIM Bank on a US$2 million loan for a Vietnamese coffee manufacturer in Vietnam; and Spice Mobile on matters related to offering value-added services, content services and setting up a distributor arrangement in Cambodia. In addition, the firm assisted Aman Resorts in procuring business and operating licences and loans for a hotel development project in Luang Prabang, Laos. Vinay Ahuja heads the firm’s India desk.

ENSafrica’s India desk has in-depth experience in structuring foreign investments into India, providing legal and tax advisory services, and setting up and managing special purpose vehicles for investments and joint ventures. The firm has India practice group members scattered across its offices in Africa including in Mauritius.

Fladgate is a magnet for high net worth entrepreneurs seeking advice on international tax and estate planning issues, wealth management and private fund management. Sunil Sheth, head of the India practice, has dealt with Indian companies and investors since the mid-1980s and maintains strong ties with many of them today. Key achievements include advising Castex Technologies in proceedings relating to foreign currency bond conversions; Flyington Freighters in proceedings relating to non-delivery of freight airliners by a supplier; an Indian high net worth individual on the sale of an oil tanker to an Italian shipping company; the Bird Group, an Indian company with a hospitality chain, on its acquisition of the Forbury Hotel in Reading in the UK; and Taj Dubai Hotel on the refinancing of an institutional loan and mezzanine loan by ICICI Bank and others.

Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners represents Indian clients making acquisitions in the Italian technology, automotive, energy and infrastructure sectors. The firm recently assisted Isagro with corporate and labour matters regarding its Indian subsidiary Isagro Asia. Isagro manufactures agricultural pharmaceuticals and biosolutions for crop protection and nutrition at four sites in Italy and one in India. The firm also represented ArcelorMittal on its successful bid to jointly acquire Italian steel plant Ilva with Italian steel group Marcegaglia. ArcelorMittal was chosen over its rival bidder, the AcciaItalia consortium led by India’s JSW Steel, to purchase the ailing Italian steelmaker.

Greenberg Traurig has represented a number of companies in India on their business dealings in the US and elsewhere. This year, the firm’s London office acted for Rentokil Initial on its joint venture with PCI Pest Control, creating the largest provider of pest control services and products in India.

Hughes Hubbard & Reed was the US legal adviser to Cipla in its US$550 million acquisition of Invagen Pharmaceuticals and Exelan Pharmaceuticals, a transaction featured in India Business Law Journal’s 2016 Deals of the Year. It also advised Cipla as a co-lead investor in New Rhein Healthcare’s US$125 million sale of Chase Pharmaceuticals to Ireland-based pharmaceutical company Allergan. Another client, Wipro, engaged the firm’s services for the purchase of US-based cloud services company Appirio for US$500 million, and Florida-based HealthPlan Services for US$460 million.

K&L Gates partners Pallavi Mehta Wahi in Seattle and John Magnin in London are key contacts for the firm’s India practice. Last year, a team of lawyers from the Doha office advised a consortium of IL&FS Transportation Networks (ITNL) and Next Generation Parking on their role in the first public-private partnership (PPP) initiative under Dubai’s new PPP law. ITNL is a transport infrastructure development company and the subsidiary of India-based Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services. The firm recently welcomed banking, asset finance and aviation specialists Sidanth Rajagopal and Philip Perotta from Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer. The duo have advised on a number of aviation transactions in emerging markets including India.

Kennedys has been active in India for many years, thanks in part to an association with Indian insurance boutique Tuli & Co since 2000. However, last November, the firm launched a new India desk to meet client demands beyond its traditional insurance expertise. The desk, created by London partner Adosh Chatrath and solicitor Rimi Sengupta, is made up of 11 lawyers in the UK, India and Dubai who will cover aviation, mediation and arbitration, pharmaceutical and clinical trials claims, product liability, product recall and real estate.

Kobre & Kim focuses almost exclusively on investigations and disputes involving allegations of fraud and misconduct. The firm avoids repeat client relationships to prevent conflicts of interest and maintain its independence to file suits against any company or institution. Last year, the firm represented Japanese mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo, in the enforcement of a US$1.2 billion London Court of International Arbitration award against Tata Sons. Together with co-counsel, the firm is formulating NTT’s global enforcement strategy against Tata. Srijoy Das, a partner at Archer & Angell, has consulted the firm on cross-border investigations involving Indian parties. “Despite the highly sensitive nature of the work and immense pressure that goes with it, Kobre & Kim was able to provide sensible, practical advice which was of immense help to clients,” says Das. He recommends Hong Kong partner Vasu Muthyala.

Srijoy Das, Partner, Archer & Angell

Mayer Brown JSM has represented clients such as Allahabad Bank, Fitch Hong Kong, Arden Partners, Caparo Energy, the National Stock Exchange of India, Pactiv Corporation and New Vernon Capital on India-related matters. The firm was US counsel to the bond trustee on India’s first high-yield green bond issuance overseas, by Greenko Energy Holdings, one of India’s largest clean energy independent power producers, and its investment arm – Greenko Investment. The issue raised US$500 million and was featured in India Business Law Journal’s 2016 Deals of the Year.

Morgan Lewis & Bockius’ India practice is spearheaded by Singapore-based partner Rahul Kapoor and associate Parikhit Sarma. The firm has advised on a number of India-related matters in the past including representing the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation on a US$150 million investment in a clean energy specialist. It also advised an India-based multinational consulting and technology company in its acquisition of a provider of digital experience solutions. Last year, the firm won a meaty role as adviser to JP Morgan Chase on the US$727 million formation of Amblin Partners and its debt syndication.

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom scored a huge win when it was selected to be the global counsel to California-based wireless chip maker Broadcom, on its sale to Singapore-incorporated Avago Technologies for US$37 billion. The combined entity is reported to be the third largest US semiconductor player by revenue behind Intel and Qualcomm. Rajeev Duggal is a primary contact for India.

Vinson & Elkins has represented clients on a broad spectrum of complex projects and disputes throughout India. It has been a leading adviser to Reliance Industries for over 15 years on matters in and outside India. Currently, it is advising an Indian company on a longstanding dispute relating to a production-sharing contract, another Indian company on a dispute over a profit-sharing agreement, and a Mauritian company on a bilateral investment treaty dispute. Mark Beeley and James Loftis are principal contacts.

Regional firms to watch

Kojima Law Offices has kept its eye on India, aiding Japanese clients with their investments in the country. Last June, it represented Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo Corp on its US$93 million purchase of a 44.98% stake in Excel Crop Care, an Indian company which specializes in soil nutrition products, crop protection, seed treatment and post-harvest solutions. Hiromasa Ogawa, Hirokazu Amemiya and Lynn Pickard have a solid track record on India transactions.

McCarthy Tétrault offers expertise on oil and gas, power, mining, infrastructure, communications, trade and investment, intellectual property and tax matters pertaining to businesses in Canada and India. Past India-focused clients include WGI Heavy Minerals, Canaccord Capital Corporation, DRAXIS Health, Pfingsten Partners and CGI Group.

Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu has advised on a string of mandates for Indian companies entering Japan and Japanese companies interested in India. It assists clients with incorporation of subsidiaries, joint ventures, technical cooperation, M&A and financing matters, and provides general corporate advice relating to expanding or withdrawing from businesses in India. It also provides ongoing compliance advice to Japanese clients operating in India. Masayuki Fukuda, Tadashi Yamamoto and Rashmi Grover are primary contacts. Grover is an Indian-qualified lawyer based in the firm’s Singapore office.

Nishimura & Asahi is another heavy hitter for Japanese clients that are interested in India. In previous years the firm has advised on the strategic partnership between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mahindra & Mahindra, and the joint venture between SG Holdings and Bengaluru-based logistics solutions company Sindhu Cargo Services. Go-to lawyers for India are Yoshihiko Kawakami, Masaki Noda, James Emerson, Katsuyuki Yamaguchi, Yasunari Sugiyama, Kotaro Kubo and Go Hashimoto.

Rajah & Tann was Singapore counsel to Indian online property portal PropTiger when it merged with another Indian property portal, Housing.com. It also advised Fortis Global Healthcare Infrastructure on its US$225 million purchase of a 51% stake in Fortis Hospotel. Vikram Nair, a Singapore-based partner who specializes in international arbitration and corporate and commercial litigation, heads the India desk.

Stikeman Elliott’s client roster for India deals includes names such as Jindal Steel, Indian Oil, Baffinland Iron Mines, JSW Energy, Essar Global, Tata Motors, ICICI Bank Canada and Rain Commodities. Recent achievements include advising Export Development Canada in its US$50 million financing, denominated in rupees, to India’s Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services. This was the first “masala loan”, an arrangement that allows a financial institution outside India to make an Indian rupee loan to a borrower in India. The firm also represented a syndicate of underwriters led by RBC Capital Markets on the US$500 million IPO of Fairfax India Holdings.